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In a Free Society

January 10, 2011

In reaction to Saturday’s shooting in Tucson AZ, Obama made a statement that included these words:

[…] an unspeakable tragedy … a senseless and terrible act of violence that has no place in a free society.

The French Cowboy fully agrees with the first part, but the second part made me stop. It is precisely because the USA is a free society that such things can happen. If a horrific event like this is to be fully prevented, one couldn’t have members of Congress meet with their constituencies. One couldn’t have assemblies of any sort without screening everyone like we already do when they’re boarding a plane. We would have to suspect everyone of us to be as unstable as Jared Loughner. Making horrors like the Tucson shooting impossible is incompatible with a free society, not the shooting itself.

There are at least four possibilities for what Obama was trying to say:

1) He means: If we have too many of such shootings our society will no longer be free because of the ripple effects.

2) It’s a warning for all potential shooters: “If you do more of these attacks, then I’ll make sure you won’t live in a free society.”

3) It hints towards the need to prohibit firearms for private persons. “We cannot have a free society when people can carry guns legally.”

4) We’ll only be free once no one can go on a shooting rampage like this one.

Possibility 1 is unlikely because it’s trivial and far removed from the problem at hand. Of course, in theory, if such shootings took place often enough it would make a free society impossible. But, thank God, for now this is a theoretical problem. (Although, one wonders how many Mumbai style attacks an otherwise healthy society can endure.)

2 would be silly, such a “warning” wouldn’t be effective. 3 would be possible if Obama were completely obsessed with policy implications — as he might. But even then he’d know that if someone really wants to run amok, it won’t be a law against carrying a weapon that will hinder them.

4 would be ominous. Would we want the President to imply that a free society is one in which people are restrained to the point that the possibility of such an attack is non-existent? If 4 is what Obama had in mind then let’s hope that, at least, it was only in the sense of 3.

Ed Morrissey highlights a man who has a clearer understanding of what this shooting means to the USA. And he has the best of all reasons to spit on anything that has allowed things to happen as they did:

If you want to see heartbreaking grace and tremendous courage in the face of unspeakable tragedy, you don’t want to miss this segment from the Today show this morning with John Green, the father of the 9-year-old victim of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Christina Green was born on 9/11 and died in another act of nationally-covered violence, which her father says are “bookends” to her joyful life. Instead of lashing out, which would be entirely understandable for a heartbroken father, John instead offers us an amazing example of poise and perspective that puts many to shame[.]

At the end of the video that you can watch if you follow the link, you can listen to Christina’s father saying that, while those things shouldn’t happen, the attack that killed his daughter is the price of a free society which he prefers to the alternative. I hope that President Obama agrees.

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