As I was trying to fall asleep last night, I saw a trending news story from Seminole Heights, an area of Tampa I am familiar with in the area close to I-275 just north of I-4, a place I usually passed through and had little reason to stay in, where three people have been shot to death in the past ten days. Although police have tried to encourage residents not to live in fear, it is hard not to live in fear when the threat of death is omnipresent and when those same police warnings tell residents not to go out alone at night. While Florida, and Tampa in particular, is no stranger to news of the weird, this is a far more sinister sort of news . I must admit that being so far away from what is going on in Tampa for as long as has been the case, I can offer no insight as to what is going on or what leads police to think that the murders are connected even though the victims appear not to have known each other. The mind of a serial killer is not somewhere I am prepared to enter into or speculate about.
Even so, there is much about the effects of pervasive violence that I am familiar with and that I think it worthwhile to discuss. First, let us discuss the nature of fear. When it comes to freedom of action, there is an asymmetrical relationship between those who wish to cause violence and those who wish to avoid it, in that those who wish to cause violence depend mainly on their own action, but those who wish to avoid action need to depend on other people being nonviolent themselves. While it is hard to know what goes through the mind of someone who wants to repeatedly kill in the same area, and who sees ordinary and relatively innocent people as mere targets of opportunity if not active targets, the mind of those who are subjected to the threat of such violence is easier to understand, as living under the shadow and threat of violence tends to darken one’s view, not least because one comes to a realization of the evil which people are capable of, which tends to make it harder to assume that people will be good. This is true even where there are no worse effects of the violence.
Such pervasive violence also tests the legitimacy of the police and government order. A great deal of police behavior, and state behavior in the larger sense, is justified on claims that it is making the populace more secure. However dubious such claims are on the theoretical level, they become untenable on the emotional level when authorities fail to protect their people from certain types of evil. Among the evils that can destroy the faith of common people in their authorities are the active involvement of such authorities in the evils that they claim to be fighting against–here the problem of corruption raises its ugly head, the abuse of police power to oppress the people, and the failure of police to prevent or stop threats to the public order like riots, serial killers, and terrorists. These threats to the public order attack at the relationship between people and their government, because government makes certain promises that these threats to the violence reveal as being empty. It is perhaps for this reason that governments, whatever rights are guaranteed in their regimes, tend to be rather harsh to systemic threats of violence that attack at their legitimacy. It is easy enough to see why this would be the case.
What is to be done, though, about such situations. There are some people who feel that in the absence of trust in being protected by the police that they find it better to engage in self-defense. There are some notable success stories in that regard–most close to home for me being the time when there was an active shooter at the Clackamas Town Center right across the street from where I lived whose shooting spree ended in self-destruction when an active shooter presented himself, thus making a seemingly harmless mall crowd a less inviting proposition. One of the driving forces behind the nature of the United States as a heavily armed populace is the heady combination of the competence of the police in stopping violence, a healthy degree of mistrust of the government in general, and a belief that the psychology of the violent in seeking out the weak and defenseless to target means that the best way of increasing security is to make that populace less weak and defenseless against those who would engage in purposeful violence against them, be it from the private or the public sector. We live, or die, with the consequences of the choices we make, and sometimes based on someone else’s convenience and not our own.
 See, for example: