Does Freedom Matter?

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In all the Umpqua community College discussion, which is as moronic as you’d expect and which I fully intend to avoid, I saw a couple of tweets that got under my skin.  The tweeter said that “everyone is law abiding until they aren’t” and asked if we just had to “wait until someone starts shooting before we can take their guns.”

Well, yes.  That’s what “freedom” means.  You get to do whatever you want until you start harming other people.

I could literally leave the house now and come home with enough liquor to kill me if I tried to drink it all.  And I could drink up some goodly portion of it and get really out of control.  What might I do?  Drive 90 down residential streets?  Dig out some guns and use the neighbor’s house for target practice?  Find a soccer mom and beat her to a pulp?  Pull a kitchen knife on my wife?  No idea; I’ve never been that drunk.

Now, if I did any of those things, I would quite rightly be arrested, and probably convicted.  And then I might spend time in prison, which is just what should happen.  And when I got out, my parole or supervised release would surely contain a stipulation that I was forbidden to consume alcohol, or any other intoxicant. If you can show that I have used my freedom irresponsibly, then it is acceptable to restrict my freedom, by sticking me in a box for a while and then telling me what I can and can’t do once you let me out.

But until then?  I get to buy all the liquor I want.  Also, in Colorado, marijuana.  And fast cars, and kitchen knives, and whatever.  And I can do it whether or not you think I “need” any of those things, or whether they have a “legitimate” use other than lawbreaking.  Because this is, in theory anyway, a free country, and I can do whatever I want as long as I don’t harm anyone.

The same logic should apply to guns.  Of course, some people are criminals.  Some people are stupid.  Some people, frankly, should not reproduce.  But even the stupid and the criminal don’t get their rights restricted UNTIL…until they are duly convicted of a crime, when the punishment may then include restrictions on their rights, including access to guns, voting, alcohol, and so on.

Granted that this is more true in theory than practice; there are all kinds of non-harmful things you aren’t allowed to do by law, such as bring a gun onto most college campuses, or sell a handgun across state lines.  But setting aside the Second Amendment, setting aside the futility of gun prohibition, setting aside the undeniable fact that the President will never disarm his bodyguards…setting aside everything that usually comes up:

Freedom means you leave me alone unless I’m hurting you.  I’m willing to do that for everyone else, and I think it only fair that they return the favor.


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