This post on conceptions of security and liberty can be found at PolicyMic.
First, my thoughts are with those who lost loved ones yesterday in Connecticut. No words I write should be construed as to detract from the enormous pain these families must bear. I also wish to post to not be thought of as 'politicizing the issue,' as I hope only to raise relevant questions.
In the wake of 9/11, many Americans felt understandably vulnerable. One solution was presented in the USA PATRIOT Act and governmental actions of domestic surveillance. Few progressive voices (very few in Congress) decried this legislation in particular as eroding fundamental rights in favor of a raised sense of security. The right of privacy, they argued, can be inferred in the Fourth Amendment. Over the next decade progressive proudly proclaimed that 'those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' The conservative response was that without life, liberty itself is useless, and that the 'smoking gun' of another terrorist attack would be in the form of a mushroom cloud.
The security argument prevailed over the liberty argument here.
In the wake of the various shootings across the country this past summer, many Americans feel understandably vulnerable. One solution presented by a few progressive (very few in Congress) is to increase restrictions on gun ownership, as most of the guns used were legally purchased. The right to bear arms, conservatives have countered, is explicitly mentioned in the Second Amendment. Conservatives might further contend that 'those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Progressives might respond that the 'smoking gun' but be another mass shooting of innocent Americans.
I am not trying to suggest that these situations are perfectly analogous. I am only hoping to draw out that they both boil down to arguments of liberty and security. How one sees the issue beyond that may be a product of political leanings, emotional bias, or legitimate fundamental differences in the cases presented. The dialogue we have as a society should not be narrowly construed as gun rights or national security, but a deeper question of what are our fundamental rights and under what circumstances, if any, is it acceptable to derogate from them.
In Plato’s Apology Socrates shows us that we must remain humble. As such I don’t propose that I’m wise enough to know any answers. I can only ask the questions.
May peace be upon you and your family.