What Price Liberty?

 

On Friday night, ABC broadcast the “Your Biggest Fan” segment on 20/20. This episode recounts the stalking death of actress Rebecca Schaefer who was gunned down by Robert John Bardo. Bardo was clearly deranged in his obsession, but nonetheless legally competent to be tried and convicted of first-degree murder. The broadcast recounted events that occurred nearly 30 years ago. But as a society, we continue to struggle with how to balance one person’s liberty with another person’s safety.

The two-hour episode basically has three parts: Part I is the retelling of Rebecca’s life and journey to stardom. She was fresh and beautiful. Her entry into Hollywood and her short career was nothing short of magical. Part II is the attack, death, investigation, trial, and punishment. Part III is the broader societal consequences through the passage of stalking laws and the continuing debate over “sane” gun control. (Bardo was recognized by the gun seller as mentally unfit and turned away. Bardo persuaded his brother to go into the store and purchase the handgun for him.)

The Achilles’ Heel of the 2nd Amendment and for any other unalienable right is the use of that right to harm others. It is understandable that when anyone comes to harm, particularly if they die, and in retrospect that death seemed preventable, the immediate reaction is “There ought to be a law!” And there is the concept that you can’t form a crowd under the right of assembly to riot and smash other people’s property. You can’t have a religious practice involving human sacrifice. You can’t use your speech to intentionally and knowingly lie about someone else with intent to harm them. And you can’t use a firearm to murder someone. Each of these actions involves protected activity turned to an unlawful purpose.

If you stop free association, religious practice, or speech to assure that these unalienable rights are never used to commit an unlawful act, most people see the problem of prior restraint on personal liberty. But many, too many, have no problem with expansive prior restraint on gun ownership and possession. Why is that? How do people differentiate effective self-defense from assembly, religion, and speech?

It is a conundrum. Is it because people feel safer with better societal availability of policing and security forces? Gun sales suggest otherwise. (“When seconds count the police are only minutes away.”) Is it because guns are the leading cause of death? They aren’t. (Murder doesn’t make even the top 10, much less murder by gun. Accidental gun deaths are even lower. Suicide is #9 but isn’t exclusively as a result of a gun.) Is it because the consequences of the unlawful acts involving the exercise of a protected right are so dire compared to other misused rights? Tell that to the victims of Jonestown, Rwanda, Cambodia, China, Russia, etc., who were led to their deaths by an idea.

Truth be told, all liberty is under assault and always has been. There is both a blessing and a curse with liberty. It is the human condition. The level of gun control is a measure of a society’s hubris over the ability to achieve perfection. Nevertheless, gun ownership and possession seem to be the most disfavored right amongst all liberties. Why is that?

My conclusion is that it is at the junction of three things: (1) The government’s fundamental desire to hold a monopoly on lethal force as the best means of securing its power over the people, (2) the impulse to power through holding the levers of government by persons who are, simply stated, “power hungry,” and (3) the sheer number of individuals who have lost confidence in their own ability to live a risk-balanced life either through life circumstances that have made them feel or be vulnerable or the education they have endured by the power hungry to make them dependent on the state. Success in politics too often results from de-linking our reasoning process from policy-making. No wonder perfection is beyond our reach.

And thus I return to the tragedy of Rebecca Schaefer chronicled on 20/20. There were many contributing factors to her death, one or two things done differently would have secured a different outcome. But we focus on the ability of a deranged man to get a gun. Never mind that another event chronicled in the same episode — that of Theresa Saldana — involved a knife. And that other killings involve cars, blunt objects, poison, and bombs. The gun remains the principle villain.

It is the heart and not the hand; it is the mind and not the method. Until we can cure the heart and the mind, we cannot secure our society completely. And if we give government control of our hearts and minds, we will not have a society worthy of securing.

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There are 9 comments.

  1. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Rodin: It is the heart and not the hand, it is the mind and not the method. Until we can cure the heart and the mind we cannot secure our society completely. And if we give government control of our hearts and minds we will not have a society worthy of securing.

    This sums up your very thoughtful post, @rodin. We are prepared to forfeit so much when we don’t think things through, when we feel threatened, and when we compulsively seek solutions. The combination always leads to ineffective and dangerous outcomes. Good post!

    • #1
    • April 13, 2019, at 4:32 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Kay of MT Member

    Such a sad, sad incident. Hard to understand how her parents can bear it.

    • #2
    • April 13, 2019, at 5:17 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Rodin Member
    Rodin Post author

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    Such a sad, sad incident. Hard to understand how her parents can bear it.

    Yes. The father was interviewed for the program and continues to be devastated. The mother did not agree to be interviewed but they included a clip of her performing a one-woman play she created and produced describing how she processed her experience. 

