The recent arguments over gun control have helped me understand how important it is to think beyond the moment, and at least a little bit into the future.
The most common argument in favor of gun control I hear from otherwise reasonable people is: ‘They’re only banning assault weapons. Let’s not overreact here.’
First of all, any weapon in the hands of an initiator of violence is—by definition—an assault weapon. And any weapon in the hands of a peaceful person only interested in self-defense is, by definition, a defense weapon.
Once you establish the principle the government gets to decide which weapons are ‘assault weapons,’ and are therefore illegal, is the minute government has eliminated the right to self-defense. Government’s job is not to categorize some weapons as acceptable and some as not. Government’s job is to restrain criminals—whether those criminals are prone to use knives, guns, or bombs.
The problem is that most people won’t think beyond the moment that ends with the completion of this sentence.
If they did, they would project abstract scenarios and think more in principle. They would not be so subject to what they’re told, and what they unthinkingly accept.
Once I make this point about gun control to more reasonable people, their comment is usually something like, ‘Well, you have a point. It is kind of a slippery slope.’
Also, you have to realize—when having such a debate—that we’re not only talking about guns. It’s like married couples having a fight. Married couples will sometimes fight ferociously over ridiculous things. These are things that they themselves consider ridiculous. Yet on the emotional level the fight seems important—highly important, in fact. Why is this?
Because the fight is not really over the trivial matter. The fight is actually over the principle one perceives or considers at stake. It’s not about, ‘You said you’d be here at 3 o’clock but you weren’t.’ It’s really about: ‘Can I trust your word? This happens a lot. Does your word matter? Do I matter to you?’
It’s the same with gun control. I’m shocked by how so many people assume that to be against gun control you must possess some sick fascination for guns. It’s not about that, at all. You can be against gun control and have no intention of ever owning a gun. That’s because the fight is not about guns! It’s about the principle at stake: The principle is the freedom to determine your own method of self-defense, should you ever need or want to do so. The principle is individual rights, the right to defend your most important right of all: life.
The same issue came up with Obamacare, and socialized medicine more generally. It’s not about whether Obama’s plan will create more paperwork. It will, but that’s not the point. The point is whether everyone has the freedom and responsibility to purchase health insurance on a free market, and whether doctors have a right to charge what the market will bear for their services, just like attorneys, accountants and other important professionals do. Even if you’re presently healthy, you should care about these things. Even if you’re not a doctor, you should care about these things. Anyone with the potential to be under the care of a doctor who’s either beat down by government monopolization and pay cuts, or a doctor free and responsible to be all that he or she can be—these are the issues that really matter, but are rarely discussed or identified.
It takes a little bit of thought to see the principle at stake in things. Principles are sometimes invisible, not in that they’re unreal—but in that they’re not so immediately obvious.
People’s willingness or refusal to think beyond the end of the noses on their faces, or beyond the conclusion of the next sentence they hear someone utter, is what makes all the difference in human life. If you refuse to think about the principles in your marital quarrel, then it will undermine your marriage and perhaps lead to its demise someday. Likewise, if you kid yourself that gun control or Obamacare don’t matter to you—because you don’t want to own a gun or don’t happen to need a doctor at the moment—then you’re perilously and tragically mistaken.
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