I believe in the right to own a gun. As a conservative, I believe in a right to be able to defend myself and my home, and I believe that right is all the more necessary in today’s America. As a skeptic, I doubt that an outright ban on firearms would accomplish much more than to disarm the law-abiding people who we don’t have to worry about in the first place. And as a freedom loving person, while I certainly don’t believe in armed insurrection, I do confess discomfort with the idea of a world where the government controls all the weapons.
But I can’t avoid how I feel right now in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut. I feel angry. I don’t remember feeling this way after Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or the Aurora Colorado movie theatre shootings. I remember being sad and dejected, but not angry.
When tragedies happen, it’s natural to look to somebody to blame, and groups like the N.R.A. are always the first and easiest targets. I’ve defended them in the past. After all, you don’t see N.R.A. members committing massacres. That’s because, in addition to being obsessed about guns, they’re also obsessed with gun safety and education to ensure that guns are used in a responsible way, so that the right to own them is not compromised.
But in their seemingly reflexive opposition to even the most reasonable and common sense regulations, they fail to consider that maybe America as a whole is simply not capable of responsible gun ownership within the framework of the current regulatory scheme. Or perhaps I should say, “no longer capable.”
Conservatives receive a lot of criticism for wanting to “take us back to the 1950’s.” That might not be a bad idea. I’m not talking about rolling back civil rights, or technological advances. I’m simply stating the obvious, which is that a lot of the problems we have today didn’t exist back then. Families were intact. Drug use was comparatively rare. Cities were livable. Violent crime was a fraction of what it is today. Schools didn’t get shot up.
But then we rejected everything that was right about America. We rejected the God-fearing, hard working, family-oriented social mores of the older generation as being at best hopelessly anachronistic, and at worst outright oppressive. We traded God for secularism. We traded love for sex. We traded sobriety for drugs. We traded order for chaos. We traded discipline for indulgence. We traded modesty for promiscuity. We traded parents for absentee fathers and baby mommas. We traded children for abortions. We traded moderation for excess. We traded home life for careers. We traded role models for celebrities. We traded solidarity for grievances. We traded music for death rock and gangsta rap. We traded wholesome entertainment for violent and pornographic movies, television, and videogames. We traded a culture which had made us great for a self-indulgent counterculture designed to destroy. We traded everything that was right and good and holy for everything that is wrong and evil and depraved.
See, the problem in America is not the occasional mass shooting. That’s just a symptom, the most salient manifestation of a culture that has become entirely debauched. We don’t treat each other humanely because we don’t see each other as humans, our selfish, sex and violence-obsessed culture having conditioned us to see others as nothing more than targets of, and obstacles to our own gratification.
I don’t like the idea of trading liberty for safety. I don’t want to empower the government to regulate speech in the name of sanitizing the media, or to tap my phone, or read my email, or effect any other kind of warrantless searches in the name of keeping us safe. And I don’t want to forfeit my right to own a gun. I’m not advocating that we do any of that. But if we don’t address our comprehensive cultural decay and do so now, and demonstrate that as a nation we will not abuse the freedoms that we have been given, then all of those liberties will be in jeopardy. We saw an inkling of this impetus after 9-11. We’ll see more of it soon. Unless, that is, we begin to recognize where we went wrong and work to rebuild what we were once so eager to destroy. And if we do that, we’ll not only preserve our liberties, we’ll solve a lot of other problems along the way.