You don’t give kids a lot of freedom. Kids are too impressionable and vulnerable for freedom. You don’t give a 7-year-old the right to buy alcohol, get married, or drive their bike too far from the neighborhood (let alone drive a car) because the consequences, it seems, would be catastrophic. Kids need security and guidance more than they need liberty. Eventually, though, children reach a new plane of consciousness and their parents begin to loosen their grip. 18 and 21 seem to be the magical hallmarks in the United States, the day one becomes autonomous and free.
“We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teacher leave us kids alone
Hey! Teacher! Leave us kids alone!”
Pink Floyd, “The Wall”
I’m 29. I’ve been free from my parents oversight for a decent amount of time now and as I get older and older, I keep becoming more and more aware of my new parents. The Government. When I was sixteen and my parents suspected I was on drugs and they went through my things without asking, I guess, they had the right to do so. But does that right extent to the government wiretapping me without a warrant if they think I’m up to no good? Yeah, if I lived under my parents roof and was fifteen and they didn’t want me dating another guy, that’s fine too. But can the government really tell me who I can fall in love with? Or make it illegal to open your window in New York City?
Having your new parents looking over your shoulder at times is rather nice. Sometimes this powerful parental authority actually acts more like a big brother or sister, or just helpful collaborative partner ensuring common interest. When you want to install a pool in your backyard and the State doesn’t give you a permit because it might damage underground electrical wires; you should be damn grateful. If you find your house being robbed, you can call 911, and because you pay your taxes they can use legitimate force to protect you and your loved ones. From the Civil Rights movement to NASA to food stamps to road infrastructure; the citizens are looked after. They help make us a great society.
“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I don’t want my six-year-old nephew near a gun or knife. Forget the fact his motor skills aren’t refined enough. He also isn’t just socially mature enough to grasp the potential power of these technologies. God forbid, my nephew finds this weapon on my watch and kills himself. Who is to blame? Clearly, I am.
“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” ~ Frederick Douglas
A popular website proclaims: “Fuck you, NRA. You guys are fucking murderers… You’re the reason 27 people (and counting) died today. Don’t forget it.” Like myself in the imaginary scenario with my nephew, the murder isn’t blamed. Nor is the person who failed to lock up their weapons properly. Rather, the person who granted the freedom for people to own weapons is blamed. The website scolds the NRA like they’re a bad parent who let their kids drink alcohol and did something awful because they were not mature enough yet to have the responsibility, freedom, and privilege to do so. We’re children! You’re stupid to trust us with this freedom and are to blame for whatever happend!
Perhaps assault rifles (or all guns) should be banned; it does seem the United States would be safer if they were. Perhaps though there is more at stake than just safety. Perhaps what is at stake in all these debates is not an issue of safety, but instead, an issue of if we as a nation are mature enough deal with more and more freedom and naturally more and more responsibilities? Perhaps we outlaw guns, marijuana, and maybe even raise the age to get a driver’s licence to 21 (since teen driving kills more kids than guns), but at what long term cost? Do we really want to give up the title of the “leader of the free world” for “leader of the safe world?” Or do we really want to accomplish the objective of safety by eliminating freedoms instead of just acting responsibly? I don’t believe there are any easy answers to these questions, only compromises.