Living with fear

I recently had a short Facebook post -- I think it was two days ago -- where I essentially said that, as a free people, we had to tolerate certain things. We had to be brave in the face of certain things. We had to accept that the price of liberty was insecurity... that freedom not only isn't free, but it isn't safe, either. We can be free, or we can be secure, but we can't be both.

And yet, I'm in favor of gun control.

Which seems to be a contradiction. If I don't want to see the government start demanding ID whenever I walk down the street, if I don't want increased government tracking and surveillance of my movements, actions, and behaviors... and I don't... then why am in favor of the government more strictly regulating who gets guns and who doesn't?

Maybe, if we're going to live in a free society... if we're going to say "I don't want a government that watches me every minute of the day to keep me safe, I don't want to live in that kind of tightly controlled, observed, regulated environment"... then maybe, we also have to accept responsibility for protecting ourselves. Which means, arming ourselves.

Which sounds really nice.

But how would an armed citizenry have prevented the bombings in Boston?

There are better examples, though. Leave aside the crazy guy who dyed his hair bright red and then shot up a movie theater in Colorado, or the nut who took an assault weapon to a school in Newtown and started shooting everything that moved. Arguments have been made that an armed citizenry might have taken those guys down sooner and saved lives; I myself think that an amateur with a gun in his or her hand and stars in his or her eyes thinking about how they're going to get interviewed after this by Wolf Blitzer probably isn't the superhero you're looking for to take down that maniac with the assault weapon... 

...but maybe I'm wrong. 

Maybe if our citizenry wasn't simply armed but well trained, and disciplined, and responsible... but, you know, when I think of the general public here in America, 'well trained', 'disciplined' and 'responsible' aren't the first words that come to mind. Or the tenth. Or the hundredth. 

And that is my point, and leads to what seems to me to be a better example. Last weekend some guy was watching a movie after midnight at a local theater and when he got up to leave, three other people -- two men and a woman -- jumped him, knocked him on the ground, and started punching him repeatedly in the head and kicking him in the torso. Apparently, they would have stood there doing it all night if another patron hadn't pulled them off the guy. 

The victim of the assault maintains he has no idea why they did it, which I find doubtful... unless they were completely tweaked on something, I'm sure this guy did something to set them off. (I'm not defending their actions; he might have just looked at one of the women in a way any of the three found offensive, or said something during the movie that they overheard and found offensive. With some people, it 
doesn't take much. But I'm sure there was something that lit their fuses, however innocuous it may have been.)

Whatever the case may be, in the NRA's dream world where every American adult walks around strapped for reasons of personal protection, how would a confrontation like that go? Bad enough this guy got beat up for no apparent reason... how much worse would this have been, if everybody involved had been packing iron? And started a gunfight in the theater?

And don't tell me in the NRA's dream world where everyone goes packed at all times, we'd leave our guns outside the theater. No, no. We would take our guns INTO the theater, in case some other lunatic, this time dressed like the Penguin or Dr. Octopus, pops up in full riot gear with assault weapons and starts throwing grenades around.

I'm 51 years old and I've seen altercations get violent, or hover on the edges of getting violent, many many times in my life. In none of those altercations were any of the belligerents armed. On the occasions that violence erupted, it wasn't like in the movies, but in real life, fights never seem to be. One punch might get thrown; then both parties grapple and start shoving and, usually, rolling on the ground. 

But how much worse would these fights -- which are usually fueled by alcohol and rage over something idiotic, like a sporting event -- be, if everyone had a loaded gun on them?

If every teacher in that school at Newtown had had a gun, if every movie patron in that theater in Colorado had been armed... how much worse would it have been? If everyone was firing, if bullets were flying everywhere, how many more bodies would we have?

And exactly how much of a deterrent would an armed citizenry be, to the kind of lunatic that plants bombs, or shoots up movie theaters, or shoots up elementary schools?

I don't want to be tracked or surveilled any more than I already am... in fact, I would like to be tracked and surveilled considerably less than I alrady am. 

But that doesn't mean I don't want GUNS to be tracked and surveilled considerably MORE than they already are. 

The 'right' to bear arms has no connection to safety or freedom. It's a high speed superhighway to a world where we all get to live in far greater danger, every minute of every day... not simply because the truly psychotic will have easy access to deadly weapons, but because the ordinary, everyday, average, run of the mill screw up, bully, drunk, and short tempered meathead will. 

They're pushing guns the same way they pushed the PATRIOT Act, the same way they push more observation, more monitoring, more tracking, more surveillance... with fear. "If you don't buy a gun and carry it around with you, you could be shot. Your family could be killed. If you don't let us spy on you, if you don't let us track you and open files on you and your neighbors, you could get blown up." It's all fear, all the time, and they push it for the same reasons they push everything -- because it gives them more power and it makes them more money. 

I don't want to live in a world where there's a camera on every block and Homeland Security is watching everything and listening to everything and reading everything we send across the Internet. That's crazy. 

I also don't want to live in a world where every meathead who has ever screamed an insult at me from a passing car is carrying a loaded gun. 

I'm afraid, of course I am. But I'm not THAT afraid.

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