Yesterday, at the vigil for the dead children of Newtown, President Obama asked this question: “Are we prepared that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
It’s a good question. But it’s the wrong question. This is not about the price of freedom.
It’s important NOT to allow the gun lobby to frame the discussion in terms of freedom. They like to argue that even the smallest attempt to restrict or limit any aspect of firearm technology is an assault on freedom. They like to claim that privately owned guns are the only reliable barrier between freedom and tyranny. They like to portray themselves as the heroic Defenders of Liberty, as the Guardians of Democracy, the Champions of Freedom.
They’re not. Again, this is not about freedom. They’re the Defenders of Convenience. They’re the Guardians of Fantasy.
Their insistence on having access to 30 round magazines or 100 round magazines isn’t about freedom. It’s about the terrible burden of hobbyist shooters at the rifle range not to have to pause for a few moments to reload.
Their insistence on the ‘right’ to carry firearms everywhere — to church, to the bar, to places of business — isn’t about democracy. It’s about action figure fantasies. It’s about men wanting to believe that in the unlikely event that a dangerous situation develops, they’d be able to resolve it. With a gun. It’s about a movie poster world view.
The gun lobby claims new gun laws won’t stop the killing. They claim there are already more than 20,000 gun laws in the U.S. already. That’s not true — but even if it was, it would be irrelevant. A lot of existing gun laws either permit easier access to firearms or extend gun rights. They’re not laws that restrict or limit firearms. For example, earlier this year the State of Indiana enacted a law that essentially gives homeowners the right to shoot police officers under certain conditions. Seriously. The law states:
a person is justified in using reasonable force against a public servant if the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to: (1) protect the person or a third person from unlawful force; (2) prevent or terminate the public servant’s unlawful entry into the person’s dwelling; or (3) prevent or terminate the public servant’s criminal interference with property lawfully in the person’s possession.
This law was written with the assistance of the National Rifle Association. It’s grounded in the paranoid belief that the government wants to stifle freedom by sending government agents to seize the weapons of common citizens. It’s a law that says you can shoot and kill police officers if you ‘reasonably believe’ the officer is coming to break into your home and take your legal firearms.
I’ll say it again. This is not about freedom. It’s about paranoia. It’s about the irrational belief that some day some military or paramilitary force will seize control of the United States, and it’s about the male fantasy that plucky Americans with guns will resist and prevail.
We live in a society in which children have to be trained how to behave in the event of a school shooting. We live in a society where school entrances are routinely locked to reduce the likelihood of mass murders. That’s not freedom.
The gun lobby likes to claim that an armed citizenry is a free citizenry. That’s a lie. An armed citizenry is a frightened citizenry, and people who live in fear are never really free.
We can place common sense limitations on firearm ownership in the US without infringing on the rights of citizens. But it’ll be much more difficult to do that as long as we keep discussing firearms in terms of freedom. This is not about freedom. It’s about lives.