The most cogent, thoughtful piece I've read on the significance of the widespread distribution of firearms in American society and its affects on our freedom and the quality of our democracy appears on the Opinion page of this morning's New York Times. I recommend this highly and have sent the link to a wide number of individuals, especially those I know who speak so intensely about the importance of guns to maintain our freedom. The full link is here:
The Freedom of an Armed Society
The author, FIRMIN DEBRABANDER, points out the essential fallacy of the "Guns=Freedom" argument in two ways. First, citing Hannah Arendt's "On Civilization," he shows how the possession of firearms in public places (or even the likely assumption that many would make in a heavily-armed society such as our own that those around them are likely to have guns) is first responsible for the creation of hierarchy and the dissolution of equality of citizens necessary for democracy to flourish. Furthermore this is also probably responsible for silencing individuals rather than enabling dialogue and discussion, the true and essential quality of a democratic society. As he says:
A favorite gun rights saying is “an armed society is a polite society.” If we allow ever more people to be armed, at any time, in any place, this will provide a powerful deterrent to potential criminals. Or if more citizens were armed — like principals and teachers in the classroom, for example — they could halt senseless shootings ahead of time, or at least early on, and save society a lot of heartache and bloodshed.
As ever more people are armed in public, however — even brandishing weapons on the street — this is no longer recognizable as a civil society. Freedom is vanished at that point.
Second, and perhaps more important, citing Michel Foucault, he discusses how the widespread possession and use of firearms contributes to the American mentality (sickness, I would say) of "rugged individualism." How it atomizes us into so many little islands of self-reliance and paranoia about the rest of us. This is the ideal formula for despots; to keep people fearful of and separate from each other. In other words, an armed population is antithetical to democracy, to freedom and to safety.
President's Obama's words last night in Newtown were stirring. Now, how about some action....from him, from our feckless representatives, but most of all from us.