A few days ago, a fellow NaBloPoMo participant urged fellow bloggers to speak up for common sense gun regulations. As a Canadian, an observation I make is that a major part of the problem is that gun advocates think that their position also qualifies as “common sense”.
With the upcoming second anniversary of the horrific shooting incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a report was released on Friday that responded to the question of how and why prior recommendations for mental health treatment were not heeded for someone who proceeded to kill his mother, six educators, and twenty school children. Investigators had previously determined that the motivation for the shootings may never be known. Yet regardless of the motivation, no matter who and how many this person intended to kill, this tragedy continues to raise the question of on what basis should anyone ever be remotely empowered to carry out such a heinous act.
The means by which this devastation was made possible was, of course, by high powered weapons. Ones which there continues to be enough political support in the US to consistently confound efforts to enact gun control legislation.
Gun advocates are entrenched in the idea that the unrestrained possession of weapons is an indispensable right of living in a modern society. This faith extends to the ludicrous notion that such tragedies would not be possible had everyone in the Sandy Hook school had been armed.
What supports this mentality goes beyond the Second Amendment of the US Constitution that cements the right to bear arms. It’s the extent of the interpretation of unalienable right to life, liberty, and happiness written into the American Declaration of Independence.
These two documents were landmarks in the advancement of individual rights that were crucial steps toward the development of the modern democracy, but absent is a clear obligation of individuals of their responsibilities to their fellow citizens in the execution of those rights. When it comes to guns, many advocates feel the only interests they need to answer to are their own.
As I indicated in my recent dichotomy of freedom post, there are dangers to an infatuation with a self-interested basis of liberty. This creates a bias towards perceiving others as potential threats, rather than potential friends. Firearms further reinforces and deepens this perception.
At minimum, this maintains an unproductive level of tension between people, all in order to appease a heightened need for a personal sense of security. At its worst, when combined with weapons and a callous disregard for others in a perverted personal pursuit of happiness, an unconstrained freedom has too often and too tragically manifested itself into a violent fantasy that has claimed too many innocent victims within its onslaught.
A shift away from a self-interested mindset to more public/broader interested thinking can lead to a recognition that the responsible and constrained use of power, not individualist freedom, is the most important legal principle in a fair and balanced society. Similar to what I wrote in the Magna Carta post earlier this month, while this is often cited towards governments and law enforcement, especially by gun advocates, the Connecticut tragedy highlights the need to apply this principle towards individuals as well to counter the growing access to increasingly more powerful weapons.
In addition, going back to the dichotomy of freedom post, the question of firearms needs to be seen through the lens of emancipation. Of whether their widening presence and increasing power further enables ourselves as a society or creates barriers and/or conflict. The continuing deplorable figures from firearm violence statistics, including a recent FBI study on the rise of mass shootings, leave little doubt to the divisive nature of the gun issue.
Regardless of the arguments I or anyone else presents that demonstrate how widespread firearm possession fails to serve the common good, the issue is a deeply cultural one in the US that is made that more challenging by the rights enshrined in those early documents that the nation was built upon. For those of us in Canada, we cannot be complacent against such growing gun rights advocacy in this country.
Our opportunity lies upon the principle of peace, order and good government written into our Constitution through which it should be understood that a respect for the public interest and pursuit of a mutually beneficial society are our nation’s primary objectives. It should never take the horrible shooting deaths of twenty elementary school children to make it clear that firearms should never ever be considered a right.