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Dr. Larry Arnn On The San Bernardino Terrorist Attack

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HH: I’m doing something I’ve never done before in the years of this program. I’m talking with a guest on Thursday, December 3rd, and I’m replaying the hour tomorrow, Friday, December 4th, because it’s the Hillsdale Dialogue early. My guest is Dr. Larry Arnn, and it will become obvious why I’m doing that. Dr. Arnn, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.

LA: How are you, Hugh?

HH: I’m concerned.

LA: Yeah.

HH: I am very concerned in the aftermath of the attack in San Bernardino that we’re not a serious country.

LA: Yeah.

HH: And that’s why I wanted, I wanted to talk to someone who has enormous credibility with the audience not about Churchill, though he will come up, but about this endemic disease of unseriousness. Do you know what I mean?

LA: You mean being unwilling to say that this is a terrorist attack, or being unwilling to say that maybe those people ought to have been in a position to defend themselves?

HH: That, exactly. That is exactly it, and I have watched for a full day. I did five hours of radio on Wednesday as it unfolded, because this is my backyard. It’s your old backyard.

LA: Oh, yeah.

HH: And let’s, in fact, begin there. Dr. Arnn is the president of Hillsdale College, which is in Michigan, which lost to Ohio State quite soundly, by the way, and I wanted to point that out, but Dr. Arnn lives in Michigan or Washington, D.C. Hillsdale College, you can read all about it at, but he was not always lost to the great north woods. He was for a long time a Southern Californian in this rather general vicinity of this atrocity, right?

LA: I used to ride my bicycle with my friend, Ed Erler, out so he could teach at Cal State San Bernardino, which is about five miles from that Inland Center where the assault took place.

HH: And you were the president of the Claremont Institute, and you did your doctoral work at Claremont McKenna under the great, late Dr. Harry Jaffa. And the Inland Empire is all one region. How would you describe the Inland Empire to people?

LA: Well, the Inland Empire, so the last town east in L.A. County is Claremont, and what used to be east of Claremont, because if you studied with Harry Jaffa, you rode bicycles. And so you rode out, and when you hit the county line, then you were in a world of grapevines and orchards. And there were no traffic jams out in that part of L.A., but now there’s several million people who live out there. And it’s San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, and it’s the great eastern suburbs of Los Angeles. And they now go out beyond the valley out into the desert.

HH: They are vast, and I have spent so much time in San Bernardino government center arguing about San Bernardino kangaroo rats and other things like that, that I know the area very well. I’m sure you, I think I’ve been in that room where the massacre occurred, where the terrorist incident occurred, giving a speech to the regional hospital council a few years ago. I think that, I can’t be certain about that, but I know the area pretty well. And so this was very personal, and of course, our 590 and 870 audiences, the Answer, tuned in, and they wanted to know. So my first reaction is when this began to unfold, A) are you surprised that we have what the media is describing as self-radicalized, and I want to even go to that term first. There are no self, everyone is self-educated and no one is self-educated, Larry Arnn.

LA: That’s right. You know, human beings participate in their own, the forming of their own characters, and outside influences matter. But the thing that matters the most is what happens inside them. That’s why you can say that being a good person or a bad person is some credit or discredit to you. So these people will have participated. I mean, if they were radicalized to the place, and if that’s the motive, and there’s what you might call smoking guns about that, if that’s the motive, then they will have had something to do with that. And of course, there’s lots and lots of Muslim people who don’t decide that it’s a right thing to do to go shoot up a bunch of innocent people.

HH: The vast majority of American Muslims don’t agree with, sympathize with, or in any way condone this. But we do have a problem, and I think the fear of being charged with Islamophobia is neutering the press conference of its major terrorist attack a week after a major terrorist attack. That’s my proposition. Do you agree with that?

LA: I do agree with that. I mean, the source of much of the terror in the world is Islamic radicalism. And if we can’t say that, we can’t figure out very well what to do.

