The Lowest Common Denominator
Column by Alex Schroeder.
Exclusive to STR
The unspeakable tragedy that recently befell Newtown, CT has reignited the national discourse on gun control. Victims’ families grieve, parents across the country remain in a state of shock, and confused schoolchildren are bombarded with heightened security protocols. Emotions are running high across the country, and will continue to do so. The opportunistic political class has seized on these circumstances to attempt to push through more stringent gun control legislation. After all, our friend Rahm Emanuel (who is incidentally one of those pushing for stricter gun laws) advised the statists to “never let a crisis go to waste.”
Let’s leave aside the highly questionable rectitude of allowing emotion to guide public policy. That is nothing new; it is an age-old tactic that state officials have used across time and space to garner support. I am concerned with something different here, something that pervades political dynamics here and abroad. The calls for bans on assault weapons and other firearms are merely a recent and highly conspicuous manifestation of a deeper phenomenon: the attempt to reduce society to its lowest common denominator.
What I mean by this is that politicians, by means of various statutes, regulations, executive orders, etc., attempt to punish everybody for the stupidity and perniciousness of the few. If religious fundamentalists carry out a terrorist attack that kills thousands, all Americans, to prevent such incidents in the future, are compelled to subsequently accept heinous violations of privacy at the hands of the TSA. Some people are apparently too incompetent to select their own barber, which is why the benevolent state mandates that haircutters obtain licenses to practice their trade. We all suffer higher prices, reduced supply, and lower quality as a result. Others are too short-sighted to adequately save for their retirement, so we are all forced to take part in a government plan with a return inferior to what we could get in the market. I could produce examples ad nauseam, but the underlying pattern governing policy trends should be clear: all of society must pay for the character flaws of the few, or the lowest common denominator.
So it is with gun control measures. Because one mentally ill individual decided to engage in a horrendous act, we all have to sacrifice our moral right to defend ourselves and our property. The political class essentially exacerbates the atrocity of the crime by using it as a justification to deny what few liberties we still have. Society descends every deeper into the realm of omnipotent statism, left completely at the mercy of its basest elements. Couching this trend in such terms is tantamount to illuminating its utter absurdity.
No intellectual justification for an individual’s right to a firearm would be complete without noting a few other arguments. We can point to the hypocrisy of the statist elites, who will always be protected with cutting-edge weaponry. We can highlight the possibility that the shooter in Newtown would have been neutralized very quickly if a teacher had possessed a gun. We can emphasize that gun legislation is generally not going to impact those who are willing to murder others, but will rather simply keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens wishing to defend themselves. One may wish to stress the supposed paradox of Switzerland, an exceedingly peaceful country whose populace is heavily armed. Perhaps most importantly, an armed citizenry constitutes a final defense against tyrannical government.
These are all valid arguments, ones that should indeed be stressed by those who wish to fight against the coming onslaught against the Second Amendment. There are myriad ways in which the prohibition of firearms constitutes an assault on our liberty. But most egregious of all is the fact that gun control legislation represents a process whereby we are all held hostage to evil. By implementing increasingly draconian state controls in the aftermath of a criminal act, the moral are punished twice. First, they suffer the crime. Then they are confronted with a government violation of our freedom, which is made all the more preposterous by the fact that it is motivated by the political elites’ utopian vision of society characterized by total security (read absolute despotism).