Over-legislating the daily lives of citizens ruins our chance for civil discourse.
In our culture’s odd obsession with legislating our way to complete safety and a risk-free existence, we have a history of legislatively overreacting to rare tragedies. And in instances where action is warranted, we have a history of picking the easiest path (without much thoughtful reluctance) instead of the most effective one – because the effective path may be longer, more complex, more nuanced, and more difficult to execute.
But our legislative failings aren’t limited to our aspirations of Utopian risk management, unfortunately they also extend to our disapproval of the choices made by people with different hopes, desires, beliefs and lifestyles than the rest of us. People who think they know what’s best for the rest of us abuse home owners’ associations, and local, state, and federal government in an effort to force the people around them to make the “right” decisions. As a result of these nanny efforts, a person in the “the land of the free” can lose many seemingly basic rights and freedoms, including the right to own the dog they want, paint their swing set purple, drink a large soda, text and walk, or even buy a sex toy.
It is in this environment that we claim we want to have a “rational” discussion about something as important and controversial as gun laws; and it is this environment that concerns rational and reasonable gun owners and empowers an extreme opposition to any and all gun laws. Gun rights supporters are understandably paranoid of the slippery slope that could follow any suggested regulations. No matter what the other side says about only wanting rational regulation and no matter how many times they say (realistically and practically), “no one is trying to take your guns,” our history of action, or more importantly reaction, and of rampant prohibitions, suggest that regulation will, in fact, not stop there.
Looking at the gun issue through the lens of a pit bull owner, even one of the more ridiculous steps taken “in defense of gun rights” makes at least some sense. Over the last few decades, several studies have been undertaken to try to understand the factors involved in serious and fatal dog attacks. In most or all of those studies is language specifically and expressly explaining the limitations of the methods and data and why that information should not be used to make breed-specific conclusions. Yet those exact studies are cited in support of breed specific legislation time and again by anti-pit bull zealots and the lazy and opportunistic politicians and journalists who fall for their tripe. So, as perplexing as I have found the federal ban on funding the study of gun violence, and as much as I am generally opposed to any limitations on research and learning – in this case – I at least understand.
Maybe if we could stop banning and regulating the lives and simple choices of our neighbors that have no impact on public health or safety, when we do need to have a long, complex, and difficult discussion between opposing sides, such as in the gun issue, people would be more willing to come to the table with a sense of trust; a trust that limiting unbridled and unregulated freedoms could at least be discussed, studied, and evaluated for the safety of everyone and that any possible compromise would not start an unchecked erosion of those rights.
Gun enthusiasts are very fortunate with the current interpretation of the Second Amendment. If the rest of us were so lucky to have a constitutional amendment specific to protecting other basic rights – like the right to own the breed of dog we choose – then maybe we wouldn’t be willing to surrender any ground either. They’d have to pry it from our cold dead hands.
FN1: This article does not take a stance for or against gun control. If you reached that conclusion, please read again.
FN2: The constitution does protect our right to own breeds we choose, as dogs are considered property. Without an express amendment protecting our right to keep our dogs that have done no wrong, then the door is open for junk science, public hysteria and any of the many excuses put forth to take that right “in the name of public safety.” Even though science and the broad expert consensus it supports have shown us the way a dog looks has nothing to do with public safety, without the protection of a specific amendment, we will be forced to continue to make the case for what should be a basic, fundamental, no-brainer right in the “land of the free.”