Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guns. They're American for the Right of the People to Bear. Can't Take 'Em Away for Enfringement Purposes. Not Never.

Having read through opinions on both sides of today's ruling on gun control, it seems as though recent major decisions passed down by the high court fall in one of two major categories: hard paternalism or soft paternalism. Hard paternalism draws strict lines in the sand, believing that people cannot be trusted to make proper decision in their own behalf.

Soft Paternalism, also referred to as asymmetrical paternalism and libertarian paternalism, is a political philosophy that believes the state can “help you make the choices you would make for yourself—if only you had the strength of will and the sharpness of mind. But unlike 'hard' paternalists, who ban some things and mandate others, the softer kind aims only to skew your decisions, without infringing greatly on your freedom of choice.”[1] The term "libertarian paternalism" is intended to evoke the idea that soft paternalism is an approach to public policy that can be endorsed by libertarians because it does not abridge individual freedom, though most self-described libertarians are firmly opposed to it. Asymmetric paternalism refers to two asymmetries: the policies are designed to help irrational people who are not advancing their own interests while not interfering with the autonomy of those who are making rational, deliberate, decisions. It is also asymmetric in the sense that the policies are designed to be acceptable to those who believe that people behave rationally and to people who believe that people behave less than rationally.

McCain was quick to strike back at Obama's supposedly elitist assertion that people cling to their guns out of a spirit of bitterness. Truth be told, as powerless as people feel these days, I understand how those who feel chronically disenfranchised would covet any rights given to them out of a desire to feel as though they have control of something in their lives. As this country and this world swell in population, and laws become more and more restrictive as a means to desperately assert some kind of control, this kind of stubborn resistance is an understandable response for some.

But unlike McCain, I hardly believe that owning a gun should be equated with solemn reverence, as though many Americans bow their heads in prayer to thank the Lord for a good meal, the blessings that life has bestowed upon them, and the right to carry a deadly weapon. I fail to understand how gun ownership could in any way be some sacrosanct valued commodity. Guns are instruments of death and destruction, no matter how you spin it, and even in a socially acceptable construct, I see little reason to deify them.

Again I am reminded of just how much of a plurality society we are in this country--so many different ethnic groups, races, cultures, mores, and differing ways of life that it's a marvel we can ever agree on much of anything. Gun control works in countries or societies where there is far less of a climate of fear and kind of commonality between citizens the likes of which that have never existed here and likely will never exist on these shores.

Criminalizing firearms is not much of a solution since gun ownership and guns themselves have had such an overwhelming role in American society. Legislation alone cannot remove a culture of violence and a culture of self-reliance, of which gun ownership factors into quite neatly. Rail against the decision of the Supreme Court if you wish, but rest assured that in a society with so many disparate groups, getting everything we want is going to be close to impossible.

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