Freedom is a dangerous thing. Ask any fascistic despotic ruler. Free people tend to follow their own predilections; they tend to do what they want with their lives. Those who wish more control over the lives of others cannot tolerate this.
But as recent events in Tucson, Arizona have shown us, freedom has other consequences, as well. So it’s not just those who desire to impose their own will on others who are questioning freedom.
The thing about free people is, as I said, they do things they want. If they happen to want to say something, for example, critical of the government, and to encourage change, they will. If they happen to be people who want not to procreate, they will try to avoid that. If they happen to begin the process of procreation unwillingly, they will try to stop it prematurely. If they want to own guns, for whatever reason, they will. They might argue that the government should, for the most part, leave them alone. They may tend to believe that government, in fact, should only have so much power, and no more. They may recognize government as “a necessary evil.” Or they may not feel the government is evil, but that it could become evil if unchecked.
To the historian and people who know how to read, there is every bit of evidence that our Founders held beliefs like those outlined above, that free people might tend to hold.
But, as I said, freedom can be dangerous.
If you happen to think that people should not be able to control their own bodies — you might even say, “at least under certain conditions,” or “sometimes” — then you will not like people trying to exercise freedom over their own selves. If you happen to think that people should not criticize the government, at least in some of the time, you will be upset about those who do. If you are stupid enough, you might even believe that guns are capable of killing people all by themselves and therefore no one — not even intelligent, thinking, friendly people who would never shoot at anyone else — should own a gun. And, of course, you will think that government shouldn’t leave people alone. Particularly if they want to own guns.
Well, okay. In fairness, some of you will think that the last few sentences were a bit overblown, or at least biased, in the way they were worded. Perhaps you agree that guns don’t kill people, but you think the risk of someone with a gun killing people is so high that no one should have a gun.
So let’s outlaw cars, too.
The last year for which I could quickly find statistics, 2008, there were nearly 14,000 people killed by drunk drivers. According to that same page of statistics, that was the lowest number since 1982, when it was more than 26,000.
Wait! Wait! That’s because the drivers in those cases were drunk! That’s no reason to outlaw cars!
Stop shouting. It appears to be interfering with your ability to think.
So your mantra is, “Cars don’t kill people. People kill people.” Or, perhaps you prefer, “Cars don’t kill people. Drunk drivers kill people.” Because god forbid we should recognize that drunk people are still people, even if they drive cars.
But, hey, I’ll go along with that for now.
By the way, it’s worth noting that I didn’t even mention the statistics for people killed by cars generally; the above number, you’ll note, was for those caused by ersatz “criminals” (i.e., drunk drivers).
But if you think we should only make it illegal for drunk people to drive cars, then I already won this argument. If you want to say that it’s not the freedom to own or drive a car that is the problem, but the fact that some people do illegal things with cars, then that same thinking applies to guns.
If you don’t want to say “cars don’t kill people; people do” and you instead want to say “cars don’t kill people; drunk drivers do” — ignoring what I said above about drunk drivers still being people — then you can’t say “guns don’t kill people; people do.” You have to say “guns don’t kill people; criminals do.”
Thus, the analogous solution to the problem regarding guns is to only make it illegal for people who kill other people to own guns.
That would be the correct approach. Because if you just want to talk about the problems that could be avoided by outlawing something, there were nearly six-and-a-half million auto accidents in 2005. How many gun accidents were there?
But you don’t want to include accidents, or acts not deliberately criminal in some way.
So let’s get back to criminals and criminal acts. After all, as I said, “guns don’t kill people; criminals kill people.” Unless they’re police officers, of course, who kill a growing number of people across the United States each year. Especially if those people are black.
The trade-offs some nutcases might suggest in light of the recent shootings in Tucson, Arizona, don’t necessarily increase safety, even while they limit freedom for sane people. No matter what limitations you place on a free people, you will never achieve absolute safety.
When it comes to guns, myths abound suggesting they are dangerous and that limiting them might help. Limiting the availability of guns to free people might — and let’s stress that word might — stop criminals from getting guns. Just like limiting the availability of drugs in America has stopped people from obtaining drugs.
Let’s go back to cars again. In 2005, there were an estimated 250 million cars in the United States. Every day, people die in automobile accidents, sometimes violently. A large number of car accidents — and deaths — are the result of criminal activity which would not have occurred, if it were not for cars. And consider this: how many drive-by shootings would there be — a crime ostensibly facilitated by guns — if there were no cars?
But it is the gun that kills in a drive-by shooting, right? Of course. Every day, guns climb into cars all by themselves, drive somewhere, and shoot people dead.
Obviously, that’s not true. A human being climbs into a car with a gun, drives somewhere, and shoots people dead.
Even if every gun in the United States were somehow located and destroyed, this would not stop people from killing people. At best, it would just change the way in which they kill people. It might make it more difficult to kill people; it won’t stop it.
Because it isn’t guns who kill people. It isn’t even people, generally speaking, who kill others. The folks who want to argue against drunk driving, without arguing against car ownership have it right.
Freedom isn’t really such a dangerous thing after all.