HH: Second question, in terms of the idea of self-radicalization, the FBI gave a briefing today in concert with the chief of police. I love this San Bernardino chief of police. He’s very straightforward, he’s outspoken, he tells you how many cops responded. 300 police officers responded yesterday, Larry Arnn, and the public was not afraid. They were glad they came. That’s kind of not consistent with the narrative we’ve heard.

LA: (laughing) Isn’t that good? And yeah, you know, that part of the world, right, so I lived around there for a long time. You know, we actually got to know each other well over that controversy, a rat, over the rat.

HH: Yes.

LA: So you and I were brought together by a rat…

HH: (laughing) And we’ve stayed together because of other rats.

LA: There we go. That’s it (laughing). That’s our relationship. But there’s a shooting range not far north of that place where people in Claremont go if they want to do outdoor shooting. It’s out in the middle of nowhere. And that’s a countryside out there where a whole lot of middle America lives. And they moved out there, because it’s cheaper out there, and jobs moved out there as they moved out there, and it’s a big, thriving area, and it’s not Beverly Hills. It’s middle America in California.

HH: And they have problems. San Bernardino is bankrupt, and everybody ought to know that. They have a pension problem that bankrupted them, and they have a gang problem because of lot of the kids expelled from the Los Angeles Unified District over 20-plus years because of gang violence moved with their families, or their families moved to San Bernardino. I knew the chairman of the board of education out there, Lou Yeager, for many, many years. And they always bemoan that. And they have a jobs problem, because aerospace went away, and they can’t get anyone to use Ontario Airport. So they have some problems, but they also have a pretty reliably red patriotic history out there of being Republican, conservative, church-going people.

LA: Yeah, and you know, like one of my, two of my very best friends from graduate school days that I lived with forever, our landlord was the great Peter Drucker. Their parents, long generations of military service, and they were, they had orange groves out there not far from that place where the shootings were. And you know, there were wineries out there, too. And so that part of America, that was a very different kind of California in 1974 when I went out there to go to graduate school. But it’s kept a lot of those old properties over time, because it’s not on the beach, and you don’t have to be rich to live around there.

HH: Yes, you do not have to be rich. And there are a lot of gun owners. And in fact, a sponsor of one of my stations out there, AM590, is a gun range, and a lot of people own guns. I taught two classes of undergraduates today, Larry Arnn, and I asked one of them, maybe 25 people in the room, how many own guns. Six did, and I mean, they are big gun owners. They’re gun enthusiasts. They own Sig Sauers, they own pistols, they own shotguns. None of them worry me. These are all avowed Evangelicals, one of whose father is a pastor has done mission work all over the world, has an arsenal, a safe in his basement. They don’t worry me. And I asked the second class why are people freaked out by guns, and so I begin to ask you that. They’re talking about gun control all day today. This is not a gun control issue. It’s not like last week in the crazy loner, or the schizophrenic kid who killed all those little one, first graders in the horrific massacre in Connecticut. This is different.

LA: Well, these people, first of all, as it seems, and you know, we’re not getting official pronouncements that it is as it seems, but if it is as it seems, these are people who organized themselves to kill people for quite some time and had an arsenal built up, and included in that arsenal were a bunch of pipe bombs, which you can make out of ordinary materials, I gather. And so if anybody is going to be able to get a gun, somebody determined and persistent like that over time is whose going to do it. So look, if you step back from this for a minute, first of all, there’s what the Constitution means, and we can talk about that, but a second thing is what is the strategic situation right now? Winston Churchill makes the point that modern war is like this. It brings war home to whole populations, and involves them in that war. So now the newest form is suicide bombing and gun attacks on ordinary people going about their daily lives. And that raises the classic problem of military defense, because when you’re on the defensive, you’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and the enemy chooses when and how they attack. Churchill makes this point about the Afghan border where he fought as a young man. He says there’s this long border with India, and if we try to control all of it and have a force up there big enough to repel any attack that comes, it would take more than the whole British and Indian armies. And so when they come across, they’re always going to have the advantage. And there’s always going to be a time when they’re in the majority. Just watch a football game, by the way, and see how the offense tries to get an advantage by attacking with force more at a particular point. So how do you cope with that when it’s a population? Well, look at our heritage and our Constitution. There’s about a gun for every citizen of the United States in the United States. And there’s a Constitutional protection of that. Couldn’t one turn that to an advantage?

