Freedom is paid for with blood. The Ukrainians are seeing that reality in a real and horrible way. America has seen it in numerous wars. We see it in the tens of thousands of car wrecks that maim and kill every year. We witnessed this reality last month in a rash of school shootings.
More than any other nation in the history of this earth, Americans cherish their freedom. The founding principle of our nation is individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But one man’s freedom is another child’s nightmarish end. And so it goes.
Your freedom to swing your fist ends at the tip of another man’s nose. That’s understood. The problem is policing and enforcing the inevitable complexity inherent in maximum freedom.
Guns are inextricably linked to American freedom. It’s written into our Constitution. We feared the English would try again to subjugate us so we wanted armed state militias. And we got them.
By far the largest standing army in the world is armed American gun owners — 81 million of us. That makes the biggest national army in the world — China’s at 1.6 million — look puny in comparison.
No army could ever invade America and take away our freedom. No would-be dictator could ever subjugate the American people. It would be impossible. They would be fighting an armed populace.
To some, pointing out this benefit of individual gun ownership may seem silly. But throughout history subjugation has been the rule. America’s individual liberty is an exception. Just ask the Swiss, where the government requires every citizen to own a handgun.
So we must tread lightly on the idea of gun control. This is not a no brainer. If the solution were simple, it would have been implemented a long time ago. The reason we haven’t solved the problem of school shootings is because there is no easy answer. Beware of the law of unintended consequences.
My good friend Sudha Madakasira, a Jackson psychiatrist, spoke to the Rotary Club of North Jackson last week about school shootings. The statistics are alarming. Not only are school shootings on the rise, but so are gun-related homicides and suicides. Guns make killing easy. There can be no doubt about it.
Sudha shared some other interesting facts. Mississippi is near the top of most lists in gun ownership and all the killing that goes with it. In America, there is a correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths. The lower the ownership, the fewer deaths.
In 1996, shocked by the horrible Port Arthur massacre that left 35 dead, Australia embarked on an ambitious gun control program. It worked. Forty years later, gun violence is down substantially according to most studies. But there are still 250,000 illegal arms on the black market.
Strict gun control does seem to reduce gun violence, but at what cost to freedom? No doubt, criminals will still get guns from the black market. Is it a legitimate role for government to take away a citizen’s right to adequately defend themselves from gun-toting thugs?
Statistics aside, every Mississippian has personally known people who have successfully defended themselves with their legally owned guns. Banning guns would not be a simple solution to the problem of gun violence, especially given the current existence of 400 million guns in the U. S.
Dr. Madakasira also pointed out that less than 20 percent of the mass shootings involved mental illness and only 10 percent involved schizophrenia. The shooters were more often socially isolated loners who had been bullied or slighted. These alienated existentialists often had gone down Internet rabbit holes of hate and conspiracy theories. Killing was nothing more than a thrilling video game.
Once again, we get back to freedom. Do we ban violent video games? Do we ban violent rap lyrics? Do we censor the Internet for hate thought and conspiracy theories? And who would censor the censors?
Recently the Biden administration planned to create a government agency to fight “misinformation.” The plan created an uproar and was soon “paused.”
I seriously doubt there are many school shootings in North Korea where the students are brainwashed to think like robots from birth. The same is true to a lesser extent in China and Russia, where the government closely controls and censors media and the Internet.
We could do the same here in the United States and school shootings and gun violence would drop dramatically. But at what cost to freedom and liberty. Therein lies the rub.
In 1974 Congress imposed a 55 mile per hour national speed limit, ironically to reduce fuel consumption. Over the next five years, 36,000 lives were saved. Nineteen years later, the limit was repealed. So Americans would rather see tens of thousands of people die in car wrecks than drive slightly slower.
No doubt, thousands of those 36,000 car deaths were innocent children, far more than have died in school shootings.
This is tricky business organizing millions of people in a nation around laws designed to promote prosperity, fairness, equality and freedom while avoiding tyranny and violence. We’re still trying to figure it out day by day. It’s a fascinating process to witness.
Given this enormous uncertainty and complexity, I am amazed at how the Americans exhibit such certainty and conviction when expressing their opinions as to what to do next. If there is anything we should be able to agree on, it’s that there is no easy answer or simple solution. For every action there is a reaction and the law of unintended consequences reigns supreme.
So what do we do? Nothing? That has not been the course of human progress. Trial and error has been the way forward with a humble willingness to admit mistakes and correct course when need be.
America is the world’s great experiment with human freedom. So far, it has been a phenomenal success. However, American freedom from the start was rooted in belief in a greater power to whom we are accountable both as a nation and as individuals. Be evil and you risk burning in hell. It gets your attention.
Pure human freedom untethered from religion is doomed to sin and destruction. Humanity is not essentially good, it is essentially evil. It is only by the grace of God that we are able to achieve anything worthy.
The real answer to school shootings is the restoration of our religious roots.