The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 22, 2012

Don Steese column: Freedom and gun control

By Don Steese
For The Daily Item

— I really didn’t want to write a column about this. I thought long and hard about it and in the end I came to the conclusion that I had to say something, no matter how simplistic and disjointed it may end up sounding.

With the tragic events that occurred just over a week ago came the usual responses from both sides of the gun control issue, one side calling for more gun control, the other wanting to arm teachers, pilots and who knows who else. The NRA says we should put armed guards in all our schools.

A few facts:

1. Our schools and other public buildings are just about as safe as they can reasonably be, short of solid steel doors and bars on all the windows.

2. Your chances of ever being personally affected by a horrible act such as the one in Sandy Hook are extremely remote.

3. In a country of 300 million people there are always going to be a few individuals intent on doing harm to innocent people. There is nothing you can do in a free society to guarantee that everyone will be 100 percent safe, 100 percent of the time.

My head nearly explodes every time I hear someone say “We’ve got to make sure nothing like this ever happens again!” That sounds great to a grieving nation, but it’s simply not possible in a free and open society.

We can take steps to lessen the frequency of these tragedies but we can never entirely eliminate them. Contrary to what we like to believe, not every problem has a sure-fire solution.

I also cringe every time I hear some public figure say “You don’t need a semi-automatic weapon to kill a deer!” That’s true — and it’s also irrelevant. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting, nor does it have anything to do with need. It simply guarantees the citizens the right to own firearms. Period. Whether you need them or not, whether you hunt or not, it doesn’t matter.

As a result of our national obsession to “do something” I think we’ll see a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. I don’t like assault weapons but that doesn’t mean I want to see them banned.

The ban didn’t work when we tried it before and it won’t work now, but at least we can say we’ve “done something.” We’ll probably also see a ban on high-capacity magazines. Even a gun-friendly guy like me could probably be persuaded that that’s a good idea. It probably won’t help given the number that are already out there but again we’ll feel like we’ve “done something.”

Here’s what I fear will end up happening. We pass more gun control, we make our schools virtual prisons, we resume institutionalizing mental patients, we give law enforcement more latitude to invade our privacy, parents try to over-protect their kids to the point where they’re afraid to leave their homes — and these tragic incidents continue to infrequently happen.

I am not a defeatist. There are things we can and probably should do but in a free society 100 percent safety is simply not possible, nor even desirable, considering how much freedom we’d have to give up to achieve it.

Freedom is not free — it comes with a price. I fear that we’re now in the process of determining just how much we’re really willing to pay.

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