HH: That is the question.

LA: Yeah.

HH: And you know what is amazing? When we come back from break, no one has raised the possibility that an armed citizenry is exactly what the future is going to require in the United States. And I am raising that with Dr. Larry Arnn, because if nothing else, our mutual friend, Victor Hanson, has referred to the old term of Indian country, and what one did when one went there. And I will return to that conversation when I come back with Dr. Larry Arnn.

— – – —

HH: Dr. Arnn, when we went to break, I was talking about Victor Davis Hanson and an armed citizenry. He used a term a lot, as did Robert Kaplan, another fine writer, about Indian country being that when the early American settlers from Europe moves westward into the continent, they went armed into dangerous country, and they lived on the frontier, and this culture developed, a culture of reliance upon self-defense which is embedded in the 2nd Amendment.

LA: That’s right.

HH: That is, I just can’t be, that can’t be contradicted.

LA: No, first of all, the 2nd Amendment makes reference to the militia, and that’s the able-bodied citizens who are expected to be prepared to fight for their country, and fight for their defense of their community and themselves. Thomas Jefferson makes the comment that you can’t go from town to town in England or France without being robbed by a highwayman, but you never see them in America, he said, because somebody will shoot them. And that’s, you know, that’s, America started that way, right? A bunch of people came over here to a wilderness they didn’t understand, and they found out in a hurry they were going to defend themselves or get killed. And that, it does look to me like, you know, I would mention three levels, right? First of all, people have a right to own a gun in America, and that is the clearest Constitutional right. And short of changing the Constitution, it is a Constitutionally-recognized right. And it’s hard to change the Constitution.

HH: That’s correct.

LA: That’s the first thing. Everybody can have a gun. If you’re afraid in your home, get one. And of course, I grew up in Northeast Arkansas, and what was I taught, except that that was a huge responsibility. And so how many hours have I been lectured about not pointing a gun at anybody, and about being safe with the use of a gun? I’ll tell you a quick story about my dad. We were bird hunting with one of his employers, a man, I won’t say his name, but he actually paddled my father when my father was in high school. Then he became my father’s boss, and he paddled me. Now that’s family brotherhood.

HH: Yeah, it is.

LA: And I inherited the patriarchy, right? And we went hunting with this man, and three were some quail, and they came up off to the side, and the man swung his gun over us. And I can feel at this moment my father’s hand on my shoulder forcing me down. And when it was over, and we got up, my father said to me quietly, son, we’re going home. And he didn’t say a word to his boss. We left the field and drove home, because you don’t hunt with somebody who is not safe with guns. Now you think that’s not a lesson I will always remember?

HH: Yeah, I have a similar story, not myself being qualified in riflery. My brother-in-law, retired Marine Corps colonel and owner of many weapons, instructed my boys in weaponry. And the patience required to do that is enormous. It takes a lot, and I have never seen anyone as careful as my colonel brother-in-law taking his weapons out of the gun safe and walking the boys through their first trip to the range. And the painful, painful passage of time to learn how to use a weapon the right way, it was, it just imprinted on my mind that these are serious things. But people can be serious about them. And isn’t it time we started doing that?

