The nexus of the argument against any form of gun control is that any such law or series of laws would interfere with our right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. And this would be a valid argument IF any of the proposals on the table wanted to ban guns, period. But if there is such a proposal in the legislative pipeline, I haven't heard or read of ANYONE proposing it.
Of course, when confronted with such demonstrably correct information, the entire gun lobby retreats back to the good old "slippery slope" argument. Yes, the gun lobby will concede that the only outright ban proposed on ANY weapon is a ban on the automatic rifles that have played such an integral role in the recent slaughter of so many innocent people. And, they will further concede that such weapons are not really useful for target shooting or hunting. But their fear is that such a ban on ONE kind of weapon will eventually lead to a ban on ALL weapons, which would clearly violate the spirit if not the letter of the Second Amendment. Ultimately, this argument results in an absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment which allows for NO limitations on gun ownership. This school of thought sees the right to keep and bear arms as unconditional. And the point is that NO right is absolute.
There are a great many people who view THEIR rights as inviolable. Now this is fine as long as their rights don't come into conflict with anyone else. The simple fact is that we all have rights, and when those rights come into conflict with each other we have to find a way to adjudicate those disputes. That's why we have laws, lawyers and courts.
I think it's pretty clear that we all cling to the notion that, as American citizens, we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson called these "certain inalienable rights". But neither Mr. Jefferson in his Declaration of Independence nor any of the framers of our Constitution intended that we live in a society of absolute individual freedom. That would be anarchy.
In order for anyone to live in a civilized society, you have to give up certain rights. I may hate the guy who cut me off on the Eisenhower this morning, but that doesn't give me the right to kill him. Living in a civilized society imposes certain restrictions on our individual freedoms. Otherwise we couldn't safely stick our heads out the door for fear of having someone shoot it off
Individual freedom is a wonderful thing. We all enjoy its benefits greatly. But total individual freedom is another name for anarchy. In order for us to live together in an atmosphere of peace and harmony, each of us has to make sacrifices of our individual freedoms. Perhaps owning a powerful weapon makes you feed good, secure and safe. And if everyone who owned powerful weapons of mass destruction utilized their individual right to own such a tool of destruction responsibly, we wouldn't have any problems. But we do!
We have to learn to balance our rights against the rights of another individual within the context of a much larger society. That's why Mr. Justice Holmes noted that your right to free speech doesn't allow you to shout fire in a crowded theater. Yes, that limits your freedom of speech, but in so doing it also preserves the rights of your fellow citizens to live in a safe and sane environment, free from the danger of being trampled to death by a panicked mob.
Ultimately, we'd ALL like to do whatever we liked, whenever we felt like it. But we can't construct a productive atmosphere in which to live under those circumstances. Where we have fallen short as a society has been in forgetting that in order to live in a congenial and productive atmosphere, you have to look out for the OTHER guy as well. Yes, we are endowed with certain inalienable rights, but none of those rights can be allowed to restrict the rights of others. It's like we learned when we were two and were introduced to our younger brother, you have to learn to share. Or suffer the consequences. What we have learned from Parkland, Florida is that all too often those consequences can be terrible indeed!
Filed under: Politics