Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Freedom vs. Safety

We all want to be safe. We want the military to keep us safe from terrorism; we want the police to keep us safe from criminals; we want the FBI to protect us from the mafia and other internal threats; we want the CIA to protect us from external threats.

We want to be able to go to the store or the library or school or our jobs and feel as if we’re not under imminent threat of attack from some maniac or group of maniacs who have it in their heads that we’re evil and need to be destroyed.

We want to be able to monitor those people who are plotting against us so we can prevent their attacks before they happen. We want to be able to prevent them from getting their hands on weapons that can kill us.

At the same time, we all want to be free. We want to be able to read what we want and say what we want without interference from the government. We want to be able to have a conversation without worrying about whether we’re being monitored by some creepy agency that’s purporting to keep us safe from terrorists.

Many of us want to be able to hunt or keep a gun for protection, and many of us don’t want our Second Amendment rights infringed by those who disagree with our positions. And many of us are afraid that if only the government has weapons, then we are at risk if some madman gets elected and decides to curtail our rights and freedoms. Sure, the odds of that happening are slim, but if we give up our guns, do those odds change?

We don’t want guns in the wrong hands, but we don’t necessarily trust the government to tell us if we’re worthy of carrying them. How intelligent, how sane, how stable must we be to be allowed to possess a gun? And who decides if we’re a threat?

Unfortunately, we can’t have both complete freedom and complete safety. We must sacrifice a little freedom to preserve our communal safety. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. How much freedom do we surrender? How much risk is acceptable? I don’t think we’re far from the ideal balance, but I don’t think we’re there yet either. On guns, I think we need a little more control – on speech, a little less.

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