By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
After the recent massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, there’s a new public clamor for gun control, especially for assault weapons like the AR-15. Once again the Second Amendment right to bear arms remains the biggest political obstacle to gun regulation, but the right to bear arms doesn’t prohibit regulating that right to provide for the common good.
No constitutional rights are absolute. There are legal limits on all fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights, such as the freedoms of religion and speech--all except the right to bear arms. In a libertarian democracy, all freedoms must have limits to protect the rights of others, and the right to bear lethal arms is the most dangerous of all the freedoms to our public safety.
The need to protect life and liberty requires the regulation of lethal weapons; but the gun lobby has stymied all regulations of firearms. Common sense requires reasonable regulations that respect the right to bear arms as well as the other freedoms in democracy. In fact, the freedom to bear arms cannot exist without reasonable restrictions.
The idea of absolute freedom in a libertarian democracy is license for anarchy. All rights in a democracy must be balanced with the responsibility to protect the rights of others, even those we don’t like. That’s a requirement of the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves; and in politics it requires providing for the common good.
American democracy is over 200 years old, and for libertarians like me, individual freedom is our most precious right. As a retired Army officer I learned long ago that for freedom to thrive in America it must be provided for all, not just a few; and our laws, beginning with the Constitution, provide a balance for our rights and responsibilities to others.
Many Americans seem to think that their freedoms take priority over the freedoms of others. They need to think again, and consider limiting the right to purchase guns to those over 21 who don’t have mental health issues, requiring background checks and red flag laws to ensure gun owners aren’t a danger to public safety, and banning the sale of assault weapons.
Those who continue to oppose all gun regulations are blind to the evil of increasing gun violence and the need for gun regulations to provide for public safety. If they continue to ignore the increasing number of casualties of gun violence and oppose all gun regulations, they need to realize that they are not protecting their freedom in democracy, but corrupting it.
Democracy makes us masters of our political destiny, but it also allows us to forfeit our freedoms. We live in a culture of gun violence, with our values learned in the home, church or gang. Laws aren’t a quick fix, but are a needed beginning point to discourage gun violence. It took years for gun violence to shape our culture, and it will take years before we can purge that evil from our culture. We need to start preserving our democracy from self destruction now.
“Actor Matthew McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Tex., urged lawmakers to act on gun control Tuesday in impassioned remarks delivered in a surprise appearance on the White House briefing room’s podium. ‘Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals,’ McConaughey said. ‘These regulations are not a step back, they’re a step forward for civil society and the Second Amendment.’ Lawmakers, he said, have a window of opportunity now to pass meaningful gun-control changes. The actor called for the creation of a waiting period for purchasing AR-15 rifles, as well as for raising the minimum age for purchasing that type of weapon to 21. He also called for universal background checks and red flag laws. Gun responsibility, he said, is something most Americans “agree on more than we don’t.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/07/matthew-mcconaughey-white-house-guns/?utm.
Kathleen Parker has acknowledged that gun violence is a cultural evil in America. “Our epidemic of violence is nothing short of an urgent public health issue and should be approached as such. Finding the cure, like that for long covid, will take time. Maybe decades. But recognizing and correctly naming a problem is always the first step. It’s the culture. And the culture is dripping with blood. We need to understand that we are at war with the culture of violence. And to paraphrase cartoonist Walt Kelly: The enemy is us.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/08/americas-violent-culture-means-more-gun-deaths/?utm.
“The House passed the Protecting Our Kids Act on a 223-204 vote Wednesday that fell mostly on party lines. Congressional Democrats who swiftly assembled the package earlier this month say it will reduce gun violence. Five Republicans crossed over to support the legislation, which would be the most significant gun control measure passed by Congress in nearly two decades. However, it faces uncertainty in the Senate. The legislation faces difficulty in the evenly split Senate, where Republicans have signaled some willingness to consider the issue. Texas Senator John Cornyn, a Republican negotiator on gun control in the Senate, on Wednesday posted a video of a speech on the status of the talks that included few specifics. He identified mental health as a major factor behind mass shootings and evaluating security at schools. While he expressed optimism the talks would produce a bill, he pushed back against "artificial deadlines" for votes on any legislation.” See https://www.newsweek.com/gun-restriction-bill-passes-house-help-republicans-1714107. See also, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/08/house-gun-legislation/?utm.