The Libertarians are all about freedom, no matter what their freedom does to others. The currently-elected Republicans, for the most part, only want it for the privileged, or anyone who wants to carry as many firearms as they want, no matter what they claim in their rhetoric and campaign pitches. Too many of the currently-elected Democrats praise freedom, but tend to fight the facts that some level of arms-bearing is enshrined in the Constitution and that freedom always has downsides, including the fact that such freedom can allow killings that can’t always be prevented.

And all of them are ignoring a basic requirement of a civilized society. The greater the population density and the higher the technology the more freedoms must be restricted – in some fashion – if you don’t want an extremely high body count, and I’m not just talking about weapons.

A few families in the middle of a few thousand acres at a medieval level of technology can do mostly what they want on their land and to that land without too much adverse impact on other individuals. Even terrible land management and violence to the immediate others around them will redound to their own detriment more than to others. This doesn’t hold true with families on suburban half-acre plots, or urban apartment dwellers. There have to be restrictions on water use, sanitation, traffic and transportation, and that’s just the beginning. Without regulations on food safety, tens of thousands died or were poisoned. Without worker safety regulations, even more died.

Now… most sane individuals will agree that there has be rhyme and reason to such restrictions, a compelling reason for imposing them and a prioritization that establishes which are more important and an agreement on what should not be regulated. We may disagree, often violently, on what should be regulated and how, and what those priorities are, and how they impact our freedoms, but sane individuals do not dispute the idea that some level of societal regulation is necessary. They do dispute what that level should be.

The Founding Fathers also considered the matter, and they had more than a few thoughts about freedom, or liberty, but the first time such thoughts were laid out in a general consensus form was in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, which states that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”

A good percentage of Americans can cite those words, but not that many note the priority of those “Rights.” First comes the right to life, because without life, there’s no possibility of the other rights. Second comes liberty, because without it, people don’t have the ability to pursue happiness.

That states, pretty directly, that the right to life trumps absolute liberty, or freedom, if you will. Or put more bluntly, some restrictions on your right to “bear arms” are allowable to preserve my right to life. This is also a point supported by a number of Supreme Court rulings. And, yes, the second amendment also establishes the point that, without a Constitutional amendment, some level of “bearing arms” must be retained. All of that means that the NRA’s insistence that the “liberals” can take all their guns is unmitigated bullshit, and that there is a precedent and Constitutional basis for restricting who can carry what arms where, and that the Founding Fathers valued the right to life over totally unrestricted “liberties.”

Unfortunately, the only group that seems to understand that point at the moment are high school students, and that’s a sad commentary on the political structure… and the voters who elected those politicians.

15 thoughts on “Freedom?”

  1. Alan says:

    I feel that many people understand these points, the problem is that they are overruled by the shouting of either the left or the right. (Whomever is being louder at the moment.) The moderate faction simply does not have a loud enough voice to make any traction against the other two major groups.

    I, for instance, am pro-gun but I still support restrictions on guns. The restrictions I would support are ones which are thought out with an eye toward effectiveness and a clear logic to support them. Not knee jerk reactions to ban all guns, or all semi-automatic guns as some politicians have suggested.

    I also must observe that any increase in school security, be it from armed and trained teachers (A Bad Idea), more security personnel or simply physically re-enforcing the structures requires money. At a time when no one wants to increase taxes and Trump is busy cutting school funding where is the money to pay for the increased school security going to come from? We already don’t pay teachers enough, we don’t provide funding for school supplies or materials.

    More than a few of my fellow gun-totting friends fall into this same category. Most of them, in fact, feel the same way as I do. We are not the portion of pro-gun individuals who feel everyone should have a howitzer, nor do we believe the government will come take our guns. We are concerned that our right to bear arms will slowly be frittered away by one regulation after another in the name of safety and security until only those who hold weapons illegally have them. We are concerned that the restrictions posed by the anti-gun faction are written without the anti-gun establishment understanding the difference between semi-automatic and automatic following numerous public statements by politicians which clearly demonstrates their ignorance on the subject.

    As you point out at the beginning of your post, ‘sane individuals’ can agree on a great deal. Too many people are not acting in a sane fashion on both sides of the problem which leaves the moderates adrift without enough of a voice to accomplish anything.

  2. M. Kilian says:

    It is strange to hear this sort of opinion out of you, considering how you presented the conflict that arose over ideology in the Ecolitan Matter series. The protagonist thought little of the NAP which libertarians hold to, yet his disagreement was not on the use of force but when.

