Freedom, Safety and Guns

Dr. Malcolm Cross


Another month, another massacre.

Details on the mass murder of churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, near San Antonio, are still sketchy.  It’s known that the toll is currently 20 wounded, and at least 26 dead, and the latter figure could rise.  It’s also known that the murderer, Devin Kelly, was killed by police after fleeing the scene of the crime.  Kelly was a young white male who had been dishonorably discharged from the Air Force.  As of this writing, his motives for murder are not yet known.

What is certain is that this latest massacre will lead to more demands for tougher gun control laws.  After every massacre politicians, sometimes sincere but sometimes self-serving, have demanded stricter gun control laws, ignoring the probability that whatever they propose would not have prevented the original crime, and the reality that gun control laws only limit the law-abiding.  In fact, they’ve already begun.  Check out this excerpt from a statement issued by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif):

When will this end?  When will we decide that we can’t accept massacres in our places of worship, schools, or at concerts?  When will we actually do something about it?

This latest mass shooting comes just one month after the country’s deadliest mass shooting, and we’re still trying to garner support for even the most basic steps to reduce gun violence.

After each mass shooting, I hope we’ll summon the courage and will to change, and today is no different.

Advocates of tough new gun control laws will argue that they are needed to make society safer.  But their opponents argue that new gun control laws may well reduce personal freedom without enhancing personal safety.

A frequently made argument against gun control is that to disarm citizens is the first step to establishing a totalitarian dictatorship which may suppress civil liberties, send those who resist or even question their policies to slave labor camps, and even commit genocide.  Without guns, citizens cannot fight back.  By losing their guns, they lose both their freedom and their safety.  But by exercising their right to bear arms they can more effectively protect their freedom and safety should they be threatened by government.

Moreover, it’s been said that if guns are made illegal, only criminals will have guns.  This will make the law-abiding citizen less safe and his freedom more threatened at the hands of armed criminals.  It’s not guaranteed that a well-armed law-abiding citizen can either deter a criminal from attacking him or successfully defend himself should he be attacked.  But his chances of successful deterrence or defense may be greater if he is armed.  He should at least have the right to try, especially if the police are not readily available to protect him.

So what should be done following Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs? 

I’m all for more effective background checks to help keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals, the mentally ill, or others with a record of violence, as well as laws to impose tougher penalties on anyone who commits a crime with a gun.  I think any gun control measure which could have prevented Las Vegas or Sutherland Springs, should at least be considered.

But whatever new gun control laws, if any, which may be adopted should not prevent the peaceful, law-abiding citizen from acquiring and using guns for legitimate self-defense. The threat to his safety and freedom from criminals is simply too great to surrender his right to defend himself.  And while the possibility that our political system will be threatened by a totalitarian takeover is remote, to say the least, one cannot be too careful.  The right to bear arms, when accompanied by the responsible use of guns, remains the best guarantor of both our freedom and our safety.  The recent massacres in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs are undeniably horrible.  But disarming the law-abiding, and making them more at the mercy of criminals or criminal governments, can present other horrors as well.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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