The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

66° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tucson: a lawless land

    Several days ago, a man robbed a bank on the north side of Tucson. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the robbery, and he was apprehended with the money a short time later. The robber was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle. Whether that seems surprising or not, the fact that a daylight assault with heavy weapons barely made the news means that the people of the borderland have become somewhat accustomed to violently lawless behavior. Some observers have declared our southern neighbor a narco-state, and the violence there is as commonplace as it is horrendous.

    Here in Southern Arizona, the carnage is not nearly so severe, but if men robbing banks with the chosen gun of the Taliban or African rebel groups is any indication, there is a brazenness to local criminality that doesn’t exist elsewhere in the country.

    It is easy to point the finger of blame at the cause of local lawlessness. There are drugs in Mexico and drug users in America. There are guns in America and criminals who need guns to defend their operations in Mexico. That analysis is so simple it borders on basic arithmetic. What might not be so easy is to appeal to the days before drug cartels and gun running rings as a peaceable, law-abiding time. When one really thinks about it, there are no “good old days” to appeal to here on the border if your criterion is lawful behavior. Entire peoples have been exterminated. Wars have been fought on this side of the border, the other side, and once between bordering countries — remember the Alamo? In fact, the Old West genre of film is essentially a thousand different reiterations of the fact that the people who lived here in the 19th century didn’t behave very well. And that Old Western staple, a daring daylight bank robbery, is happening now. Only the technology has changed.

    A little musing seems to suggest at least circumstantial evidence for eternal lawlessness on the border, no matter what the issues of the day are. The next question, of course, is why this might be. Is it a clash of cultures that we can’t seem to overcome? It very easily might be. The Spanish were notoriously bad at getting along with the American Indians. The Mexicans and the Americans, in many ways, have yet to really be friendly to one another, not to mention the fact that they too have been notoriously bad at getting along with American Indians. Perhaps the proximity of a whole other identity, in many ways alien to one’s own, just breeds an angst that manifests in violence against whoever is in the area.

    On the other hand, the borderlands might just attract a lawless crowd. In the past, prospectors who wanted to live on their own terms and Civil War veterans who had become desensitized to violence flocked here. Today, it’s minutemen and volunteer border guards who, whether their goal is noble or not, by their very existence think that the legal force in this country is not what it should be. Or maybe it’s just the fact that this particular border is a desert. Laws — and philosophical analysis, for that matter — might just be wasted on the thirsty.

    Whatever the deep, underlying cause might be, there is legitimate reason to think that the land where our university sits may not be within human power to tame. That being said, there are certainly steps to take to make the area safer, and those efforts should not be discouraged. But whoever thinks the “Wild West” is dead and gone seems to be laboring under some misapprehension. Cartel-related violence can be curbed, just as the days of horse riding criminals or Indian Wars are long gone. But if there’s a daring daylight bank robbery a hundred years from now, with whatever we’re using to kill each other at that point in time, it’s a gambling man’s odds that said robbery takes place not far from where this paper was printed.

    — Andrew Conlogue is a junior studying politics, philosophy, economics and law. He can be reached at

    More to Discover
    Activate Search