The attack on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkville, Florida, by former student, Nikolas Cruz, has generated much anger, bitterness and arguing. In the nineteen days since the shooting, Florida has banned AR-15 rifles, only to rescind that legislation fifteen minutes later; survivor David Hogg has become a media star and the new face for gun control; and, according to a new survey, the solid majority of people who make up the Left in America, want to ban guns—not just AR-15s but other rifles and handguns as well.
I wrote last time that tragedies like Parkland become the nuclei of what has become the cyclical gun debate between the political divide when other questions, such as fatherlessness, would be more important debates to have. But, as I also admitted, (paraphrasing Samuel Johnson) people do not so much need to be taught new things as reminded of things and the re-emerging calls for gun control—for different reasons—made me decide to throw my own two cents in.
To be honest, I really decided on this course after reading another blog, “The Second Amendment and the ‘Snowflake Syndrome'” in which the author made two points concerning Parkland: gun ownership and what the “snowflake syndrome” which the author defines as the idea prevalent among so many people in modern, Western society that they are so special that they are owed a crown upon their birth. The heart of the syndrome, to quote the author, is “Instead of ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’, it’s ‘ask what my country can do for me, then sue for more?’”
I agree in large part with his idea of the “snowflake syndrome”; to put it in a slightly different way, rights have been perverted to mean “whatever I want now” and these new “rights” have completely eclipsed duties and responsibilities, the flip side of rights. But the author’s other point about the Second Amendment has holes that leaves some to be desired.
The crux of his argument states:
Does your right to keep and bear arms supersede my right to peace of mind from knowing that my daughter, her friends, student I’ve come to love in my own way, and my own person are safe as we go about our daily lives? Another way to say this might be my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I fully acknowledge, here and now, that the author’s fear for his daughter’s safety and the safety of her friends is laudable. If he was not concerned for their safety, it would reflect poorly on his fatherhood. I also fully admit that, not being a father myself at this time, I can have no idea what this concern and fear is like. I cannot understand it and so I will not even try. Simply based on my own parents lives and my life with them, I can only say that such fear is real and terrible. The question though is not if this man and father is concerned and fearful for his daughter’s safety as she goes to school. The question is: Is this fear a right?
In his State of the Union Address of 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt listed the freedom from fear as one of the four freedoms. Roosevelt defined the freedom from fear as the world-wide reduction of arms to the point that one country would not be able to act aggressively towards another country, making war, in short, a relic of the past. The problem with Roosevelt’s initial proposal is that such a dream will never come into existence. Human beings are fallen creatures; the Parkland shooting, and its cousins are proof of that, in and of themselves. There will always be evil in the world. The question then becomes: How do we deal with this evil that will always be with us? One answer, and the one that is implicitly given by gun-control advocates, is that legislation will control and eradicate the evil. In theory, this might seem plausible but practically, it leads to a society without any sort of freedom whatsoever. Thomas Aquinas, in his works on government, said that only the most serious vices should be prohibited by law since, otherwise, people would live not under a good government but under a tyranny.
It may be said that mass shootings are a serious vice that needs to be curtailed by the government and since it makes no sense to ban mass shootings while still allowing people access to the tools with which they perpetrate the shootings, gun bans are still the answer. But this leads to trail of other questions. For example, the author said that he is acting out of fear for his daughter’s safety. But fatherhood and motherhood, by definition, might be said to involve fear and worry about one’s children. There is the fear of sickness at any age but particularly when they are young; there is the fear that they will adjust well and make friends when they start school; there is the fear that comes when they start driving; there is the fear when they leave home to start college; there is the fear that comes after graduation when they start a career and move to another town, state or even country. When a man becomes a father—or a woman a mother—fear, in a real sense, comes to stay and there is no way of avoiding it. The question then becomes twofold: Will other laws be needed to alleviate fears in other areas of life, especially when they involve one’s children? Perhaps an even greater question is: Should laws be crafted to alleviate everyone’s fears? I understand that the author made his first point in the narrow confines of mass shootings at school and concern for his daughter’s safety. But fear is very subjective. One parent may lay awake at nights thinking about his seventeen-year-old daughter in her first car; another may turn the phantom of alcohol over and over in his head; another may worry when a child moves and what friends he will make. Since the author implies that fear for his daughter interferes with his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the other fears of other parents are equally legitimate and equally deprive or hinder them in their rights. What legislation should be done to alleviate these fears?
