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April Salchert Headshot

Is It Freedom? The Right to Bear Arms and Shoot (Reflections on Sandy Hook)

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After a tragedy like the Sandy Hook shooting, questions like: "What are our rights?" and "What about our freedom?" bubble to the surface.

People forget that freedom is not a tangible object nor is it an objective stance. Freedom is subjective. Freedom is an idea we strive for, like a philosophical state of mind. Freedom is not a tangible answer which trumps and solves every ethical debate. Dangerous rhetoric is formed when people cling to freedom as their argument, such as: We are free therefore we have the right to own a gun. Beating the drum of freedom in order to claim certain rights of possession can quickly infringe on the rights of others. These are ethical issues, not issues that can be swept into a black and white argument of freedom versus total government control.

Many say we don't have the right to health care, as it infringes on rights to lower taxes. Yet this limits many people to premature deteriorating health and death. Without the right to socialized health care, we strip others' rights to good health and a long life.

There are many who cringe and scream at the idea of government creating more laws which may limit their rights. They think government dictating certain things like health care and firearms toes the line of communism.

The right to carry a firearm: Is it a right or is it enabling violence? Should we allow government to dictate what we own?

Yet, government does control many of our possessions: Laws are in place to protect innocent people and prohibit possession of such things as drugs and slaves. Are we afraid stricter laws on possession of weapons will give the government too much control? At what cost, human cost, are we willing to fight to maintain the right to bear arms?

Before continuing, I would like to point out something that most US citizens forget: We are a massive country. I tell my Korean students that South Korea, in size, is less than 1/50th of the US. They look at me wide-eyed and befuddled. The idea of a country being so enormous boggles their minds.

What we in the US must remember, is that these laws are not meant to restrict us from going out and shooting a deer if we feel so fit, but to protect the millions of lives that are under the governments' responsibility to protect. When a 20-year old kid decides to shoot up an elementary school, the government MUST take notice and acknowledge that there are some loose screws in the machinery of our firearm legislature. This is not to rain on your hunting parade - this is about the millions of non-hunters who are terrified to wander outside because you insist on having the right to stuff a handgun in your bedside table drawer. It's the government's job to protect your rights, but also the rights of those little children.

So, do you really need a gun at home? Outside of mafia connections, I can't imagine the reason. I believe it is simply personal preference, a want, not a need.

So it comes down to: Our needs and our wants. No one needs cocaine or slaves. (Some) people want these things, but they definitely do not need them. And when someone's wants infringes on someone's needs (i.e. staying alive), then there is a crossroads of rights - whose rights do we protect?

Many are concerned that new laws prohibiting firearms will create a black market and another endless battle (likening to the war on drugs). To this I say: Bring it on. First of all, from what I understand, the logistics of smuggling weapons is a little more complicated than smuggling drugs. Either way, I would rather spend some extra tax dollars on firearm surveillance than do nothing at all. Allowing the same legislation to continue simply out of fear of creating a black market is the most ostrich-like argument I have ever heard.

Many have also pointed to mental health care and the media as another cause for recent shootings. While, yes, mental health plays a role and yes, media encourages indulgent behavior, neither of these things physically shot anyone. Besides, an increase in mental health care and a decrease in media violence will not curb the fact that there are still millions of guns easily accessible in U.S. homes. Can the media or a mental health professional prevent such crimes on a significant level? Possibly some, but no one can control or predict when a person will snap emotionally and mentally. But we can block their access to a firearm. Telling a child not to take the candy on the table is all well and good, but the minute your back is turned, do you really trust that they will not reach for the candy at least once? Shouldn't we just move the candy to be sure?

Do us all a favor and leave the gun at the shooting range and hunting grounds. Keep our homes safe. Keep our children safe. It's a worthwhile sacrifice.