Two thoughts about guns

A couple of thoughts as the gun debates rage.

On the “logic” of “More guns will make us safer.”

If more guns are supposed to keep down violent crime, why does the U.S. have the world’s highest per capita rate of civilian gun ownership and, at the same time, the industrialized world’s highest per capita rate of homicides committed with firearms? According to the “more guns = better/safer” logic, if so many people have so many guns, shouldn’t we have a really really really low homicide rate?

On the notion that the Second Amendment is absolute.

ConstitutionThroughout our history, there have been legislative and judicial tweaks — during administrations of all parties — to rights guaranteed in the First Amendment.

We have the right to freedom of speech — but not to yell “Fire!” in a theater when there is no fire, because that freedom is also weighed against the common good of public safety. We have the right to freedom of the press. Neither of those rights is absolute: at the same time that we have rights to freedom of both speech and the press, we also have laws that allow people who believe they have been damaged or unfairly tarnished to bring charges of slander (spoken) or libel (published). We have a right to freedom of assembly, but localities across the country are able to require permits for various kinds of gatherings. And so on.

The idea that the Second Amendment is inherently absolutely inviolable, not ever to be balanced with other considerations, is (1) absurd on its face; and (2) equally absurd if one equates gun ownership with “free speech” — since free speech has never been absolute because of the constant conversation about how to balance it against other rights.

© Rhea Hirshman 2016

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