The Inconvenient Truth About The Second Amendment and Freedom: The Deaths Are Worth It

carl-with-a-gun-The shocking murder-suicide of of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher has once again unleashed the predictable rants against America’s “culture of guns” and renewed calls for tougher firearms laws. Yes, reasonable restrictions on firearms sales make sense, and the ready availability of guns to the unhinged, criminal and crazy in so many communities is indefensible. Nevertheless, the cries for the banning of hand-guns that follow these periodic and inevitable tragedies are essentially attacks on core national values, and they need to be recognized as such, because the day America decides that its citizens should not have access to guns will also be the day that its core liberties will be in serious peril.

Here is Kansas City sportswriter Jason Whitlock, in the wake of Belcher’s demise:

“Our current gun culture ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it… If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

I don’t disagree with a single word of this. Yet everything Whitlock writes about guns can be also said about individual freedom itself. The importance of the U.S. “gun culture” is that it is really individual freedom culture, the conviction, rooted in the nation’s founding, traditions, history and values, that each citizen can and should have the freedom, ability and power to protect himself and his family, to solve his or her problems, and to determine his or her fate, without requiring the permission, leave or assistance of the government. Guns are among the most powerful symbols of that freedom. You can object to it, fight it or hate it, but you cannot deny it. Guns are symbols of individual initiative, self-sufficiency and independence, and a culture that values those things will also value guns, and access to guns.

Whitlock’s statement argues for building a counter-America in which safety, security and risk aversion is valued more than individual freedom. There is no doubt in my mind, and the results of the last election confirm this, that public support for such a counter-America is growing. The government, this segment believes, should be the resource for safety, health, financial well-being, food and shelter. It follows that the government alone should have access to firearms. This requires that we have great trust in central government, a trust that the Founders of the nation clearly did not have, but one that a lot of Americans seem ready to embrace. Giving up the right to own guns and entrusting government, through the police and the military, with the sole power to carry firearms represents a symbolic, core abandonment of the nation’s traditional commitment to personal liberty as more essential than security and safety. I would like to see the advocates of banning firearms admit this, to themselves as well as gun advocates, so the debate over firearms can be transparent and honest. Maybe, as a culture, we are now willing to make that choice. If so, we should make it with our eyes open.

The cultural links between personal autonomy and guns are still very strong. One can hardly watch television or movies without seeing a drama in which the protagonist’s access to firearms defines his or her determination to avert danger, achieve justice or defeat evil. In “The Walking Dead,” for example, the fact that human beings have guns is the only thing keeping the world from total destruction and chaos. Carl, a thirteen year-old boy in the show, now wields a pistol like a gunslinger, and this symbolizes his premature entry into adulthood as well as his ability to take care of himself and his family. In the real United States, the one that isn’t over-run with zombies, owning a firearm is rarely essential or wise, which is why it is tempting to accept Whitlock’s conclusion that the freedom to have access to one it is unnecessary. I believe, however, that the right to bear arms is inextricable from the right to personal autonomy and freedom, as inconvenient and occasionally deadly as that fact may be. If we lose one, I believe the other will quickly follow. As with personal freedom itself, the right to own guns will be abused by the anti-social, the criminal, the stupid, the reckless and the irresponsible, and people will die as a result, just as they die from over-eating, driving too fast, drinking too much, sky-diving, bungee-jumping and keeping tigers as pets; just as they may die from playing NFL football, partying too hard or going hunting with Dick Cheney; just as they may die from putting too much carbon into the atmosphere or buying food with too many additives in them.

The right to be free creates the opportunity to be irresponsible, and ethics is the collective cultural effort to teach ourselves, our children and our neighbors not to be irresponsible without having to be forced to be responsible at gunpoint, with the government holding the gun. I know it seems harsh and callous to say so, but I am not willing to give up on ethics—the belief that enough of us can do the right things even when we have the freedom to do the wrong things—to prevent the occasional school massacre or murder-suicide.

I think that is giving up too much.

[Ann Althouse has a perceptive critique of Whitlock’s piece here.]


Source: Real Clear Politics

Graphic: Fanpop

9 thoughts on “The Inconvenient Truth About The Second Amendment and Freedom: The Deaths Are Worth It

  1. “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today”

    I am tired of seeing such fallacies being thrown around as a justification for further restrictions on what little rights/freedoms society has. There is no justification in that sentence and is a VERY far stretch from reality. If someone wants to kill someone else (or themselves) — it can happen anyway, regardless of the means to do so — eg, a kitchen knife, a car, a brick, poison (yes, i know most poisons only make people sick, but thats besides the point), or even fists.

