Thursday, March 07, 2013
Need v. Freedom
Yesterday in USA Today, JFK biographer Robert Dallek also used the word "need" in the title of his piece: "America's Gun Culture Needs to Change." OK, I'll bite, why do we need to change? Mr. Dallek bemoans the fact that the imbecilic efforts to stop gun murder, perpetrated by criminals and crazy people, by banning the ownership of certain guns and magazines by law abiding sane citizens, seems to be losing steam (would that were true here in Colorado). Then he asks the recently fashionable question about gun owner's choice to avail themselves to the Constitutionally protected right:
Why do so many Americans, 70 million-80 million according to estimates, see a need to own firearms?I imagine that many of the 80 million could answer that question with revealed desires to survive an attempt to murder or to harm them seriously, or that they like to hunt or shoot paper targets or a hundred other reasons. For me, the answer is not those. While my children were young, I kept the unloaded guns in a safe and the ammunition in a locked tool box in a different location. I used to joke that if anyone broke into my house, all I needed was 5 or 6 minutes to open the safe and then unlock the ammunition box and then load, and then the burglars were in big trouble. In other words, I put the everyday safety of my children above a rapid (and thus more effective) response to a terrible but rare break-in. Because of that, I could not say I owned guns realistically for self defense. Likewise, I do not have a concealed carry permit and I probably never will. I don't want to shoot anybody even if that means I'm hurt or killed because of my pacifism. That's my choice. (Or perhaps I'm fooling the criminals out there and am loaded for bear all the time).
Nor could I say that all the guns I owned were for hunting (although I do hunt, poorly) or for target shooting (although I do that as well, slightly better) because some of the guns never come out of the safe. I don't need them for anything other than to satisfy my desire, my choice to have them, to keep without bearing them. If we really lived in the free country the founders envisioned, my desire to keep them would be enough. It's not good enough an answer for Mr. Dallek and his ilk. He writes for a while about the idiotic four freedoms FDR actually proposed out loud during the inaugural address of his last term and Dallek focuses on the most idiotic of them, freedom from fear (as if that were even remotely possible--the price of freedom is that people will interfere with your life and property, the price of freedom is crime). Finally, he gets to his point:
By contrast, gun control proponents now voice fear that the easy availability of guns facilitated the horrors of Newtown, Conn., and the many other bloody episodes that captured public attention for a time: the assassination of President Kennedy, the near assassination of President Reagan and mass murders at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Tucson, Arizona, to mention some memorable assaults on the nation's civic peace.
For those of us who cry out for gun control, our fears cannot be eliminated as long as the country remains an armed camp in which the most troubled among us can find ways to appropriate one of the easily available weapons in all our communities.
The answer to our difficulty lies not simply in rules such as the ones Obama has proposed or even the stronger ones some congressional Democrats have advanced.
I'm with him on the last sentence. Bit why do you fear the law abiding 'armed camp' who never commit a crime and never use their guns improperly?What's wrong with you? As the nations who have prohibited citizen ownership of guns have proved, you cannot disarm the criminals with words on paper. A legislative prohibition of something has never been the answer here in America for things people actually wanted--not alcohol, not drugs, not sex--not nothing. You think legislators would have twigged to the fact that legal prohibitions are only effective against the law abiding and that trying to stop criminal behavior by prohibiting certain guns will necessarily fail because criminals by definition don't follow the law. The legal prohibition will only disarm the good guys. Mr. Dallek has something else in mind.
It is not enough to tell gun advocates that more firearms in the hands of responsible citizens in public places is not the answer to their fear. To successfully deal with our fears, we have to acknowledge and deal with the fears of those who most fiercely oppose gun control.
Why aren't more firearms in the hands of responsible citizens in public places the answer to the fears of gun killings? Certainly armed police officers, which the left sometimes applauds, are just that, armed responsible citizens in public places. One of the real problems with Mr. Dallek's whole argument here is that some gun owners, like myself, don't own guns out of fear. We own guns out of affection. We like them.
I'm willing to bet that fact doesn't compute in Mr. Dallek's world view. Let's see if I'm right.
We must engage with the fear of our government that was both necessary for our nation's founding and has become more and more an impediment to our nation's evolution away from loosely organized frontier colony to a vibrant information-age superpower.
I have no idea what he's really saying here. Of course, we rebelled against the tyranny of the British Crown, but we seem to have replaced that historical tyranny with an onerous and expensive government that has become ever more onerous and expensive over time. I think it has become too onerous and expensive, but perhaps that's only me (and about 60% of the country's citizen). How has fear of too oppressive a government been an impediment to our nation's evolution? What has our collective "fear" prevented? As I said, I have no idea. He's not done, however.
What? Curbing citizens' access to guns (necessarily infringing on their freedom) isn't going to curb anything other than lawful gun ownership by law abiding citizens. And it's difficult to reassure the gun lovers that the government is not going after them when the federal and state governments are busy going after them by criminalizing their access to certain guns and magazines. Is Mr. Dallek unable to see this? That's very difficult to believe. He's probably not an idiot.The challenge for this generation of Americans is to address not only our own fears by curbing access to guns, but also to reassure the country's most devoted gun advocates that their government is not after them.
His next paragraph causes me to question my last sentence but I'll skip over it and go to the apparent meat of his argument.
Local and national authorities need to find ways to assure Americans that a safe society is one in which well-trained law enforcement is the best answer to controlling crime and assuring safety.
So, in Mr. Dallek's world view, the safest society is where the police alone legally have firearms. Like in the USSR or Germany in the late 30s, for example? Well, obviously putting firearms only in the hands of the government is not going to be reassuring to those citizens who fear too powerful a government. Indeed, that would necessarily cause those worried about government tyranny to have greater fear. Again, I have to ask again can he not see this? Obviously he can as he lists next three valid arguments against arming the government alone. But then there's the big finish.
No one should assume that a shift in attitudes is easily achieved. This is a challenge as great as that the nation faced in Reconstruction after the Civil War and as far reaching as the transformations of Germany and Japan after World War II. But changing people's minds is essential if the nation is to find common ground on reducing gun violence and lifting the pall of fear that drives so many into an unholy alliance with guns.
OK, the three examples he chooses of changing the attitudes of gun owners are the aftermaths of the US government waging war against, and utterly defeating, the Confederate States, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Those are examples not likely to curb the fear of a tyrannical government coming after law abiding people. By choosing these bellicose examples does Mr. Dallek unconsciously advocate the federal government waging total war against the gun owners? It's difficult to come to a different conclusion. He certainly advocates getting gun owners' minds right about gun ownership, which he sees as a fear driven "unholy alliance." Certainly those who seek to live moral and ethical lives would not want to be driven by fear into an unholy alliance. That's bad.
I have to admit that I don't want to have Mr. Dallek and his ilk get my mind right about gun ownership. If he doesn't like gun ownership, he doesn't have to own one. I'm not in any way infringing on Mr. Dallek's freedoms and rights by having guns locked up in my safe. I'm not in any way infringing on Mr. Dallek's freedoms and rights when I am using my guns against paper targets or regular and giant deer. (That last sentence was added to answer a cheeky question by a rare reader). Why does he feel the need to infringe on what I like to do and own? Why does he seek to prevent me owning any gun I want and can afford? Uh ho, now I'm beginning to fear his anti-2nd Amendment, tyrannical infringement on my rights.
Good job allaying our fears, Mr. Dallek.