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When it comes to debate and discussion around what should or shouldn’t be done with regard to gun control, the matter of whether restrictions reduce our freedoms as US citizens is frequently brought up, typically by the pro-gun faction. Through extremely reductionist thinking many of this group have come to believe that more restrictions imposed by the government, especially on their ability to own firearms (to protect us from a tyrannical government that can apparently only affect our lives negatively at gun point) is a dangerous concession of freedoms. It is understandable why, given the many unnecessarily ambiguous interpretations of the all mighty Second Amendment, many citizens come quickly to such conclusions. But I’m going to tell you today that, in fact, sensible gun restrictions can actually be freedom expanding.
Last month a man walked into a Charlottesville, Virginia grocery store with loaded semi-automatic AR-15 (the same controversial weapon used in the Aurora shootings). He was not charged by police because he owned the weapon legally and was not concealing it – the man broke no laws. While it’s clear the man was trying to make some point about his Second Amendment rights, it’s also a reminder that his “right” to carry his weapon around impedes on everyone else’s right to do go out into the public for simple things – like going to the grocery store – without fearing hot lead death from a stranger. How are we to differentiate a grumpy man bearing an assault weapon from a psycho bearing an assault weapon? I know that if I were to find myself in a situation like that in Charlottesville, I would be immediately assuming the worst, fearing for my and others’ lives.
Even before this incident, gun “rights” have been curbing Americans’ behavior out of fear. In the wake of last year’s horrific theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado during the midnight opening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” ticket sales were notably impacted. I personally knew several people who, had the event not occurred, would have gone to the theaters opening night but feared for their lives. Though, rationally speaking, very few shootings actually occur in theaters and if anything, theaters would be safer than they’d ever been on the following night as a result of police presence, this was a common reaction and who’s to say that isn’t valid?
Without going into the many other aspects of the gun control debate, I believe it’s reasonable to say that gun “freedoms” are getting to the point where they are treading on much more important freedoms: my right to live and at the least, assemble publicly without fear. It’s coming to the point that poor GPS directions can even get you killed by a legal gun owner. And now in Arizona public school children are being put under the watchful eye of Steven Segal and armed convicted sex offenders.
When asked what the solution to gun violence and mass shootings are, LaPierre and his NRA supporters respond with a lackluster shrug and the highly illogical suggestion that the only way to be safe is to be packing heat at all times. Well, some Americans, including myself, either don’t want to own a tool of death or at the least do not want to carry one with them at all times. How is this suggestion freedom expanding? Ironically that’s how such notions are presented – as a way of maintaining our “freedom,” as manifested in firearms.
But let’s just stop for a moment and think about whether or not we want to live in a society where we have to fear every stranger we see, constantly feeling a need to maintain vigilance as an exercise in life-or-death, or worse yet, cowering in the home, to hide from others?
That is not a free society.