The Price of Freedom image

The Price of Freedom

The USA is once again reeling from a devastating mass shooting. The latest reports say that 59 people have died and 527 were injured during the Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Sunday night. We weep for our brothers and sisters across the pond, and pray for all those physically, emotionally and mentally wounded by the incident.

Of course, the shooting has reignited the perennial row about gun control, with most of the world looking on in bewilderment and asking why the US can’t see that the way to reduce gun crime is to reduce gun ownership.

I had the privilege of living in the US for a few years in the early 2000s, and through conversations with lovely, sane, normal, God-fearing believers who also owned guns, I was able to get something of a handle on the question.

One reason some of my friends owned guns was that in a world where a criminal breaking into your house is likely to be armed with one, they felt safer being able to confront him with something more menacing than a kitchen knife.

“But surely gun control laws would mean the guy breaking in wasn’t armed with a gun?”

“The criminals will get guns on the black market if they’re not available over the counter at WalMart. Gun control laws will only be followed by the law-abiding.”

Fair enough. But still, we say, look at the statistics! Look how many mass shootings there have been in the US compared to the UK (where presumably criminals are just as likely to be able to buy guns illegally). So why the refusal to shift?

The core issue, as far as I can make out, is that many Americans value their freedom so highly that they would prefer to keep their country as free as possible, even if it means there is a (considerably) higher risk of death. They are bitterly opposed to the idea of ‘the state’ telling them what they can and can’t do (and what they can and can’t own!). It is a deeply embedded core value of a nation that was built by people escaping religious and political oppression. It is, after all, ‘the land of the free’.

It is easy to criticise, to suggest that maybe they should get over themselves and back down on this one, but isn’t it just an example of the condition of all our hearts, albeit writ (very) large? From the beginning of human history we have been told, “If you eat the fruit, you will die”, and from Eve all the way down to today, we have been choosing freedom over restriction, sin over obedience, our choices over God’s laws, the risk of death over control from on high….

Judge not, lest you yourselves be judged.

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