    • #3
    • April 13, 2019, at 5:51 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    Rodin: The gun remains the principle villain.

    Bad guys with guns are generally faced down by good guys with guns. Gun control enthusiasts know this, as they support the police and other authorities carrying guns. What people can’t seem to come to grips with, emotionally, is that the police cannot protect them. They want to be protected from bad guys by someone else. It can’t be just anyone else, though, as that would imply they could do it themselves. And failing to defend oneself when one could have is instinctively recognized by our primitive brains as a form of cowardice. Resistance to the idea of armed self-defense is therefore, at its core, a projection of one’s own cowardice. It’s not an accident that gun control advocacy is always accompanied by restrictions on the right to defend oneself, particularly in the form of a “duty to retreat” in various situations.

    I will grant that there are statist true believers who make similar arguments, but are motivated by the need to disarm the general public in order to impose their particular flavor of tyranny. For them, gun control is all about confining tools of violence to themselves and their allies.

    • #4
    • April 13, 2019, at 6:51 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. Rodin Member
    Rodin Post author

    A report from Fox News highlights some important developments: Colorado enacts ‘red flag’ law to seize guns from those deemed dangerous, prompting backlash. This law is disturbing principally in the burden of proof aspect: The petitioner for removal of a gun from a person need only show “by a preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. just over a 50-50 probability) that a person should not possess a gun, while the individual who has had his/her right removed must show by “clear and convincing evidence” ( ~2/3 or better) that his/her rights should be restored. Under G-d’s great heaven what makes it appropriate that it should be harder to get an “unalienable” right back as opposed to having it taken away!

    Granted, the Aurora theatre shooting was horrible. Many families are hurting. But so, too, are the families who suffer loss in innumerable other ways. Declaring a jihad on unalienable rights is not the answer.

    • #5
    • April 14, 2019, at 9:46 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Rodin (View Comment):

    A report from Fox News highlights some important developments: Colorado enacts ‘red flag’ law to seize guns from those deemed dangerous, prompting backlash. This law is disturbing principally in the burden of proof aspect: The petitioner for removal of a gun from a person need only show “by a preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. just over a 50-50 probability) that a person should not possess a gun, while the individual who has had his/her right removed must show by “clear and convincing evidence” ( ~2/3 or better) that his/her rights should be restored. Under G-d’s great heaven what makes it appropriate that it should be harder to get an “unalienable” right back as opposed to having it taken away!

    Granted, the Aurora theatre shooting was horrible. Many families are hurting. But so, too, are the families who suffer loss in innumerable other ways. Declaring a jihad on unalienable rights is not the answer.

    I also like the sheriff’s comment in response to the law:

    Responding in part to Sullivan’s remarks, van Beek emphasized his own county’s work on establishing partnerships to combat mental illness, which he characterized as a practical solution.

    • #6
    • April 14, 2019, at 10:06 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Stad Thatcher

    Rodin: And there is the concept that you can’t form a crowd under the right of assembly to riot and smash other people’s property.

    Unless the crowd is composed of leftists and the people in charge tell the police to “stand down”.

    Some privacy laws were passed as a result of Schaefer’s murder, but those laws have been rendered useless by the internet. I suggest everyone search his own name (“John Smith Home State”) and see what you come up with. I got the names of everyone in my household, approximate ages (exact in a couple of places), and I’ve already discussed the Federal employee database which lists salary by name.

    I also suggest the book Your Secrets Are My Business by Kevin McKeown. If you want to know just how much info a dedicated researcher can uncover about you these days, read it and be scared.

    • #7
    • April 15, 2019, at 5:27 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. I Walton Member

    It’s very simple. Criminals will have guns. I’m in Colombia right now where guns are prohibited. They didn’t used to be. Now poor criminals have to rent them, but most criminals own them and use them all the time as it’s one of the world’s murder capitals and of course the guerrillas have them in abundance and are back in full force. Why is the anti gun meme not seen as obvious nonsense? Guns aren’t the left’s agenda, it’s power always is, always has been, always will be. Colombians are highly influenced by US fads and press coverage on US stories comes from the US press and Television. So Colombia gets a lot right, but is constantly led by the American left about the US so they get everything about the things the left cares about about wrong. We underestimate the damage the US left inflicts on the rest of the world.

    • #8
    • April 15, 2019, at 6:40 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Stad Thatcher

    I Walton (View Comment):
    Guns aren’t the left’s agenda, it’s power always is, always has been, always will be.

    Yep. Power and domination, and weaponless people are the easiest to dominate – whether by guerillas or leftist politicians . . .

    • #9
    • April 15, 2019, at 7:12 AM PDT
    • 4 likes