Does raw emotion necessarily deserve “respect?” Tears have been shed for the worst tyrants, and “raw emotion” has fueled some of the most nefarious causes in history. It’s more likely this particular display of emotion has impressed people because it’s a rebuke of those “cynical” gun nuts. After all, if you’re not acting as liberals prescribe on the issue, you are at best apathetic and at worst, willfully evil. The president, for example, pulled out this well-worn canard for use last week: “If there’s even one thing we can do, if there’s just one life we can save — we’ve got an obligation to try.”
No we don’t. Because, yes, shit happens. It happens all the time, and it can be terrible. Sometimes these terrible things involve children and, tragically, there’s often nothing we can do. A free society can’t function if its overriding purpose is to ensure that every single person enjoys a risk-free existence. If Obama legitimately believes government has an obligation to try and save every single life, he would be calling for a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit on highways and a ban on trampolines, bathtubs, and skateboards.
The world gives us plenty to cry about, but free people innately (or otherwise) understand trade-offs. We weigh rights, utility, and many other factors before coming to a consensus on policy decisions, even if lives are at risk. Naturally, this doesn’t exclude us from balancing those concerns and making life safer for children — we do it all the time. But progressive utopianism doesn’t offer that balance; it’s a perpetual mission creep. This reality fuels conservative skepticism of even modest liberal proposals. There will always be another life to save from an “assault rifle,” always another tragedy to politicize.