From the Director: We Have the Right to Choose the Limits Placed...

From the Director: We Have the Right to Choose the Limits Placed on Our Rights

by Josh Spring
Hundreds gather at Below Zero night club in solidarity Photo: Derek Bauman

As you have heard, there has been yet another mass shooting, this time in Orlando, Florida. Sadly, this is not uncommon. Truthfully there are mass shootings at various places on this earth every day. In some of these countries it is this country’s finger is on the trigger. When a slaughter like this occurs in this country it seems that there are generally two separate reactions and one shared reaction. I think most people are saddened and want such violence here to end. However, some folks react by saying we must go after whatever ethnicity or religion that may have been espoused by the murderer and other people say we must enact gun control. We see the crossed lines of circular logic: limit the access to guns so that fewer people can get guns and murder or don’t limit the access to guns so that people can arm themselves to scare such shooters and/or shoot the shooter.

Now for clearer discussion, the push to go after the ethnicity or religion espoused the shooter only seems to arise when the shooter has color in their skin or perhaps is white, but has proclaimed allegiance to a targeted group of people. If the shooter is white, generally the discussion involves gun control versus arming more people versus better understanding of mental health.

It should be obvious, though it isn’t to many people, that significantly limiting access to guns should happen. Really, it would be best if explosives and guns had never been fabricated. The human race has a real talent for creating ways to kill itself and everything else around it. Guns and explosives do exist and it would certainly be impossible to rid the earth or this country of them. But we could limit access.

People love to cite the second amendment as proof that we have the right to have guns. It reads, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” So yes, if you haven’t fully read it before, you will notice that it is one sentence referring to a “well-regulated militia” and not simply people in general. That said, there is nothing godly or ordained about this country’s constitution. It is a document written by people. We don’t need it in order to know or prove what our rights are. For example, we have a right to free speech whether the constitution says it or not.

Theoretically the purpose of a government is to facilitate people living and working together in such a way that nobody is treated with less importance than another person. Now, of course this is not how we see government play out. It is also said that each of us signs a “social contract” with each other and the government holds us accountable to it. The idea being that though we never actually signed something, we have committed to follow the laws and to not harm those around us. Of course this “social contract” in reality is not enforced so purely. Certain people with enough money and white skin do not follow it and have extremely little official consequence placed upon them, while people who work for progressive change and people who struggle to make ends meet are often accused of breaking the “contract”.

So long story short: if we want guns, we have a right to choose to own them. This is just like anything else. There is nothing unique about it. We have the right to choose to own any material object whatsoever. This is true whether those words are written on a piece of paper or not. In the case of guns the problem is that some people have broken their “social contract” to other people and have used those guns to murder. Murder is not a right. Following the same logic, it therefore makes sense that we would choose to have the government enforce laws that restrict our access to guns in order to better uphold the portion of the “social contract” which dictates that we do not murder each other. In essence we would say: yes we have a right to own guns, just like any other object, but because we believe human life is more important than our right to own guns, we will choose to have our access to guns limited.

Here is the trouble: as a country do we really believe human life is more important? Yes, if you asked nearly anyone in this country or anywhere in the world if human life is very important, they would say yes. But do we act it out? Consider one significant aspect of the answer to this question. This country has been at war virtually since before its existence. We have been in Iraq and Afghanistan for at least the last 14 years. We have been there and we have glorified the murder of so many people we don’t even know the exact numbers. We may espouse a firm belief in the value of human life, but on a large scale we do not act it out. We choose a fake “homeland comfort”; oil, money, etc. over human life on a regular basis. We choose military spending, fortune 500 subsidy, and luxury over human life nearly every day. Does it make much sense to think we are going to create significant gun control in a country that has more passion put into the rhetoric of our right to own guns or not than into the right of a person to be able to continue to live?

None of this means we shouldn’t work for gun control. Quite the opposite. We must work on all of it, because it is all more connected than we often are willing to say.