Sunday, December 6, 2015

Freedom from Fear -- the need for gun reform is evident

Americans are ready for better gun laws

Freedom from Fear
Norman Rockwell, via Wikipedia
In January of 1941, eleven months prior to the bombing on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union speech, which later became known as the “Four Freedoms” speech.

The importance of this speech cannot be underscored. It influenced the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and continues to be a source of inspiration for those fighting oppression across the globe.

These rights include: the freedom of worship; the freedom of speech; the freedom from want; and the freedom from fear. Each of these rights, Roosevelt declared, were to be recognized globally, and not just in the United States.

The last freedom Roosevelt expressed -- the freedom from fear -- is especially important today, in light of the rise of mass shootings across the country in recent years.

Roosevelt was referring to international fears when he made his speech in 1941:
The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.
In national terms, however, it could be argued that Roosevelt would have advocated for a reduction of arms in the U.S. itself, including curtailing related loopholes in gun laws. Indeed, before the Four Freedoms speech was ever given, Roosevelt had advocated for a registration and taxation on all guns in the nation.

It was clear that Americans also understood this fourth freedom to include domestic concerns as well. Eleanor Roosevelt, who took up the cause of pushing the Four Freedoms after her husband’s death, explained (emphases in bold mine):
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
We live in fearful times. Ask any American about the world around them today -- from the international stage to their own community -- and they’ll likely mention some aspect of fear influencing their daily lives.

At least one aspect of this fear lies in the growth of violent mass shootings. From San Bernardino to Newtown, Americans across the country are fearful that their community could be next.

Roosevelt spoke of the Four Freedoms as a goal that was attainable to his generation: “[It] is no vision of a distant millennium,” he said.

We have it in our power to alleviate these fears we live with in our lifetimes also. The need to do so is dire, so let’s do so without delay.

Let’s get rid of the gun-show loophole that allows purchasers to buy guns without a background check.

Let’s make certain weapons and accessories impossible -- or at least more difficult -- to attain.

Let’s keep individuals on the terrorist watch list from being able to purchase tools of destruction, including guns.

These are not solutions that will end violence completely in this country. But they would be a great start at reducing the number of violent and senseless attacks that we’ve become too complacent with seeing on a regular basis.

We put a man on the moon. Surely we can stave off violent mass shootings. Many Americans are already willing to advocate for stricter gun laws that retain the rights to purchase weapons. The two are not mutually exclusive.

The push for reform won't be easy, but it’s not impossible either. Once we envision an attainable outcome, all that’s left is to make it happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment