This next letter comes from The Westfield News, via MassLive.
I must wonder what people think a ‘freedom’ is, because evidence suggests that people want their freedoms to be any ‘thing or concept they like’ and put little further thought into the requirements of a true freedom. This ‘liked thing’ is a far cry from the conceptual and physical freedoms they have as natural creatures, persons of reason, or freedoms that can be backed, and violations of them redressed, by the force of law. This mental disconnect between what is and what people want because they think it should be, usually without due regard to differing opinions or reality, is a serious problem of modern debate.
A recent opinion piece (“America’s Rifle Fetish Is Destroying its Freedom,” The Republican, Nov. 2) by Jamelle Bouie describes a dystopian American society in which the possession of guns has become a fetish and one gun in particular, the AR-15 assault rifle, has become iconic.
Mr. Bouie poses this question: “How free are you really when you know a trip to the grocery store or a morning in prayer or a day at school or a night at the movies can end in your death at the hands of a gun?”
Was life better in the past when it was at the tip of a sword? Are we disregarding that you are far more likely to be killed by a vehicle on any of those aforementioned trips than by a gunman? What should you fear?
Serious question, is the threat of death to any of us for who, or what, or where we happen to be greater now than before the advent of the assault rifle? I’ll answer that, life is objectively better and safer today. Life has become safer since the rise of modern firearms, but the state of absolute or near absolute safety doesn’t exist. It didn’t then and it does not now.
Absolute safety is impossible. Near absolute safety looks nothing like absolute safety, and reasonable safety looks even less like the utopian dream of absolute safety. Absolute safety from something like ‘gun violence’ is an unachievable delusion of the modern pseudo-progressives, people that like to declare preferred states of existence to be human rights.
This question is particularly relevant, considering the 597 mass shootings this year. (at the time of the letter)
It isn’t though. It isn’t ‘particularly relevant’ considering we like to declare mass shootings to be any multi-victim event, regardless of causative information.
Follow up question for that ‘particularly relevant’ statement, how many of those ‘mass shootings’ resulted in 4 deaths or more? Answer, 38 out 630 (as of 12/4/23 GVA), and this has sadly been a record year in that particular metric.
But that isn’t the point. My point is that mass shootings are not mass killings and mass shootings are down as mass killings are up. So which is the metric?
Media constantly and purposely blur the line between those two terms because 630 events is far more compelling than 38, even as that is a record number. The events themselves are wildly different in causation. We are talking about such a broad set of motivations for violent events as to be nearly meaningless when trying to track causation.
Now, do we want to compare that 630 to the GVA’s undercounted defensive gun uses, at only 1,102? Or do we use the more likely CDC posted minimum of 60,000 incidents (to a max 1.5 Million defensive uses annually)? Do those 60,000 defensive uses annually weigh against the 38 significant negative outcomes? Or is that any negative outcome you dislike enough or is scary enough should be outweigh any positive outcomes?
Let’s play that game. Let’s say only half of the 60,000 DGU’s would have resulted in death or serious injury. Are an additional 30,000 people dead or maimed worth the laws and their dubious efficacy? Let’s go further down the absurdity line, the only 1,102 DGU’s confirmed by GVA. We’ll say these were all lethal preventions of at least one person, so one life saved. Is whatever gun control magic pill you’re thinking of worth killing those 1,102 people?
“But, Keith, he’s talking about assault rifles. It isn’t the same…”
I am aware it ‘isn’t the same’, but if we’re going to jump down the straw man hyperbolic hole then let’s do it. Most mass shootings happen with handguns, most crimes happen with handguns, most of the mass murders on GVA’s list occurred with handguns, not ‘assault rifles’. So if your gun violence prevention magic bullshit law works to absolute perfection, so AR’s and their ilk are gone totally, and the future killers mysteriously do not choose to use the most common weapon for mass shootings, we save how many people?
Now let’s put some reality on this nonsense, how many do we condemn to die because they didn’t have their rifle, or their magazine is permanently stuck in their gun, or the background check wasn’t universal enough and it denied them but the murderer didn’t get the memo? How many is an acceptable amount to legislate away? How many weapons can we expect to ‘get off the streets’ when, even in the states where gun control is most popular, compliance with bans is so abysmal it is a joke? Illinois is currently sitting at a less than 1% registration rate for their assault weapons.
According to ISP, as of Wednesday, 4,089 individuals have registered their assault weapons out of 2,415,481 state residents who possess Firearms Owners Identification cards. Gun owners have until January 1, 2024 to be in compliance.
Now, I’m not saying every one of the FOID card holders in Illinois also owns an AR-15, but it is the most popular rifle in the United States so I bet it is greater than 1%.
How do you make your magic bullshit work? Genuinely curious.
Second Amendment devotees lecture us about the freedom to own a gun. However, one freedom they do not speak about is freedom from fear that you might be shot to death with neither rhyme nor reason.
We have no human right to be free from ‘fear‘.
Fear is the word we use to describe the collection of survival emotions and instincts that help us process risk, you can’t legislate those. If we could, we’d make anxiety illegal tomorrow as a constitutional amendment and the country would be oh so much healthier. No such human right exists. It cannot exist. What you choose to assign or not assign risk to is up to you to manage. If that assigned risk and the actual risk happen to be drastically different, that is entirely a you problem.
Should people who use firearms for defense have to trade their real safety because of a firearm (60,000 incidents a year, minimum, according to CDC) into victimization so that you can feel safe from as mass shooting?
Not be safe, feel safe.
In 1941, with the United States and the world at war, President Franklin Roosevelt identified freedom from fear as one of the “four freedoms” that people throughout the world should be able to enjoy. In 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt warned Americans, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” A victim of polio, Roosevelt knew something about fear. He went on to speak of how fear “paralyzes.” He understood that fear can incapacitate us and render us powerless. He understood that the main purpose of government was to provide safety and security for its citizens. In other words, to free us from fear.
Under those auspices Roosevelt imprisoned 112,000 people, many of whom lost everything they had owned. 70,000 of them were US citizens, all of whom were never charged with disloyalty, and there was no appeal process to recover anything that the government caused them to lose by relocating them on the off chance they might be a spy for the Imperial Japanese. This is by the US Government’s own admission, so how much worse is the reality?
In 1988, 47 years later, the US government finally apologized and provided $20,000 cash payments to each incarcerated person. That is the equivalent of about 16 months average salary in the US at the time, for the total loss of all their property, 47 years later. Freedom from fear, indeed.
So no, not ‘in other words’. The four ‘freedoms’ are really only two, the other two are progressive talking points that garner votes. The freedom from ‘want’? What a utopian pipe dream that is, to not need to produce to survive. I would bet 70,000 Americans of a certain heritage ‘wanted’ quite a bit around 1945 when they were let out of their “relocation”, and what they got was $425.43 per year they had to wait after 47 years of waiting.
In all of human and natural history animals and people alike have had to produce to survive. We cannot simply exist and be sustained. We live in the best of times thus far when it comes to producing efficiently, and thriving thusly, but we cannot do that without wanting to and working to fulfill those wants and needs. That want always carries a risk of failure, we might fail to produce, we might make a mistake, that mistake might be fatal. We have no freedom to be free of ‘want’.
Likewise the government does not exist to ‘free us from fear’, what an absurd notion.
The government exists as an organized generalized force of the people. It will not, cannot, and should not perfectly execute the individual wills of all people. Not all those wills are created equal in value for the rest of the people. But all those people have certain rights, inalienable by government or other people, that the government can ensure a response to if they are violated by one person or another. Also, hopefully, if the government does it. But that outcome may be a far cry from satisfactory, see above.
This is not a freedom from fear, it is a promise of force on your behalf under certain conditions. It is also a promise that the government cannot use certain force against you, at least without you being able to take it to court afterwards and hold them accountable to their ruleset. You should fear your government in a healthy manner, and it should fear you. That is the respect of two bodies with the ability to truly influence each other.
In 1651, political philosopher Thomas Hobbes described a state of perpetual fear. He called it the “state of nature.” In this state, men enjoyed absolute freedom. However, freedom came at a price. There were no governments or laws to constrain men from freely exercising their passions and appetites (anger, aggression, envy, greed, ambition, lust). Without restraints, the state of nature was a state of war between man and his fellow man. Consequently, men lived in continual fear that someone would take away their lives, their liberty, and their property.
