this is not about freedom

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.

die hardLet me say it again. This is not about freedom. It’s about male fantasies.

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.

red dawnI’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.

5 thoughts on “this is not about freedom

  1. So, the thought occurred to me while reading this, that the NRA, in the minds of probably most of its members, exists to protect their rights to bear firearms. In reality, they are the lobbying arm of the weapons manufacturers of this country and, I suppose, the world.

    The next thought that occurred to me was that right at this very moment, in some factory somewhere, someone is working on a newer, sleeker, more efficient killing machine.


    • Patrick, there really haven’t been any ‘advancements’ (if you can use that term) in commercial firearms since the introduction of the Glock in 1982. Mostly what we see from gun manufacturers are refinements — design tweaks, so to speak. After a while it all comes down to an equation involving the number of moving parts, how quickly they wear out, how they handle recoil, ergonomics, and magazine capacity. Every tweak in one variable requires a tweak in another. I suppose there’s some very small comfort in knowing handguns can’t get much more dangerous.


  2. So Greg, when are you running for office? I’d move wherever you are just to be able to vote for you. Thanks for your voice of reason amongst all the stupefying blather swirling about. It gives me hope that I’m not alone in my anger and frustration.


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