To most people outside the U S, it sounds at best silly to say that the failure of the U S to make sane laws about guns is a necessary incident of freedom. . Thousands die each year in America, including thousands of veterans, because of this ideological glitch. It is fed by the corruption of the NRA, the gullibility of its supporters, a Hollywood view of America’s attachment to violence, and an American preference for self-help over sensible government intervention.
In the result, you get bullshit like this from the disgraced Bill O’Reilly, late of Fox News.
Once again, the big downside of American freedom is on gruesome display. A psychotic gunman in Las Vegas has committed the worst mass murder in US history. Public safety demands logical gun laws but the issue is so polarising and emotional that little will be accomplished as there is no common ground. The NRA and its supporters want easy access to weapons, while the left wants them banned. This is the price of freedom. Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are.
For us, that is odious rubbish. But the NRA parrots it. They said some of their members were shot and killed in Las Vegas.
Any law affects our freedom. To oppose a law on the ground that it limits our freedom is to miss the point. We have laws prohibiting your using a gun to hurt or threaten someone. We have laws prohibiting carrying guns in public. It would be absurd to oppose those laws on the ground that they limit our freedom. To repeat, all laws affect our freedom. The issue is whether that inevitable result is warranted in the public interest. Do the benefits of these laws warrant their restrictions on our freedom? Who wants to be free to walk up Collins Street with a rifle that can kill someone at the MCG? If there are some people who feel aggrieved at this loss of ‘freedom’, that’s their bad luck, because the numbers are squarely against them.
Clearly, then, we are not ‘free’ to aim bullets at people to hurt them. Should we be free to aim words at people to hurt them? Some people object to these laws on the ground that they limit our freedom. For the reasons given, that does not advance the discussion at all.
Take a law that prohibits one person from publicly insulting another person on the ground of their race. That law was made to stop people inflicting one form of harm on other people, and because the prohibited behaviour can lead to a breach of the peace – which the law is there to protect. Those are valid considerations in the public interest. What ‘freedom’ does this law limit? The freedom to publicly insult another person on the ground of their race.
Again, if there are some people who feel aggrieved at this loss of ‘freedom’, that’s their bad luck, because the numbers are squarely against them.
But in either case, it’s just bullshit to complain that the law affects our freedoms.
Poet of the month: Emily Dickinson
How fits his Umber Coat
The Tailor of the Nut?
Combined without a seam
Like Raiment of a Dream –
Who spun the Auburn Cloth?
Computed how the girth?
The Chestnut aged grows
In those primeval Clothes –
We know that we are wise –
Accomplished in Surprise –
Yet by this Countryman –
This nature – how undone!