The Struggle between Freedom and Safety

The recent tragedy near Santa Barbara, California, where a lone gunman killed six innocent individuals, has ignited yet another firestorm of commentary regarding the growing divide between those who value our unalienable rights and those who place a value on public safety.  This constant struggle between both sides can often times leave more questions than answers.  Whose viewpoints are right?  Which takes precedence over the other?

The answer to that question lies at the very bedrock of who we are as a society, and ultimately, who we want to be.  A middle-ground between both sides is necessary if any action is ever to be successful.  On the one side, our right to bear arms, found in the Second Amendment to our Constitution, should be valued and respected.  It would be irresponsible to assume that this right, or any of our other rights found in the Constitution, is vulnerable to attacks on its viability every time an event occurs which draws light on its existence.

At the same time, our need to feel safe in public is essential to the growth and sustainability of our way of life.  Can you imagine a society where people are afraid to go outside?  It is closer than one might think.  Just reflect for a moment on our way of life shortly after 9/11.  Feeling safe in public should not be mitigated by an overzealous need to enjoy a fundamental right, if for no other reason, than just to enjoy it. 

It is a difficult discussion to have.  Seeing the face of the parents after a senseless act such as the one in California leaves one exasperated with our inability as a nation to rectify a problem which continues to plague our society.  Do we have a responsibility to all those we have lost to make a valiant effort to effect change which bridges the gap in ideologies mentioned above?  I believe that we do.  What kind of change would bridge this gap? 

Those who value our Second Amendment right to bear arms are entrenched in the notion that our Founding Fathers had the foresight to envision what our society would look like generations later.  We now know, more than ever, that our Founding Fathers could not have envisioned the drastic evolution we have experienced in our country’s short existence.  As Supreme Court Justice Holmes so eloquently stated, “When we are dealing with words that also are a constituent act, like the Constitution of the United States, we must realize that they have called into life a being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters…The case before us must be considered in the light of our whole experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago.”  Keep in mind, this was written in an opinion in Missouri v. Holland back in 1920!

Those who value the importance of public safety hold steadfast to the notion that stricter gun laws would greatly reduce the number of these horrific tragedies.  While this notion might carry some validity, it must also be stated that evildoers will always find ways to inflict the type of carnage envisioned in their twisted psyche.  As was the case in the California massacre, three of the six innocent lives lost where killed with a knife.  Stricter gun laws would not have prevented their deaths. 

There is no question that as a society, we need to come together to address these issues.  Finding the right balance between protecting the freedoms we enjoy in our Constitution and the inherent freedoms we have a right to enjoy, while difficult, will be indispensable in our quest to find compromise on an issue which seems so vastly divided.  Only when we can come together and respect opposing viewpoints while searching for a viable solution can we finally see action which will hopefully enhance our way of life.