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Security vs. freedom, today and tomorrow

December 19, 2012 - Lee Smith
The deadly school shooting in Connecticut seems to have made an impact unlike previous similar events. Already, gun rights supporters acknowledge they are more inclined to limit access to certain weapons and large clips, which can hold dozens of rounds of ammo. Investors are more wary of “gun” stocks, seeing regulation coming, but perhaps also feeling as though they don’t want to deal with a “tainted” industry.

The president says he is going to act. He reflects a national attitude that citizens just can’t stomach these bloodbaths anymore. He hasn’t said what he will do, but members of Congress also say they want to change the status quo. This likely translates to some change in gun regulations.

What’s on the table? An “assault” weapons ban. (An “assault” weapon is simply a model of a semi-automatic rifle; semi-automatic rifles could still be sold.) A ban of large ammo clips. More regulation of private sales of guns. The clip ban probably would matter most. Then again, a mass murderer could just carry more clips.

Perhaps most important of all, who is going to follow the new rules? Yes, law-abiding citizens. Criminals won’t. Mass murderers won’t.

Amid the debate about guns, it is argued that bearing arms is a right, as determined by the Supreme Court. That is true. Self-defense is a fundamental right. On the other side of the debate, it is said that hunters don’t “need” powerful, semi-automatic weapons to take down their prey. Nor do they need large clips of ammo. I suppose that is true, if it’s anybody else’s business what a hunter prefers to utilize in the field.

In any case, what you never seem to hear about is perhaps the most important reason for citizens to be able to own firearms: Individual and collective freedom. An armed citizenry is the final check on government. People don’t think about this because they imagine the United States as a perpetually peaceful land where decisions are made democratically. Americans do not realize how rare this is historically. Tyranny is far more common. And much easier to establish when citizens are disarmed.

Those who advocate for more gun control are doing so to foster more security — at schools, in workplaces, at malls, etc. It makes perfect sense to them. It may even seem worth a try to people who support gun rights. What we shouldn’t forget is that we are taking a step toward a police state. It’s a tradeoff that may not matter tomorrow. It could matter very much down the road.


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