    This sings the tune of passing a law that will restrict everyones freedom while screaming the cry “it’s for the children” to garner supporters, because if ‘you’ don’t support such a law, then you are a heinous children hater or whatever — and nobody wants that. Perhaps you could articulate a bit better this concept, but I think it is a cousin to the distraction rationalization. This is a sinister tactic – that works – because people will agree with the false logic imposed — a more simple scenario on how far fetched this is would be something like the following.

    1. I ate an apple.
    2. Apples come from trees.
    3. Those trees have flowers that become the apples.
    4. A tree’s nutrients come from the dirt through the roots.
    5. Roots are underground in dirt.
    6. Therefore — when eating an apple, I must be eating dirt ?!

    Sure, the logic flows, and some could argue that was in fact true, however the concept is so far from the fact that I ate an “Apple” — Not “dirt” — it is proposterous to consider trying to rationalize and dictate such a debatable concept as FACT, and forced on people who can only follow the breadcrumb trail, and then going with the populous.

    The sad reality is this — what the government wants — it gets, and will keep pushing for generations untill it finally succeeds. — look at the freedoms you have lost already in light of “security”, which in itself was more junkmail passed along and a frenzied public ate it up because everyone wants to be “safe” —- blasphemous !! People are doing this to themselves by not thinking beyond the borders of what is being proposed.

    I do not have any guns myself, but we (canada) do have ridiculous laws that were accepted into society on the same stretched logic. I do thank you for understanding and pointing out (finally, someone else can see the sinister undertone), that it is freedom that is at stake — it’s not about the guns. What type of country would be easier to enslave ? One without guns, or one with ? … I see some VERY dark potential in the removal of gun rights from USA. The restrictions imposed (and here in canada), are a joke, and were passed into law for the same reason — to be safer — Canada is no safer now than it was 80 years ago. These laws do not prevent people from obtaining them illegally — in fact, it just increases the value of them.

  2. I don’t agree with Whitlock’s statement that both would be alive today if Belcher didn’t possess a gun; if someone is in a rage enough to shoot someone several times, drive to another location and take their own life, they would likely have found another way to do it.
    I also am not convinced that the elections pointed to a sentiment of wanting the government to have greater control and America less freedoms; I know several people who voted for Obama who are gun owners and hunting and target shooting enthusiasts; But, they support gay marriage and the idea of a national health care option.
    More to the point, however, is that no matter how many people yell from the rafters that guns are our downfall, I don’t ever see a gun ban happening in the United States. Will there be support for it? Sure. Are there some restrictions that make sense, such as for specific types of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines? That is something that could be debated.
    What cannot be argued, however, is the right to bear arms is a significant part of our individual rights as Americans. For many, it’s a right of passage (our son will soon be getting his first BB gun, a first step before he gets his first hunting rifle), and something that has been handed down over generations. I can’t think of many people who think that police and military personnel should be the only ones with access to guns, or who would feel safer if that was the case.
    I despise the actions of those who use guns to kill innocent people, rob businesses and individuals and create other mayhem. Do I believe it would stop if guns were illegal? No. There are tens of millions of guns in the U.S. Do we really think all of the criminals are going to turn theirs in after passage of a gun-ban takes place? Even the logistics of recalling all firearms in the event of a ban is ridiculous! It would be the Davidian fiasco at Waco times 10,000 (or more).

    • Which is why I think that the periodic calls for banning guns are more than just unrealistic grandstanding. I think they are something more damaging, sinister, misguided and dangerous, a call for a central shift in how America balances liberty, autonomy, security and risk.

      • I feel the same way about liberties like free expression, like the right to draw anyone you like in the month of May, even IF he is cuddly…

  3. Giving up the right to own guns and entrusting government, through the police and the military, with the sole power to carry firearms represents a symbolic, core abandonment of the nation’s traditional commitment to personal liberty as more essential than security and safety

    If government did not have guns, Kenneth Chamberlain would be alive today.

  4. Has anyone noticed that all gun laws somehow exempt those charged with enforcing it?

    Presently, there are bans of same-sex “marriage” and polygamy in Oklahoma, but the district court clerks who are charged with enforcing those laws are not exempt.

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