A recent incident on a train in Oakland, California offers a glimpse into how domestic terrorism may soon affect all of us, close up and personally. In that incident, a group of teenagers swarmed onto a train, robbed several passengers, beat two of them, then quickly escaped before police arrived. See here and here.
Flash mobs are nothing new, and in fact, many of them are actually good, as when a number of people in a shopping mall suddenly spring a pleasant surprise and perform a rehearsed, choreographed music routine.
Some flash mobs, by contrast, are criminal. Groups of criminals, in concert, have been known to swarm a retail store, quickly stealing as much as they can carry, and then making their escape before law enforcement can respond.
Criminals are inventive and resourceful, and now that the Oakland incident has made the news, there will be plenty more crews of robbers who are already taking notes and planning their own heist, perhaps on a larger scale.
It is only a matter of time before someone (actually, many) figures out that there is money to be made by inciting civil disorder. It would not take much "community organizing" to pull it off. The police cannot be everywhere, nor can they respond quickly enough to this kind of crime.
The next thought is to ask, when the risk escalates, is, what will we, the ordinary citizens, do when we fear to take a train or bus, or to go shopping? One possible remedy comes to mind, as follows.
The name Bernhard Goetz has largely been forgotten, but in 1984, nearly every American was familiar with what came to be known as the subway vigilanteincident. During that era, before Rudolph Giuliani became mayor, crime on the New York subway system was infamous, and worse yet, the response by law enforcement was tepid and ineffective. It was in this context that Goetz took matters into his own hands. He pulled a gun and shot three teenagers, on a train, who already had criminal records, and who were intimidating him for money. One of the robbers was paralyzed for life.
Only when Giuliani became mayor (ten years later), and imposed what some considered draconian law enforcement measures, did the crime rate (including murder) in New York City dramatically decrease. Giuliani proved that by enforcing laws against even so-called "minor" infractions, the ripple effect is to increase respect for the law in general, thereby reducing more serious crime. Giuliani was well aware of the "broken windows" principle, and he used it to good effect.
In the modern context, official sympathy in criminal incidents seems always to be conferred not so much on the victims, but more on the criminals. For example, in the Oakland incident, officials are refusing to release videos of the criminals because they estimate that the tender muffins might be only teenagers. Poor kids – they must be protected. Damn the victims seems to be the effect of such policies.
Such concessions to violent criminals can only encourage them. It requires no crystal ball to predict that flash robberies will increase in numbers and severity, at least partly due to official unwillingness to crush the tendency before it gets out of hand.
If the incidences of criminal flash mobs do, in fact, continue, and get worse, then the importance of the Second Amendment will become apparent even to liberals – or at least those who, like Bernhard Goetz, have been mugged.