Liberty, Personal Responsibility, and Guns

Our Constitution is a brilliant and historic document . . . by 'historic' I don't merely mean it is old, that it is a document from our historic past - I mean 'historic' in that it was unique in it's time and changed everything. A mistake I think many make is to not recognize that America is still an experiment, it simply wasn't that long ago that the world only knew kings and military overlords, etc - America is an experiment in self-governance, an attempt by a people to choose their own leaders, representatives of 'we the people'. The point being, we must not alter the Constitution, perhaps especially those initial 10 bill of rights, without great deliberation and the most circumspect consideration.


Yet, one of the most profoundly genius aspects of our Constitution is that it recognizes the need for it's own amending, that times change, that men in 2012 will not be living in the same world as men in 1787. Here, it seems to me, is the pull-and-tug on this point; the right of the private citizen to own a gun is a principle clearly asserted by our founding fathers, it was an idea at the core of what America was established to be, land of the free - but the large clip rapid fire assault weapons of today were unimaginable to men of 1787. So, the question becomes, does limiting the accessibility of large clip rapid fire assault weapons intrude on the framer's principle that every citizen has the right to own a gun . . ?


Some will simply say it doesn't matter what men in 1787 thought, some will not count the core principle of freedom and personal responsibility as sacred, some will incautiously seek to change the Constitution. And some will simply assert that 'this' is what the document says and so 'this' must and only be the way things remain. But the question, certainly, needs real and thoughtful consideration - there are easily far too many news stories that we again and again have to wrestle with grasping for some solution.

Now, 'solution' is a key word here. Is gun control the solution to these nightmare incidents? I think it’s looking to gun control as a fixer of this mess is what leads us to the oft repeated back and forth debate that divides the nation between folks who think those who count it their right to own a gun are (at least just about) evil and obviously don’t care about children and are just anti-intellectual conservatives, etc – and folks who think those who seek stricter gun control laws are knee-jerk do-gooders who think more and more government encroachment and regulation of the individual and are just spoon-fed liberals, etc. Enforcing the gun laws we already have and adding stricter regulations on gun ownership, outlawing guns altogether will not ‘solve’ the problem of violence and murder. We always will have and always have had people willing to do violence to others, to murder others, to have their way.

Even if you mock Genesis as an accurate account of the beginning of man, even if you count it an ancient fairytale, it tells us something about human nature – either that this is the way we are or that this is the way we (ancients) set us forth to be. God made man, He made Adam and Eve – the first man that we (man) made, the first man born of a woman, was Cain . . . besides his mom and dad, there was only one other fellow around and Cain murdered him . . . and that was his own brother. The history of man is a history of murder and violence and crime. Before there was such a thing as guns, when there is no gun, with bare hands, man has always and will continue to murder to get what he wants – legislating authorization to own a gun or legislating prohibitions against owning a gun, is no solution . . . all (or I should say, many) of the now cliché arguments are sound; gun laws will only keep law abiding citizens from owning guns, private gun ownership will have guns falling into the wrong hands, accidents, why does anyone need an assault rifle for hunting or home protection, you are just as dead if you’re murdered with a knife, should we outlaw cars when there’s a hit-and-run, etc, etc?

If, or when, we talk about gun control as a solution we throw ourselves into a maze of confusing principle with emotion and pitting desire against practical application, etc. Gun legislation simply will not end murder and violence, that’s not the direction to take if we’re seeking to end murder and violence – but, might stricter, or maybe different, gun legislation save some lives, is any manner of regulation of private gun ownership contrary to the Constitution? If private citizens were not permitted to own large clip rapid fire assault weapons and there could be a successful confiscation of these weapons from the criminal underground, then it seems likely we might suffer through far fewer mass shooting incidents – but could that be a workable scenario? Of course, there would still be multiple shooting scenes with handguns and some evil people would simply turn to explosives, etc, but some significant number of lives might be saved.

