Thoughts On the Synagogue Shootings

Can we learn any lessons from the horrific Pittsburgh synagogue murders? Maybe. Improved security at places of worship may be necessary (and no, calling for better security is not “blaming the victim.”) Attorney General Jeff Sessions has filed federal hate crime charges against Robert Bowers. This strikes me as symbolic and pointless. Murder is a state crime and state and local authorities are perfectly capable of prosecuting and punishing it. Or used to be, anyway.

Hans Bader agrees with President Trump’s call for a more effective death penalty. I have no problem with that, although, as Hans notes, carrying out an execution requires navigating such a thicket of constitutional constraints that it may be impossible, as a practical matter, for execution to become reliable and swift enough to be a more effective deterrent.

What I don’t understand is, why is Robert Bowers still alive? He killed eleven people and engaged in a shootout with police officers, wounding four of them. He obviously was using deadly force, and the police were fully justified in applying deadly force in response. If they had simply kept firing until there was zero chance of his remaining a danger, we wouldn’t have to worry about a criminal prosecution, and Bowers wouldn’t be given a megaphone to make his twisted views public for years to come.

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