LA: Very much. Very much. And I’ll add to that point, another kind of point, and that is I have two friends, one of them is one of the greatest living writers, highly awarded, you know him, but I won’t say his name, and I have another friend who’s been a very senior official in the Pentagon, and now runs a major national organization, and both of them have been extensively deputized by the government, one of them to serve high risk warrants, where he has SWAT training, and one of them to help protect the community in which he lives in Virginia. And both of them are required to carry guns, and they have been highly trained, and they’re deputized. And what’s interesting about that phenomenon is, and good about it, is they lead normal lives, but they’ve gone to the trouble to qualify, and by the way, neither one of them is compensated for what he does.

HH: Wow.

LA: They both do it out of a sense of duty. And one of them, you know, is a very highly trained soldier, the writer is. And so both of them, and see, I think that we should look for people in the society, and we should ask them are they prepared to serve in this way. And then we should have training with them, and we should know who they are. But they should continue to live normal lives. And then that would be a class of citizen that has special duties to be on the defense wherever they are. And I don’t see why we don’t do that, because a great thing about that, it’s something we’ve lost, too, by the way that most of us don’t go in the military anymore…

HH: Right.

LA: …is that a great thing about that is it spreads the defense of the country, and also knowledge how to do it, more widely among the population.

HH: It also spreads the responsibility of watchfulness in a purposeful way for crazy, the not crazy, fanatical people. I always distinguish between the Colorado Springs killer of last week who is a crazy man, and the fanatics of yesterday who are terrorists, and are not crazy, they are fanatics. And I think that’s a distinction we have to hang onto, Dr. Arnn.

LA: Very much, and see, of all of the peoples on the face of the Earth, giving our unmatched record of self-government and history of self-government, we should be the population most amenable to that kind of thing. And I myself don’t object to background checks for anybody who’s deputized to use force, high training. And I think the people should be volunteers, by the way. And I think that there would be a lot of such people. And then, you see, the motion would not be disarm everybody and turn everybody into people who cower when there’s violence, but rather introduce and take advantage of the native vigor of the population, and find the ones who are most responsible and encourage them.

HH: But you know, that would cause quailing and moaning, and it does call quailing and moaning among media elites. And that’s because they live in protected bubbles, Larry Arnn.

LA: I think so.

HH: They don’t, they don’t really…

LA: I think so, and you know, I’m amazed, and see, there are dueling studies, right? They’re big, every few years, I was looking for it and I couldn’t find it, some 15 or 20 years ago or more, Atlantic Monthly published a big, long piece about a fellow who’d studied all this up, and he said that concealed carry laws helped to diminish violence, that the story starts, if anybody can find it and send it to me, I’d be glad, with the story of, they were shooting tourists in rest stops in Florida. And Florida has very tough laws, at that time, had very tough laws about not having guns with you when you’re out in public. And so it goes into that. Now the Atlantic Monthly, you know, in fairness, I must say that when you search for that, you’ll find lots and lots of high quality, intelligent arguments arguing that that’s all bunkum, and that concealed carry laws mean more violence and more death. More guns in the society mean more violence and more death. I don’t believe it, and I also think that the studied are dueling, but we do have this heritage. And we do have all these guns.

HH: And we do have more time with Dr. Larry Arnn after the break.

— – – — –

HH: And Dr. Arnn, I want to speak about bad argument driving out good argument. When someone like Adam Schiff, who by all accounts simply doesn’t have a lot upstairs, by the presentations that he makes, comes out and says, as he did on CNN on Thursday, we need these gun control measures even though they would not have worked in any way, shape or form to prevent the massacre in San Bernardino. And I see lower thirds, California massacre reignites gun debate. And we are talking about this. This is all bad argument. None of the things being proposed would have done a damn thing to stop these terrorists.

LA: No.

HH: And that’s what’s frustrating to me.