How is that different under today’s societal structures? A man can still take my life, my liberty, my property, and so can (and have) the governments we’ve instituted for that matter, and the only recourse I have against that with any assurance under my control is force. Force, in other words, meaning the ability to bring violence to bare on my own behalf. I may lose, but it is one of the only true freedoms I possess.
Hobbes famously described this state in which there was “no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
For that reason, men joined together to form a government for the common good (commonwealth) and the mutual protection of life, liberty, and property. Men relinquished their absolute freedom and submitted to laws that provided security and freedom from fear.
No they didn’t. Men did not relinquish it. We just, as a majority, agreed to a consequence.
We are reminded, daily in many cases, that man is still free to act as they choose. What they are not free from is consequence. They weren’t free from consequence in the so titled “state of nature” either, but it was not a consequence organized by the majority. It was instead just a risk of violence from whomever they were offending against directly.
That seems to be the great lie, the constant sticking point that nobody with this sort of worldview seems to grasp, is that making something illegal deprives man of nothing, it does not deprive them of the ability to do a thing. To take from someone, to do violence to someone, to kill someone, a law does not deprive someone of the ability to do any of those things. What a law organizes is a consequence to being caught doing them.
That is it. Government is organized force, ordered on behalf and by the majority to be projected under certain circumstances. The better ones are enjoined with more things they cannot do than things that they can. The government exists to project force en masse on behalf of the individuals it represents. Thus its primary functions are defense from foreign threat and enforcement of contracts.
Government does not free you from fear, it is a form of projecting fear. The fear of consequence.
Our government has failed to act against gun violence and has failed to free us from fear. According to several polls, Americans want a ban on assault rifles: 66% (Pew); 58% (Gallup); 67% (Statista). However, far-right Republicans in both the House and the Senate, in the name of Second Amendment freedom, block any meaningful legislation to curb gun violence.
Maybe because mob democratic rule does not make for good policy? It doesn’t matter that a ‘majority’ of Americans want to ban assault rifles in poorly worded, ill-informed, binary choice polls. This is a subject matter the vast majority of them do not understand to a level worth rendering an opinion on, you value the opinion only because it aligns with yours.
My opinion on a nuclear reaction should not be weighed with equal measure to that of a leading nuclear physicist. My thoughts, and feelings, and fears of nuclear reactions or nuclear reactors should not be weighed the same as an expert. Therefore my ‘vote’ on whether to ban nuclear energy should only be weighed as much as I understand nuclear energy. We can take as many polls about how scared people are of nuclear energy, if that fear is objectively misplaced and erroneous then it should be disregarded and the public educated. It should not be implemented blindly as a policy of the mob.
This is something that government is terrible at by the way, educating, look at the information flow surrounding COVID-19.
Certain things should be public votes, of course. These are things that effect all and can be voted on in an informed manner. But just as government’s role has limits, so do public opinions rendered on a binary vote sheet.
What we have is not freedom. What we have is a betrayal of civic responsibility. What we have is irresponsible behavior. What we have is fear of senseless, violent death.
No Michael, what we have is an illustration that promised delusions, like that we can make natural laws bend to our will and work differently through words on a sheet of paper, sell gangbusters. We see that people would rather continue being told that X, Y, or Z politician or policy will finally fix ‘violence’ and ‘bad thing’ for good and all, even with the repeated illustrations of failure time and time again. That it is more comforting to live in the lie that if we just keep ‘working to end’ a manifestation of natural law, the ability to project force, that is better than acknowledging the limits of written law.
Written law requires consent, your consent, to be governed by it. You probably withdraw that consent multiple times, and in multiple ways, every single day. Do you speed? You have decided to withdraw your consent to be governed by a traffic law and risk the consequence. Drink and drive? Even just once, a short distance home around the corner, and you were really only buzzed not drunk so it was fine? Again, you withdrew consent and chose not to be governed by the law at that time.
Why is it so surprising that there are extreme cases of this departure from the governance of law? Why is it so surprising that because you can divest yourself from the governance of law, without immediate ill effect, that it can manifest in an extreme way like a multiple homicide too, and that divestment is only reigned in when the government or a private individual projects enough violence to counter it or the divested individual stops on their own? And why do you expect the government to solve your fear of those extremes when they cannot stop you from speeding?