The question becomes, as a good, decent, law-abiding, interested to help others type of citizen, why can’t I own an assault rifle if I want to? This is America, the home of freedom and personal responsibility, who is the government, my government, to tell me what to do in my private life as long as I don’t harm others? This is no small matter and I’m not saying this with a cowboy machismo disregarding the consequences of maintaining ‘my rights’ – this is a critical philosophic point that will define much of the life we have to live and our future. For me, I have to then ask, how about a bazooka, can I own my own bazooka? How about a tank, can I fly around in my 2 seat Cessna with a couple of bombs, can I have my own missiles in my backyard? At some point, of course, the possibility of damage and the sheer number you could harm come into play.

The founding fathers established that each citizen has the right to own his own gun – were they guaranteed the right to own their own canon? The country was new, things were being figured-out . . . I don’t think any citizen or government body would have had any trouble at all with George Washington owning his own canon and keeping it on his own property – but if Joe the tavern owner set up a canon in front of his establishment pointing right across the way at Sam the innkeeper’s place, I tend to think legislation might have been passed. We are still figuring this stuff out, we are still struggling to work-out how your freedom can not infringe upon my safety, how a multitude can all enjoy liberty and safety and the question very frequently comes down to which of those ideas you treasure more – do we want perilous liberty or regulated safety?


The most immediate point here is that no one needs to rail in anger and think those who see things differently than they do must be evil, must not care, are only following some party-line, etc. We will never improve things if we start with the assumption that ‘our side’ is simply right and the ‘other side’ is simply wrong, that ‘our side’ is good and smart but the ‘other side’ is bad and stupid . . . we are still trying to figure this (freedom) out.

Gun legislation is not going to ‘solve’ the problem of man’s violence against man, but for me, personally; times have changed, I firmly believe the founding fathers’ core principle of the private citizen having the right (not the permission, but the right) to own his own gun is sacred to America, to our experiment in freedom – but I believe the large clip rapid fire assault weapons of today were not what they were thinking about when they said “arms”.

In the end, personally; I would rather live in under a risky liberty than under an overly regulated safety.

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Comments 13 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Bravo to you for taking this stance, which is ripe for argument of course. I do not own a gun; never will. However, I am a staunch supporter of the Constitution. Your points about guns are excellent; society has not gone to hell in a hand basket because of guns; anyone who thinks the solution to our societal ills is to ban guns is not living in reality. Our problems go much deeper than that.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

You brought up some good points, Mickey. I personally am against guns and I have that right. I don't begrudge anyone who feels differently than I because owning a gun is a constitutional right. I just don't see the need in my life. But, you are right: where do we draw the line and should there be a line drawn on this issue?


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Very well done article. I caution however that we not forget that the constitution is not a law unto itself. It is the process by which we enact laws. It is the law of the land, and our land is one of laws not men. But that is exactly why I like this article so much. It furthers the process by furthering the dialogue. I agree with your thought process but not with your conclusion. I think we are entitled to pistols but not nuclear arms. Somewhere, if we work at it, and stay true to our constitution we will find the right balance.


MickeySr profile image

MickeySr 3 years ago from Hershey, Pa. Author

Ericdierker ~ it was tricky business for me to try to present the stage on which these decisions need to be made, and to encourage thoughtful as well as respectful dialog . . . I didn't want to simply declare my own view and support it, that wasn't my intention with this piece - but neither did I want to appear coy or illusive. My concern regarding all that was that it may seem to some my own understanding leans one way from some remarks while leaning the other way from other remarks - but, as I said, my point here was not to advance my own view, my interest here was to encourage a civil examination, to nudge folks to not automatically count those who see things differently than they themselves do as necessarily bad, mean, stupid, etc.

I hope I didn't merely confuse people. As to my own view on this matter ~

"I agree with your thought process but not with your conclusion. I think we are entitled to pistols but not nuclear arms."

. . . this expresses my own understanding without qualification. I would only add; neither ought we, who have every right to own firearms, assume or conclude that we likewise have a right to own bombs or missiles, etc. The question now is, are large clip automatic weapons to be counted as a personal use tool - or a danger and threat to a community . . . should they be cataloged with hand pistols and hunting rifles, or with bazookas and missiles?


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Very excellent framing of the issue. It is refreshing to discuss without rancor. I totally respect and understand your point of view. I wonder what should be considered the closest to a automatic assault weapon that we could both agree would be inappropriate for private personal use. I believe it may just be the bazooka or grenade, or perhaps large caliber mounted type "machine" guns. Or am I wrong?