LA: Well, of course, but remember, there is, you know, what is at war is two alternative views of the society. And one of them, and they’re both, you know, they both have force behind them, and they’re both very attractive to intelligent people, one of them is until we have the scientifically planned and managed and coherent society in that way, then we can’t ever have a decent society or a safe society or an equal society. And what that translates into is a society more regulated than the one we have now. And another one is, and see, this other has this terrible disadvantage. It can’t promise utopia, right? So if there were, if there had been some people in that crowd who knew how to use a weapon and had one on them, they would have opened fire, and that might have saved some lives. We do know that every month, some crime is deterred, or some life is saved, by some private citizen using a weapon. There’s a list of them published in an NRA magazine every month. I just looked this afternoon. There are four in the month of November, and all of the reports are from news stations, right? The NRA didn’t go interview the people and do it. They just post a link to some news account of this happening somewhere. So we know that happens, and we know that if there had been such a person and they’d opened fire quickly, much more quickly than the 300 cops could get there, that that might have helped. That doesn’t mean some people wouldn’t have been killed. And it doesn’t mean that ordinary people might not go nuts sometimes and shoot somebody. That can happen, too. But if you disarm the whole society, one can really only speculate from the point of view of scientific truth which of the things will work best. And so…

HH: Let me…

LA: We have this Constitution. Are we doing to change it so that we can then engage in that national experiment, which is an experiment on us?

HH: Yeah, there is a headline all over CNN today, California shooting rampage, and that makes it a gun issue, as opposed to terror in Paris or terror in San Bernardino, which makes it a terrorism issue. Let me read to you, and into the record of this program and the Hillsdale Dialogues, Dr. Arnn, Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic nominee, made four tweets over the course of the last day following the attack. Number one, “I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now. H.” Two, “No matter what motivation these shooters had, we can say one thing for certain. They shouldn’t have been able to do this.” Number three, “We cannot go on with losing 90 people a day to gun violence. We need to take action now.” And number four, “If you are too dangerous to fly in America, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.” What do you make of that quartet of inanity in tweets?

LA: Well, you know, she might be right about too dangerous to fly in America.

HH: Stephen Hayes is on that list, though.

LA: Yeah, but the main thing is, you know, there’s a very good article on CNN that I read this morning that goes at length into the radicalization of these people and their trip to the Middle East and their Islamic views, and how there are signs that those were becoming extreme. And so heck fire, it is, you know, if you’re just guessing what it is, I don’t know that you have to guess, but if you’re just guessing, this has got something to do with Islamic terrorism. Why is that not the lead article?

HH: That is, and we’ll come back after the break and talk in our last segment. That is the lead article. That is, if the victims of this terrorist attack, I wonder if their families are upset that the media is not calling it a terrorist attack? I don’t know. The names have not been released when I’m talking with Dr. Larry Arnn. I’ll be right back., America, stay tuned.

— – – — –

HH: And I am operating off of a lawyer’s training in amassing obvious conclusions from evidence, and not waiting for anyone. I believe O.J. Simpson killed Nicole and the guy, all right, and he was found innocent. I believe he killed them. And I say that based upon evidence. I’m very confident of that, and I’m very confident that these were Islamist terrorists. I am, and so contradict me if you want. That’s where I am. Dr. Arnn, the BBC headline on Thursday, just another day in America.

LA: (laughing)

HH: Classic BBC diminution of the problem, a classic down the nose attitude, and of course, a head in the sand one that got them Paris and London on 7/7, and might get them worse in the future.

LA: Yeah, you know, and I can’t find anything Churchill said about the personal right to bear arms, and that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s a very big corpus. But I do know how proud Churchill was, first of all, of the fact that the British people fought both those World Wars, because if affected every household, especially the Second World War where they were bombed. And Churchill was particularly proud of Home Guard, because you know, that, my wife’s father and her father were territorial army officers who ended up, you know, he was a regimental commander in the Second World War, her father, and he’s a very brave man. And he had a very hard war. And he was an ordinary citizen who went back to being a lawyer when the war was over, as did his father. But then also, there was the Home Guard, and that was people who just lived at home, and were available for home defense. And there were two and a half million of them in Britain during the Second World War, much larger than the British Army. And so that means that ordinary people among us, and in the extreme, each of us is the defense, and as I say, it’s just, it does look obvious to me that in the face of increasing violence against ordinary citizens, the solution is to disarm the people instead of rather training them and breeding responsibility among them, which is a very common feature of all kinds of gun training in America – safety first.