The subjectivity of fear is why the freedom from fear is not a natural right, like the right to self-defense. Natural rights are those which flow from our human nature; as such, they are objective (they are real and defined because our human nature is real and definable) and they are universal (they apply to everyone). But, since fear is such a subjective emotion, being free from fear is not a natural right. It is a very powerful and natural desire but it is not a right and, as such, it cannot trump an actual right, such as the right to self-defense or the tools required for self-defense which, today, includes firearms.
The author of “The Second Amendment and the ‘Snowflake Syndrome’” linked to another piece, this one titled, ““F*** You, I Like My Guns.” The author of this piece attempted to make the case why the AR-15 rifle should be banned from civilians but, once again, the result was not convincing. The author, a former member of the US Army, stated that:
Every weapon that a US Army soldier uses has the express purpose of killing human beings. That is what they are made for. The choice rifle for years has been some variant of what civilians are sold as an AR-15. Whether it was an M-4 or an M-16 matters little. The function is the same, and so is the purpose. These are not deer rifles. They are not target rifles. They are people killing rifles.
The author continued by asking if it was surprising that nearly every mass shooter in recent US history has used an AR-15 rifle.
In the first place, every rifle is made for the express purpose to kill; every rifle, every gun is a “people killing rifle/gun.” While some rifles/guns may be more proficient in this area than others—an AR-15 is more adept at killing than a .22—the .22 rifle is still more than capable of killing another human being. As for the AR-15 being the weapon of choice for mass shooters: in the 49 mass shootings that took place between 1999 and 2013, AR-15s were used in only two cases. The Washington Post, in 2014, reported that while 77 semiautomatic handguns were used in mass shootings between 1984 and 2014, only 29 rifles were used; from 1984 to 2017, the same pattern held with 99 semiautomatic guns used compared to only 43 rifles.
The author went on to say that, “This rifle [AR-15] is so deadly and so easy to use that no civilian should be able to get their hands on one. We simply don’t need these things in society at large.” But, again, with practice, every gun can be made easy to use and any person can make themselves proficient with it. Not only that, buts as mentioned, it is not rifles—“assault style” or otherwise—but handguns which are the weapon of choice for these shooters. And, as mentioned at the beginning, some people on the left side of politics, have started being honest and saying that what is needed is not just an “assault weapon” ban but a literal ban on most handguns. The problem with this logic—banning the weapons that are used the most in attacks—is that by it knives would also have to be banned since, for example, in 2014, more people were killed by knives than by guns.
The author then tried to make a comparison between a Formula One car and an AR-15, saying that since it was illegal to own the former because they are dangerous on the open road, the same reasoning should be applied to the rifle. But this obscures the fact that the Formula One is parallel not to the AR-15 but to a fully automatic weapon, which is illegal to own. The fact that the AR-15 is only a semi-automatic weapon, incapable of becoming an automatic weapon like its military cousins, the fact that handguns are used more in violent crimes, cause the comparison to collapse. The author tries to even bring the Constitution on her side saying that the 2nd Amendment is not sacrosanct that trumps all other rights and that the Constitution is a malleable document that was meant to be vague. No one says that the 2nd Amendment is the end all and be all; we simply say that it is part of the Constitution and cannot be taken away, such as by a gun ban. As for the Constitution being vague—that is nonsense. Look at Article I again where the powers of Congress are specifically listed; that is not the sign of a vague document. In the places were the Constitution is not as specific, the reason was: a) other articles that deal with other branches of the government (such as Article II with the presidency) were designed to be weaker than Congress and so were not seen as requiring the same level of detail, or; b) the state constitutions were supposed to fill in the blanks.
Banning guns will not change anything nor will relying on emotional or flawed arguments. The only way to improve the world will be to thwart evil. And the one front where we can be sure of doing that with the most effect is in our own lives.