As voices weigh in on the NRA’s proposal to put armed officers into every school in the U.S., it’s been a fascinating exercise to see who comes out for, who’s against the plan. In some cases the usual suspects have taken the usual stands but, in others, there have been some surprises. Depending on how one assesses the worldview of an avowed “libertarian” (albeit a Republican one), Ron Paul’s decision will either be a revelation or as predictable as rain.
Ron Paul (R-TX) is decidedly against the plan.
According to a statement he posted on his website titled, Government Security is Just Another Kind of Violence, Paul is not only against, he sees the plan as “Orwellian” in scope:
“School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America…Do we really want to live in a world of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, X-ray scanners and warrantless physical searches? We see this culture in our airports: witness the shabby spectacle of once proud, happy Americans shuffling through long lines while uniformed TSA agents bark orders. This is the world of government provided ‘security,’ a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse.”
Noteworthy about his statement is that he is the first Republican to come out against the proposal put forth by NRA CEO, Wayne LaPierre, whose take-away line following his announcement has become somewhat of a meme: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Paul struck back with the vociferousness of someone who sees the notion of staffing schools with armed guards as further mission creep into our civil liberties. Without offering any solutions of his own, however, he was equally scathing in his response to the Democrat’s push for stronger gun controls, calling it “understandable but misguided.” True to his libertarian roots but keeping with his Republican affiliation, he does not see government or federal legislation as the answer to the problem on either side of the spectrum.
“While I certainly agree that more guns equals less crime and that private gun ownership prevents many shootings, I don’t agree that conservatives and libertarians should view government legislation, especially at the federal level, as the solution to violence. Real change can happen only when we commit ourselves to rebuilding civil society in America, meaning a society based on family, religion, civic and social institutions, and peaceful cooperation through markets. We cannot reverse decades of moral and intellectual decline by snapping our fingers and passing laws.”
While it’s not hard to agree with his suggestion that civil society needs rebuilding, his lack of details or specifics as to how to achieve that in an expeditious and meaningful way leaves the idea dangling in the realm of the intangible. In a country reeling after a slew of mass shootings that seem to have no end (160 gun homicides just since the Newtown murders; Source), there is an urgency for action felt by most that Paul seems to be dismiss. Certainly one can hope our country – with the help of parents, teachers, political leaders, church leaders and others – can actively guide our citizens toward a cultural shift that embraces the higher ideals and sense of civic empathy and concern he speaks to. Hopefully this would lead to a healthier and less violent society. But those kinds of seismic shifts do not happen overnight and at the rate of current gun death statistics, far too many innocent people will be murdered in the meantime. That is not acceptable.
One can respect Ron Paul for stepping away from the talking points of his party to take an independent stand on the issue presented by the NRA, but perhaps more helpful would be a response that offers tangible steps, immediate action to, first, remove the plethora of military weapons and ammunition from stores and gun shows; and, second, to work with others in government and the private sector to construct specific, workable programs and policies that educate and enlighten a culture steeped in gun lore. At this point, no specific solution has been stated. Instead, he concludes with:
“Our freedoms as Americans preceded gun control laws, the TSA, or the Department of Homeland Security. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference, not by safety. It is easy to clamor for government security when terrible things happen; but liberty is given true meaning when we support it without exception, and we will be safer for it.”
Noble sentiment, Mr. Paul, but not all government “interference” is created equal. At times, government is exactly the place to start. Rather than dismiss its power, let’s use government to actively do some good and make necessary changes rather than abdicate responsibility to unnamed others and ideals. The lives of those who elected you and your fellow Congressmen are at stake.
[To read Senator Paul's full statement, click here.]