    But why are you pursuant to the idea that gun bans will in address the problem? Or seemingly think that the students are the only ones with valuable input on the subject, when only last month the media was pushing the idea that tide pods need to be changed so that teenagers would be less likely to consume them? Should we next ban any sharp edged metal because depressed teenagers may cut themselves? Regulate pain medication even further to make it harder for people to acquire to reduce the amount of overdoses?

    And the fear of gun prohibition being a slippery slope is real, if only from the point of view of precedent. The second amendment was not to protect hunting, it was as a means against tyranny by right to bear arms. Protection of liberty by opposition to tyranny by force if necessary. The constitution isn’t Asimov’s three robotic laws and conflicts do happen as with in the case of “pro-life” vs “liberty of abortion”.

    It is the principle at stake here. It doesn’t mean that arming teachers is the correct response either, but neither is banning the tools. Both “sides” are failing to address the problem’s root cause, is it not better to consider the opinion of people who are trying to raise awareness for depression and for the proper enforcement of prevention that already exists?

    1. You seem to think that I’m for a total gun ban. I’m not. We’re too far along, with some 300 million firearms in private hands, for that ever to work. Plus, as I pointed out, it’s also unconstitutional. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t restrict certain types of guns or auxiliary equipment and/or impose heavy penalties for their use and sale… or require universal background checks for purchasers.

      Also…just for the record, what I write in a book isn’t always the sum total of what I personally believe, and, even if that were so, what I believed thirty years ago just might have changed as I’ve matured.

      1. M. Kilian says:

        I apologise if it it seems like I believe that you personally are for a total gun ban- it is more that I believe even one concession to a gun ban at present will never be enough for the parties pushing against gun ownership.

        I basically agree on some level of regulation required as well, but at the same time don’t think that civilians should be barred from armaments simply because they have military capabilities.

        It was also unfair to put the words of a character in your books into your own mouth. You cannot have a story without conflict, and stories would indeed be boring if the characters were just an insert of the author. My original intent behind using a quote was to point out that not all death and violence is avoidable in human society and nor should we seek to avoid it completely.

        1. I appreciate the clarification. I also believe you’re correct in your assessment that the parties pushing against private gun ownership won’t be satisfied with less than a total ban on firearms, but it also seems that the parties who feel that all manner of hand-held firearms should be permitted are opposed to any concessions. My position is that both sides should make concessions. Extremism in gun regulations isn’t working any more than it is with political ideologies, and that suggests that matters can only get more polarized, and that’s going to result in far more violence in the long run.

  3. John Prigent says:

    We in England used to have the right to carry farms. In fact it was a legal duty for free men to posses them Just as an example, look at the way Sherlock Holmes was able to carry a pistol whenever he felt endangered. But we lost it to the panicky people. Now we have the idiotic situation where our National Olympic Shooting Team has to go to France to practice. I don’t particularly want to buy a pistol of any kind, or a sword-stick, but I dearly wish I still had the Common Law right to own one if I want to. I’m not even certain that my grandfather’s old sword, that he carried as an infantry officer in WW1 and again in WW2, wouldn’t get me arrested and jailed if the police had any reason to search my home. So be very, very careful about restricting your rights as Americans – the camel’s nose may only be in a small bit of the tent at first, but when will it push in further?

    1. Tim says:

      UK law has a zero tolerance to possessing handguns but not swords unless you carry them in public.

      A chap I know in the village bought a house and found some unlicensed rifles in it which he did not declare. Later during a marital issue the police were told about them. He went to jail for 2 years.

      Shotguns however abound where I live and several neighbours have rifles as they are members of a rifle club. Just no handguns which were all bought back after Dunblane.

  4. John Prigent says:

    Oh, wretched fumble-fingers! That was supposed to be ‘arms, not ‘farms’.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      Yes, you’d have to be Greek (Atlas) to bear farms. 🙂

  5. Peter Swartz says:

    Responsibility must come before rights for them to function . It wold be nice if we all agreed on what those words mean, and they are human words not “god” given. Prior to any amendments the concept of a well organized militia was included.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      An earlier draft of the 2nd Amendment read as follows:

      A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the People, being the best security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.

      In other words, the militia consisted of _everyone_ willing (or conventionally, aside from certain disqualifications, all able-bodied males between 17 and 45). Some memory of that still exists in current law:

  6. Wayne Kernochan says:

    Sigh. I suppose I have something to contribute here, having a law professor father and having read some history recently on the subject. The Second Amendment appears to have been driven primarily by two things: James II’s attempted coup d’état just before the Glorious Revolution and Shay’s Rebellion. James as part of his efforts confiscated the firearms of shire “militias” so they couldn’t oppose him. Shay’s Rebellion was an armed rebellion by farmers in Western Mass. oppressed by whisky taxes. The “federalists” who wanted more protection for the States in the Constitution wanted to avoid another James, but also another Shay.