HH: I have to close, before we run out of time, the New York Times ran a story on the 30th of November about the Paris assassins, and there are 1,591 officially on the very dangerous watch list. More estimates in that article said 6,000 running around Europe with passports who are planning jihadist terror. We now have jihadist terror in the United States in the aftermath, and the Islamic State is calling for more. That’s what they do every day via social media with a million touches, according to General Stanley McChrystal in his book, Team of Teams. Every single day, a million exhortations to jihad against the infidel, and you know, it doesn’t take a lot of seeds to sow a lot of blood. So Dr. Arnn, you are a known skeptic of nation building. You did not approve of the Iraqi experiment, and you’ve talked about that a lot on this. What ought we to do about the Islamic State, which is the fountainhead of a lot of this?

LA: Well, that’s another strategic fact, right?

HH: Yes.

LA: It’s, you have to find the most economical way to fight them. And I wouldn’t say that building a democracy in Syria amidst all this is likely to be anything but costly and a very long job. We have done that successfully with others, in Germany and Japan, but the precursor to that, the first time, we failed in Germany, by the way, but the precursor to the successful attempts was, the first step was we leveled the place, and we built the largest armies in human history to do that. And we stopped everything for five years, and went and fought those wars, you know, six if you put the two together. And so if we’re not going to do that, then we should use economical means, and that means the places where we have safe bases, we should base ourselves on those. We should use air power. We should use Special Forces, and we should use ground forces when we need to get the bad guys. And along the way, we should do everything in our power to ameliorate conditions in those countries. It’s just that we can’t stake everything on building constitutional democracies in places that know nothing of it, and then are deeply divided.

HH: And the Islamist radicalism is not necessarily a feature of Muslim countries, and there are many like Indonesia and Malaysia that are allies in this war, and Jordan and others. But there is a need for people like President Sisi to do what he did on January 1 of this year, which is to go to the teachers of Islam and say you’ve got to stop this.

LA: Oh, yeah. Yeah, because that, you know, I mean, first of all, it isn’t very hard to discern friends and enemies in this war, right? And it’s not a racial definition. And it’s not even a religious definition. But what it is, is a definition of people who preach war and death upon others they call infidels, and who also, by the way, diminish their women to property, and citizens, whenever they please to simple property. We’re not going to get along with people like that.

HH: Yeah, it remains a very difficult subject, because the modern journalistic enterprise condemns anyone who speaks with clarity. As our friend, Dennis Prager, says, clarity before agreement. But if you go for clarity about this, Dr. Arnn, you’re usually silenced. What would you have presidential candidates on the right say about this right now? What’s your advice to them?

LA: About the Middle East, you mean?

HH: About that and about the terror attack yesterday and the terror attack Wednesday, I mean.

LA: I would be organizing the society to defend itself, and take advantage of the culture and the laws that revolve around the 2nd Amendment. I’d do that at home. And then abroad, I would be saying that if people are a threat to the United States of America, and a tangible threat, then we can go hurt those people, and we should find the cheapest way to do it.

HH: Dr. Larry Arnn, always a pleasure, thanks for a special edition of the Hillsdale Dialogue, available on both Thursday and Friday because the need is great. I appreciate that, and I hope our, we don’t have mutual friends, but I’m sure you’re grieving with those who grieve. Next week, perhaps, we’ll talk about the attack on prayer for those who suffer, which was endemic on the left on Wednesday, and quite startling. Culture is changing pretty fast, not at Hillsdale College, though. For everything Hillsdale offers, visit All of the Hillsdale Dialogues available at

End of interview.


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