This was submitted in response to Josh Merlo’s Column: Liberty or Life: Which do you want?
I recently read your Liberal Column concerning gun violence in the United States, and while I share your concern for those victims of tragic shootings, I strongly disagree with the method you propose to prevent further crimes. To quote your article, that method is “the total criminalization of any form of gun ownership.”
Aside from the fact that this would completely remove our Second Amendment rights (which you address), I think there are at least three other big problems with this idea.
First, making gun ownership illegal would turn a lot of good people into criminals. Hunting is a legitimate (and very popular) sport in America, one which connects man with the great outdoors and brings him back to his pre-industrial roots. There is nothing wrong with keeping a couple of rifles stored safely in the house or garage for a father and son to use during deer season. But if gun ownership were illegal, these men would be blacklisted just for a favorite pastime.
Second, taking arms out of the hands of Americans also removes their first means of defense against criminals who attack with guns. Sure, the police exist, and maybe in your gun-less society at least they would be allowed to keep their weapons. However, the police can’t live in our homes and defend us 24/7, and in most cases, they arrive at a crime scene too late to help.
You seem to understand the point that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” So I want to ask: how many of those massive shootings do you think would have occurred if at least 1 out of every 10 people on the crime scene carried guns? What about 1 in 5? Do you think the murderer would’ve thought twice if he knew he might die before he even got a chance to shoot anyone? If we subsidize Americans who carry guns, and train them about proper safety procedures and what to do in emergency situations, I think crimes of gun violence would go down, not up.
Third, criminalization of all gun ownership sounds too much like (alcohol) Prohibition. By making guns completely illegal, you may effectively make them more widespread. Problems like gun violence and drunk driving ought to be addressed, but they tend to only become worse when you attempt to control the substance rather than the person.
Finally I would like to address the closing arguments of your article. You believe that the Second Amendment argument is weak because “there is a long and rich tradition of limiting liberties when some greater good is threatened.” You list a few historical examples, such as the Alien and Sedition Acts, limits on First Amendment rights during wartime, segregation of ethnic groups during the two great wars and Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War.
All of these prove your point, but I would like to draw your attention to the circumstances surrounding these acts. These limits to Americans’ liberties were all made during wartime, and none of them were intended to be permanent. Your proposition of criminalizing the Second Amendment right seems to be permanent and is only made in response to relatively few acts of gun violence (compared to all-out war).
One of the last rhetorical questions you ask is, “Are not the very lives of Americans precisely a greater good than some ancient and misunderstood right to form militias?” But you seem to miss the point that the purpose of a militia is to defend the lives of Americans around them.
In response to your question: “Liberty or life: Which do you want?” I would like to answer with a quote from Andrew Hamilton: “The man who loves his country prefers its liberty to all other considerations, well knowing that without liberty, life is a misery.”
CATHRYN STEELE, A Daughter of Texas