    Thus you have to read the Second Amendment as saying “we the white male property-holders in each State want to let ourselves bear arms so we can have militias to protect us against any tyrannical outside government, but only if those militias are well-regulated by our State and local governments, and thus not resulting in more Shay’s Rebellions.” The “people” in this Amendment are, as in the Constitution’s preface, the voting property-holders of each state (in the “people of the United States”, the emphasis is on “States”).

    The Civil War created two problems: first, the emphasis on protection of States was replaced by protection of individuals, and second, in practical terms, militias were shown to be utterly insufficient to resist a central government (in fact, the Mexican War also demonstrated this, as state militias were almost counterproductive in battle as well as afterwards). As a result, state and local “well-regulated” militias are practically non-existent.

    Because of Shay’s Rebellion, any decent reading of the Second Amendment should say that no interpretation should open the door to prevalent extra-legal violence, whether by mass movements internal to a State or (after the Civil War) by individuals. Personally, I think one answer is to be literalistic: once you get a gun, you automatically be part of a well-regulated State militia, which gets to make sure that you only have arms useful for militia purposes and that you use them correctly, else you get imprisoned. If you want the Second Amendment to protect your right to bear arms, surely you should want this, he said sarcastically.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      “no interpretation should open the door to prevalent extra-legal violence” – save for clear tyranny (“prevalent extra-legal violence” by government itself), I don’t think reasonable people would dispute that. Whether or not such resistance could succeed is really beside the point, although history suggests that even heavy weapons can sometimes be resisted by those willing to take extreme risks and use improvised weapons.

      “only have arms useful for militia purposes” – that doesn’t follow. The militia is an essential example of the purpose of the Second Amendment, but the mention of it does not preclude other purposes; the Ninth and Tenth Amendments could reasonably be construed that way, esp. the Ninth:

      The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

      Even handguns of a sort (flintlock pistols) existed in the 18th century, and had legitimate uses including self-defense and some limited military application. Some were used e.g. by hunters to finish off a wounded boar (perhaps no longer mobile, but still dangerous). We still have feral pigs that are a serious problem in a number of states (to the point in some cases of having no season or number limits when hunting them), so that scenario still exists.

      As for complexity and population density, yes, clearly one would have regulations forbidding non-emergency weapons discharge in a populous area, save at properly constructed target ranges (backstop, or for handguns e.g. .45 and smaller, an indoor range). But in the middle of nowhere, a clear line of sight for the path the bullet might follow should be sufficient. And in particular, an apartment dweller would do well to consider a shotgun with bird shot for self-defense rather than buckshot or a rifle or pistol, given the proximity of adjoining apartments and thin walls between them. (although fragmenting handgun ammo exists, that is supposed to reduce or eliminate over-penetration). Yet given the incredible ignorance demonstrated in many state and local firearms laws (and indeed in the lapsed national “assault weapons” ban, where almost all the features that in combination defined an “assault weapon” were of no practical advantage to criminal use), were there any attempt to regulate to ensure sensible choices, I’d certainly want to see a higher standard of competence in the regulation.

  7. Wayne Kernochan says:

    According to my sources, flat-out legally wrong. The wording of the 2nd Amendment plus my discussion above makes it clear that a well-regulated militia is the entire rationale of the 2nd Amendment, not an “example”. The Ninth and Tenth have never been held to add other “pre-existing” rights to the first eight, with the possible exception of a right to privacy (and the primary rationale for that was the Fourteenth Amendment).

  8. Wine Guy says:

    The vast majority of firearm deaths are suicides.

    The vast majority of non-medical related death in the USA are related to vehicular accidents. They outnumber firearm deaths by a factor of 100.

    No form of death is entirely preventable. Humans are quite ingenious when it comes to circumventing rules, laws, and guidelines meant for their own protection.

    The arguments for / against permissive gun ownership laws are similar to those for other hot button topics (a la abortion and immigration). No one really wants to have the issue settled if it isn’t going to be to the side they favor.

    My personal hope is that the youngsters of the Florida high school force substantial changes at the state level without trying to create a situation that would be clearly unconstitutional (ie. complete ban).

    But I’m not holding my breath…. the discussion following LEM’s blog post demonstrates why such breath holding would be less than wise.

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