Vol 12, Issue 11
The immediate, visceral reactions I felt upon hearing of the recent deadly Vegas mass shooting included shock, anger and sadness. And yet, in spite of the horror; a singular, positive spark – as an Australian, I felt grateful.
Grateful, because we live in a country where within 12 days of our deadliest mass shooting in 1996 our government passed heavy restrictions on semi-automatic and automatic weapons. Grateful, because when you and I heard the news about Vegas, we didn’t feel the fear that we, too, are especially likely to be a statistic in a mass shooting like that. Grateful, that in our country, a misunderstood Second Amendment isn’t trotted out to re-ignite the same lazy debate over and over again, causing no change, until the next shooting. Jim Jefferies has expressed it better than I ever could – if they didn’t tighten things up after Sandy Hook; will they ever?
We live in an era where any major newsworthy event results in not just reporting but a flurry of click-bait think-pieces demanding that you pick a side (tribe). Look at Hugh Hefner’s death; you need to make a decision on whether you think he was a “oppressor” or a “liberator”. On the Vegas shooting, you have to have a view on whether we should call the perpetrator a “terrorist”, or a “lone wolf”, or whether mental illness is relevant to the debate. The gun control debate, too, is framed appositionally as an issue of freedom vs. safety.
To the extent that De Minimis plays any role in such a reactive culture, we can do better than demanding you pick what side (read: tribe) we align ourselves with on an issue. It’s both more interesting, and more helpful, to consider whether the binaries before us are really correct. Freedom vs. safety? It’s the same old dichotomy that goes far beyond gun control. Freedom, somehow, has become accepted as the bread-and-butter of the political right (read: tribe) while the left has effectively thrown up their hands and let them have it.
Everyone appears to have accepted that’s where the debate lies: gun control – do we “give up” freedom to own guns to be safer? Healthcare, social security – do we have freedom to keep our own profits, or “impinge” it with more taxation to better fund these services and provide for the sick and the vulnerable? Do we have the freedom to say whatever we want or do we “reduce” our capacity to speak our mind with laws like s18C?
What rings ultimately hollow about all of these dichotomies, is that as much as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, one of our freedoms might just be another’s terror. We are freer to participate in public life when we can attend a concert with no fear that we might be gunned down in a mass shooting, because of the laws we have in place. Someone who has a debilitating condition treated by the public healthcare system, or someone in poverty who has increased opportunity in life due to the support of a social safety net, has far more freedom in their existence than the scenario where they are left to suffer without that assistance. And if 18C does indeed reduce racial vilification, then ethnic minorities are freer to go about their lives without being abused for something that they have no control over (where they come from).
I don’t want the kind of freedom that leaves 59 dead, 489 injured, and friends, family and the nation of the victims grieving with trauma that might never be repaired. I want the freedom for us all to lead happy, fulfilling and less threatened lives. And increasingly, the pursuit of that seems to require leaving ‘freedom’ by the way-side in political debate, lest it lose any shred of meaning it might have left, and continue to do more harm than good.
Timothy Sarder is a third-year JD student and the Managing Editor of De Minimis
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