After the violence in South Carolina yesterday, the President wasted no time before leaping into action, stepping up to the podium and lecturing us all about how flawed the nation’s gun control laws are. (After which, he wasted no time in flying out to a couple of fundraisers on the west coast.) Ed highlighted a few of the problems with Obama’s analysis, and while I agree with him in the broad strokes, I do feel a need to take exception with at least part of what he said.
The problem with this argument is that the solution hinted at here by Obama doesn’t work either. The UK saw gun violence skyrocket in the first decade of the century despite having some of the toughest gun-control laws in the West, while the Left governed Great Britain no less. In Copenhagen, another radical Islamist shot up a meeting at a cafe, killing two and wounding five police officers. The 2011 massacre in Norway was conducted by a man who obtained his weapons legally in a nation that requires a license to own firearms.
All true. But none of that addresses the real issue. While Ed is correct that shootings do happen in these other nations where citizens enjoy far more limited (and in the case of Great Britain, nearly extinct) gun rights, there are many more such shootings in the United States. Conversely, there are fewer mass shootings in all of the nations Ed mentioned in his column. This would, on the surface, lend some credence to what the President was saying. But the lesson we can take from all of this shifts a bit if you consider that there’s much less of other things in those nations as well.
You are less likely to hear things which might offend you in Merry Ole’ England. The reason is that while the government in Britain has traditionally been known for being admirably tolerant in terms of speech, it’s not assured on a fundamental level. And when the authorities decide that you’ve had enough free speech, then you’ve had enough. People have been investigated by the police for a Twitter hashtag criticizing Muslims. They’ve been imprisoned for months for making “racially insensitive” comments on Twitter. But hey… that lack of rights is keeping you safe, citizens.
But at least the Brits have freedom of religion, right? Wasn’t that in the Magna Carta somewhere? Sure. Unless you’re too politically incorrect, such as was the case with the Muslim girl who converted to Christianity from Islam and was then removed from the home of her caregiver by the government after she chose to be baptized. Well… religion can’t always be free I suppose.
The point here is, all of that takes place in Great Britain, one of our strongest allies and the one who shares a “special relationship” with us. But what they don’t share is freedom, at least the way we understand it from the Bill of Rights. I could go into other examples in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere, but let’s swing a bit further afield. Clearly Ed was correct in saying that the lack of a Right to Keep and Bear Arms hasn’t curtailed all mass shootings in those nations, but I know some places where they’ve ended such problems almost entirely. Do you hear about any mass shootings in North Korea or Iran which aren’t conducted by the government? No. You do not. Problem solved!
Of course fundamentalist, oppressive police states take the cases in Britain, France and other European nations to a rather abrupt extreme. Speech which goes so far as to question the actions of the government or the state religion (if there is one) can land you in jail, if not a vat of acid or a grave. Worshiping, or even talking about the “wrong” religion to other citizens can see you strapped to a pylon and lashed to the point of being crippled, if not dead.
There are a couple of other things you don’t find in the aforementioned countries, by the way, but you do find in America. Let’s take a peek at just a couple of examples. A female store clerk being forced behind a counter by an armed robber was saved when a carrying friend shot the intruder dead. In another recent case, a female cancer survivor had her home invaded by five armed men. Rather than just being robbed, raped or killed, she won a shootout with them and saved her own life. Hundreds of these stories take place every year in America, though the press is loath to discuss them. But, as I said previously, these stories don’t happen in places without the rights we enjoy.
So, yes. The President was correct. “This does not happen in other advanced countries” the same way it does in America. It happens even less in the most oppressive dictatorships. And lots of other things which most of us consider part and parcel of our most sacred rights don’t happen in those countries either. It’s up to us to decide what we value more.