Liberty vs. Security

I am writing this post in the wake of the horrendous terrorist act in Orlando, Florida where 49 innocent people lost their lives at the hands of a terrorist. Within hours of this tragedy, politicians raced to declare that the United States needs to enact gun control laws to prevent terrorists from obtaining guns. Many lies are being told every day about guns in the United States. I will not spend much time refuting those lies but I will instead focus on the right to bear arms and the fallacies of gun control.

The Constitution of the United States was written to create a federal government limited to enumerated powers, many people expressed worry during the ratifying conventions that the federal government may get too powerful so the first congress passed and the states ratified a set of ten amendments to protect some core individual rights such as free speech, owning arms and trial by jury in addition to asserting that all rights not delegated to the federal government belong to the people and the states. The right to bear arms is a fundamental right because it allows people to defend their life, liberty and property. The United States wouldn’t have been a free country if people didn’t own guns comparable to the guns owned by the British army that allowed us to gain our independence.

In the wake of tragedies like Orlando’s or Newtown’s shootings, it is easy to let emotions lead us to agree to laws that do little to enhance our security while reducing our liberty. In reality, most of these proposals are made by politicians who live and move under armed guard so they don’t think about the security needs of the normal citizen. Before we think about giving up our liberties we need to see if what is being proposed can actually help us.

One of the main proposals discussed now is to prevent people on the no-fly list or the terror watch list from buying guns. This proposal sounds good on the surface until you ask the fundamental question, why aren’t these people in prison? if the government really thinks that these people are dangerous then the government ought to prosecute them. Why aren’t they charged with crimes and brought to justice? why are they living among us? The answer is that all the people on the watch list either don’t live in the United States in the first place or the government don’t have evidence that they are actually dangerous. One of the main concepts in our constitution is that people shouldn’t be deprived of their liberty without due process. We have seen the IRS used against groups because of their politics, do we really trust government bureaucrats to maintain a list that denies people their constitutional rights without due process? What should come next after using a list to deny people their right to bear arms? should we have a no speech list? a no jury list?

Another idea is a ban on semi-automatic rifles, this proposal depends on the fallacy that terrorists and criminals will somehow decide not to commit terror acts if they cannot go to a store and buy a rifle. In reality all mass shootings are done by people who planned their crimes and took the time to study the target. Banning drugs didn’t make cocaine and heroin disappear, banning alcohol during prohibition didn’t make liquor disappear so why does anyone think that they cannot buy weapons from the black market? Or even use some other deadly weapon such as explosives. The Boston marathon and Oklahoma bombers used home-made explosives in their attacks. Who will really be affected by this weapon ban? law-abiding citizens are the ones who won’t be able to buy guns to defend themselves.

Another thing worth noting is the bad history of government failing to protect us against terrorist attacks and mass shooting using the powers they already have:

  • The FBI investigated that terrorist that executed the Orlando attack several times and they couldn’t see that he is dangerous and capable of murdering people, will anyone be held accountable for that?
  • The FBI was tipped about the Boston Marathon Bombers but they failed to follow the lead and stop them before they commit their crimes.
  • The police in Orlando took 3 hours to enter the club and kill the shooter, is anybody going to be held accountable for the lives that could have been saved if they acted sooner?
  • All of the mass shooting in the United States happened in gun free zones, is anyone going or were held accountable for denying the people the right to self-defense in those zones?

Some people claim that there is a balance between security and liberty, this is a false choice. If someone is dangerous then it is the government duty to make the legal case against that person and bring him or her to justice where a jury can weigh the evidence and decide whether the person is guilty or not. If the government is incapable of finding and prosecuting terrorists and criminals before they strike then they shouldn’t disarm law-abiding citizens and leave them defenseless against potential attacks.