By: David Swan
When is too much freedom a bad thing? Sounds impossible, right? Not lately, at least for some Americans. When you boil down the most divisive issues of the day, you’ll find many Americans are actually calling for less freedom. Let’s take a look at how the First and Second Amendment rights have been called into question lately.
THE FIRST AMENDMENT: Some Americans think we have TOO MUCH Freedom of Speech…
Everyone loves the First Amendment, right? Freedom of speech, religion, press, petition and the right to peaceably assemble… it’s the foundation of any truly free society. We LOVE knowing that we can criticize our government and those in power without fear of persecution. There are large portions of the world that don’t have this right and they pay dearly when they speak out against their leaders. However, lately Americans apparently HATE when other Americans use their free speech in ways they disagree with.
So let’s talk about these NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem for a minute. Would I ever personally do this? Not in this life time. But this is about as peaceful of a protest as you can get. This is no angry mob. They aren’t flipping over police cars and setting them on fire. There are no riots or looting in the streets. It’s actually a pretty damn civil way to make a statement about the social injustices experienced by the black community. But some people are so enraged by it that they are threatening to boycott the NFL. How pissed off do Americans have to be to BOYCOTT FOOTBALL??? Essentially, opponents of the kneeling gesture are simply saying, “I don’t care why you are protesting, you just need to do it in a way that is more agreeable to my sensibilities.” Hell, the PRESIDENT, who seems to be struggling more than anyone with the existence of a free press, has even made threatening statements to these players and called for them to be fired for exercising their right to peacefully protest. Think about that for a minute. Our president and a large portion of Americans apparently have a problem with the First Amendment being used for the exact reason the First Amendment exists.
Many people in my social media feed (most of whom are NOT veterans) are making statements about how the gesture is offensive to veterans that fought and died serving under the American flag. While some Veterans may truly be pissed off and are entitled to be, I was personally more bothered by people that aim punish first their fellow Americans just because they disagree with the way they choose to peacefully protest. That’s something that happens in North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, and a number of countries run by fascists. As an Army Officer, you will always see me standing reverently during the national anthem, but I swore an oath to protect and defend the US Constitution and that right of free speech … not to protect the NFL’s pregame national anthem etiquette.
THE SECOND AMENDMENT: How free should Americans be to arm themselves?
It has happened again. Some crazy asshole has killed a bunch of people with an assault rifle for no apparent reason. And he did it with the help of America’s most controversial freedom granted to us in the Second Amendment. It’s an awful and sadly familiar feeling. Furthermore, there is very little we can do to prevent it without taking away a LOT of freedom from the 99.99999% of Americans that would never do such a thing. So once again, the debate over firearms has been relit and everyone has dug into their assigned ideological foxholes.
Essentially, the question is, “Do Americans have TOO MUCH freedom to arm themselves?” And if so, “Is it possible to substantively reduce the likelihood of mass shootings from happening again?” Before we get into it, there are two truths we must acknowledge first.
TRUTH 1: The very reason for the existence of the Second Amendment is to ensure that civilians actually have the firepower necessary to resist the government should it ever evolve into something tyrannical and need to be overthrown. It’s not about hunting, nor is it about self-defense in a dark parking lot or even protecting your family during a home break-in. It was written so that civilians have the ability to go to war with the government in order to keep the government from getting too powerful – just as our founding fathers had just had done just a few years before the 2nd Amendment was written.
TRUTH 2: We must acknowledge that the Second Amendment already has LOTS of limitations to it. There are all kinds of weapons civilians cannot buy because they are too dangerous for public ownership. Should there ever be a “Second American Revolution” where the people try to overthrow the government, and the US Military remained loyal to the Federal Government, these “armed militias” that are referred to in the Second Amendment would not stand a chance. I don’t care how tricked out your Bush Master AR-15 is, or how many rounds of 5.56mm ammo you have stashed in your basement – the US military has supersonic fighter jets, 500 pound bombs, hellfire missiles, heavy artillery, tanks, nuclear submarines and countless other incredible killing machines. You can’t buy any of that stuff at your local gun show (not that you could afford it anyway). So with or without your 30 round magazine, your bump stock, or your ACOG sight … you, average-Joe gun enthusiast, would be hypothetically screwed in a war with the US military.
So would making assault rifles illegal prevent more gun deaths? After all, it’s really easy to kill a lot of people from a long distance with an assault rifle and a few 30 round magazines. Well, that’s true, but the numbers say that banning assault rifles would also not reduce the amount of gun deaths in America by that much.
It is true that gun deaths in America drastically outnumber every other country. It is also true that the overwhelming majority of gun deaths in America occur from handguns – not assault rifles. Assault rifles are actually the least used firearm in gun deaths. Probably because they are pretty expensive and more complicated to operate. Hand guns are cheaper, simpler, and easier to conceal. But when a mass shooting occurs, the pressure to outlaw assault rifles is fierce and rarely includes handguns which are the real mass killer, statistically speaking.
Do we outlaw ALL GUNS then? Even if the manufacturing and sale of all types of guns was immediately outlawed in America, there would still be over 300 million functional guns in American homes based on what has been sold over the years. That’s almost one gun for every man woman and child in America today. So it doesn’t seem like it would move the gun death needle much just to make all further guns sales illegal. So then what? Round up all the existing guns too? Think of all the government searches, seizures, and invasions of privacy that would have to take place to remove 300 million guns from the street. It will never happen. This is of no solace to the family members of those killed in the recent mass shootings, but I think we need to have some level of acceptance that, while there are some laws that could potentially reduce the number gun deaths to some extent, there will always be a few crazy people and a whole lot of guns in America. It may actually be impossible to put that cat back in the bag.
So What Then?
Do we have so much freedom in America that we are actually debating one another about taking some of it away? It appears so. I would just caution everyone to take a breath and think about the long term implications whenever they talk about giving away their rights. Maybe get on Wikipedia and read about a few guys named Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin. Their ideas started out pretty popular with some of their fellow countryman. But it ended horrible for everyone. Is THAT an America you want to live in? If so, are you willing to give the government the power to do what it takes to get there?