MickeySr profile image

MickeySr 3 years ago from Hershey, Pa. Author

billybuc ~ thanks so much, I'll happily take a "bravo" from you any day.


Conservative Lady profile image

Conservative Lady 3 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

Important topic and well presented MickeySr. I support our Constitution and also believe it should be protected and only changed by majority rule. Gun control alone will not fix the problem as you so eloquently pointed out. Guns alone cannot kill just as a stationary Fork will not make one fat without the hand of man controlling it. Good hub!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Mickey...You tackled a very difficult and controversial topic here.....not to mention, highly sensitive at this particular time. As always, you've done a spectacular job.

With my heart so heavy, still aching from the tragedy....I'm aware of the arguments shooting back and forth and literally as yet, going nowhere.

Whether agreement and/or compromise is ever met, or a genuine solution to concerns is reached.....I never want a world where the only people with the weapons, are all the BAD guys......No law, no rule, no consideration of any kind, will keep weapons of destruction from the lunatics. Do we really want to be left defenseless, helpless and ignorant?..............Great job, Mickey...UP+++


Louisa Rogers profile image

Louisa Rogers 3 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

You are right, gun control will not mean the end of violence. However, more guns tend to mean more homicides and more suicides, whether you're looking at different states or different countries. Countries and states with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.

Although I don't agree with them, I don't resent NRA members for believing in the freedom to own guns. I resent their rigidity in not being willing to experiment, in not differentiating between an assault weapon and a hunting rifle, in thinking that giving up one inch is complete surrender, in their unwillingness to dialogue.

The issue of prohibition provides an excellent model. Congress was willing to try it. It didn't work, and they rescinded it. Great! We need more of that spirit of flexibility and experimentation.


FSlovenec profile image

FSlovenec 3 years ago from San Francisco, CA

Gun control: I do not think we should be allowed to own an arsenal. You have pointed out that guns are really not the problem it is people. 911 and Oklahoma City did not use guns. The truth is that gun ownership among white people is higher than among African Americans and gun violence is higher among African Americans, Gun ownership is higher in rural areas than urban yet gun violence is higher in urban areas. Our country has reduced the value of a life to nothing, though abortion on demand, video games that are all about murder and violence and generally the total acceptance of killing. The answer no one wants to hear is prayer. Let us bring God back into our everyday life, second enforce the laws that are on the books about gun registration and waiting periods, require gun owners to participate in gun classes for use and safety (no gun should be out in the open and unlocked) and finally education in general. We are pushing our children through school to graduate while they cannot read, write or do simple math. The children graduate with high hopes that are dashed by real life once they are trying to find a job or advance to college or trade school. The results are then a life time of dependency which certainly stimulates actions which are not acceptable. The "they have it and I do not" attitude can foster a variety of actions not many of them very good. I am not a gun owner, I respect guns and am seldom around them.


MickeySr profile image

MickeySr 3 years ago from Hershey, Pa. Author

Conservative Lady ~ your 'fork' analogy points to the 'tool' reality we're dealing with . . . when we can't resist a 3rd piece of pie we might like to fault the fork and point to it as the problem, but the problem, clearly and undeniably, is us. In a sense, it's one of the oldest and most transparent tricks in the book . . . the tennis player who looks at and fiddles with his equipment after missing a shot - like there's something his with the racket, like that's the problem.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 3 years ago from South Africa

I agree all the way with you, Mickey. ".... outlawing guns altogether will not ‘solve’ the problem of violence and murder."

Unfortunately brutal murderers will always be among us and every person has the right to own a weapon in order to, at least, have a chance to defend themselves and beloveds when confronted by murderers.

Governments should zoom in on the mentally ill, criminals and people violating the Law by being in the possession of unlicensed guns. Governments should not try to prove its authority and power by intimidating innocent, law-abiding citizens.

Amen!

Excellent reasoning!


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I have yet to here a rational argument concluding that we need assault weapons. I have yet to hear anyone offer a "benefit to society" bases for having and assault weapon. Remember "nukes do not kill people, people do".

Banning all guns is crazy. But making possession of an assault weapon a crime makes sense. No it will not prevent food poisoning, car accidents or cancer. It will not cure social disease. But there is just no possible rational social reason to have an assault weapon.

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