Late Sunday night, Las Vegas was the scene of America’s worst mass shooting in our history. As of this writing, 59 innocent people are confirmed dead, and over 500 are wounded. It is a horrifying tragedy that is difficult to comprehend. At this point many details are still unclear, including a motive.
As expected, there was immediate and sustained demands for increased gun control. I am not one to criticize gun control advocates for politicizing a tragedy. If someone has a plan they believe will save hundreds of lives, I won’t tell them to keep it to themselves. But this debate has gone on for so long I think I could carry on both sides. Which is why I want to discuss a different aspect I don’t think gets brought up enough.
So I won’t spend this post talking about how the left consistently argues a shooting proves we need gun control that would not have stopped the shooting in question.
I won’t mention that the widely circulated graph showing a significant decrease in gun deaths after Australia passed strict gun control laws is misleading considering America saw a similar decline at he same time despite a significant increase in gun ownership.
I won’t comment on the tendency to show studies referencing gun deaths instead of homicides in an obvious attempt to include suicides in statistics most people will assume are all murders.
I won’t point out that those same studies focus on a decrease in death by a particular weapon, not if murders and violent crime actually goes down.
I won’t question the honesty of people who say they only want common sense gun legislation, not to ban all guns, but routinely point to nations that have virtually eliminated private fire arm ownership as their examples.
Nor will I remark on the incongruity of those who say cops are racist and the country is led by a fascist being the most likely to argue only the government, and specifically cops, should have guns.
Instead I want to focus on an area in which my friends on the left are frequently correct, but go awry through inconsistent application of their principles.
America was reeling after 9/11 and we quickly decided new laws were required to prevent future terrorist attacks. I believe many on the left often went too far in their self professed mission to defend civil liberties and treated accusations of government wrongdoing as fact, but the principle is correct. A terrorist attack, even the deadliest attack on American soil since the Civil War, does not justify spying on American citizens or warrentless searches. Again, I’d disagree on how frequently these violations occurred, but the theory is correct.
Ever since 9/11, liberals have used Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote that “those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” to push back against anti-terrorism measures they thought violated American’s rights. This is why librarians made a show of burning library records and why many on the left celebrated Snowden’s massive leak of top secret data over the unproven allegation of domestic spying.
But if Snowden bringing top secret files to China and Russia is acceptable because the security we lost was not worth the liberty we may or may not have gained, why does this principle dissolve when it comes to Americans owning fire arms? Why is giving up our Second Amendment rights suddenly a worthy trade off for the hope of a little temporary safety?
Americans use guns to hunt, to protect themselves from criminals, because they enjoy target practice, or simply to keep as collectibles. That’s fine. I agree those are all good uses of fire arms and I support their right to do so.
But the Founding Fathers did not enshrine our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms so we could hunt. They did so because an armed citizenry is necessary to the security of a free state.
When discussing the spark that ignited the American revolution, we often think of “no taxation without representation.” While it is certainly true that this issue raised colonial ire and led to demands for their rights, the colonists remained loyal British subjects. It was not until British Lt Colonel Francis Smith set out from Boston to confiscate patriot weapon supplies that Americans decided to fight for their liberty.
The Founders knew first hand that the first step of a despotic government’s attempt to squash dissent is to confiscate the means of resistance. This is not to suggest that every government that bans fire arms is tyrannical, but it does mean a citizenry must be disarmed before their rights can be trampled.
I do not believe dictatorship is right around the corner, or will even come to America in my lifetime (although to hear them talk about Trump, I imagine some of the most vociferous proponents of gun control are less sure). But we do not only guard against the immediate threat. If we lose our right to protect ourselves now it will be lost forever.
What separates America from the rest of the world, what makes us exceptional, is that our great country was founded not on blood or soil, but on the principle of liberty for all. It is what has animated Americans for well over two centuries and what each of us is obliged to defend. I will not give up essential liberty to purchase temporary security.