Why Does the Left View Freedom so Cynically?

Bryce Dunio ’22, Opinion Columnist

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In a few weeks, Pittsburgh’s city council will vote on a series of controversial gun control bills. The bills would, among several other reforms, make it illegal to own ‘assault weapons’ within the city limits. The bill with the specific focus on ‘assault weapons’ expands upon its previous definition to include certain types of pistols and shotguns among many other guns listed (because we all know how big a problem assault pistols are).

These bills and their collective content come as a surprise for Pittsburgh, a city where gun violence decreased by 55% from 2017 to 2018 and consequently hit a 12 year low according to the Post-Gazette.

 Next Pittsburgh further explains the surprising nature of these bills in an article, writing that they “do not address the sale of traditional handguns, which are responsible for 81% of gun homicides in Pennsylvania.” 

Nonetheless, both the mayor and the governor have given their support for this set of bills to combat crime and domestic terrorism.

However, these bills, while aimed at wrongdoers, have one major flaw that the Democrats backing it either do not understand or do not care about: they unjustifiably target responsible gun owners.

When wrongdoers are the ones acting wrongly, hence the name ‘wrongdoers,’ why would responsible gun owners who simply wish to protect themselves or their families be punished? All arguments for gun control dwell on those who commit crimes, yet the common, law-abiding citizen never receives an ounce of care from the left on this issue. 

For gun reform many brand as “common sense” – this adverse effect seems entirely nonsensical. But the idea of unjustifiably making the whole team run seems like a staple of the left’s current stance on gun ownership. Policies that limit the rights of responsible gun owners because of abuse by a select few can only be explained through a lack of trust in freedom itself. 

For a personal example, my father owns an AR-15 for home protection. They are remarkably more accurate than any handgun and generally easy to operate, making them excellent in a situation where someone is directly threatening your family and/or property; however, because there are evil persons out there who abuse this rifle, Washington’s best and brightest wish to punish responsible owners – my father included – rather than focus on preventing evil persons from getting their hands on such weapons. Again, such a ‘common sense’ gun reform begins to seem increasingly nonsensical and intellectually lazy the more one analyzes it.

This lack of trust in freedom of the left extends further than simply gun control though. While this cynicism can be identified in the left’s recent drift away from individualism and free market values, opting instead for revived collectivist and identitarian politics, it is best identified in the left’s not-so-recent embracing of hate speech laws across the world. While such policies are best sold as protection for minority communities or a way to wither away intolerance in a society, their track record does not lie. 

In 2016, The Washington Post reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was allowing the prosecution of a comedian named Jan Böhmermann to take place in the German court. The hateful speech this man said, gaining even the attention of the German Chancellor herself, was both intolerable and almost unspeakable:

He harshly criticized the president of Turkey for his extensive human rights abuses.

In 2011, a man named Simon Ledger was arrested in England on, as written by the Daily Mail, “suspicion of racially aggravated harassment.” The horrific and utterly racist statements Mr. Ledger spoke are deeply troubling: 

He sang ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ at a Pub.

In 2016, Scottish YouTuber Mark Meechan posted a grossly disturbing, Nazi-embracing video slammed by Scottish courts as a “deeply unpleasant offence.” He was consequently arrested and went through several months of legal trouble and unending media coverage. The contents of the video are truly concerning on several levels for any liberal democracy:

He uploaded a video of his girlfriend’s pug that he turned into “the least cute thing I could think of – a Nazi.” 

While this video is certainly offensive in nature and was uploaded in poor taste, I cannot fathom any sane person watching this ‘Nazi pug’ and seriously be persuaded into becoming a National Socialist. The only negative effect this video could have is making the viewer a cat person, and even then it was does not warrant legal punishment by the state in any fashion.

The freedom to craft one’s own thoughts and ideas, offensive or not, is the most important freedom a human being can have. 

Freedom of speech is a human right not intended to protect the popular thought, but rather the unpopular thought. Limiting this freedom in any capacity further perpetuates George Orwell’s concept of ‘wrongthink’ and is at its cold, authoritarian core a lack of trust in freedom itself.

Instead of being so cynical towards the idea of freedom, the left needs to return to its roots. Just a few decades ago, President John F. Kennedy was a lifetime NRA member and an ardent defender of the 1st and 2nd amendments. Jump a few decades ahead and you will find over a third of Democrats favoring a repeal of the second amendment entirely, according to a 2018 study by The Economist and YouGov.

It is no secret we live in tough times, especially with the news rocked regularly by innocent citizens being slaughtered and hate crimes that are ever-present, but we must find thought-out, logical solutions to our problems while simultaneously continuing to be the centuries-old beacon of liberty America is destined to be.

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