Americans Are Independent—But Are We Really Free?
Mass shootings marred this weekend’s Fourth of July celebrations. Unfortunately, these tragedies are far from rare and all too American.
No holiday is more American than Independence Day.
It’s literally the recognition of this country’s break from colonial ties, replete with flags and fireworks and celebrations of our freedoms.
Howard Vestal—Jun 17, 2021
Certainly there is much for which we should be thankful, but the tragic shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, highlights our urgent need to scrutinize the promise of American freedom even as we celebrate it.
As responsible citizens, we are obligated to ensure that runaway freedoms for some do not impact the existence of others. Lately, it’s been very clear that we have some problems in that department—and the tragic results are un-American.
Those parade-goers in Highland Park are not free. Those families in Uvalde are not free. Shoppers in that Buffalo grocery store are not free. As we recite lines from the Declaration of Independence, we must also hold these difficult truths as self-evident.
The founders knew that in a democracy, rights unbalanced by responsibility would lead to disaster. They assumed social norms and laws would counter the enumerated rights in our Constitution, but lately, many in our country act as if they are on a freedom binge, gulping them like they are last call drinks at a spring break bar.
Gun lobby groups like the NRA and NSSF condone and champion permitless carry, assault rifles for teenagers, and armed intimidation. These may be intoxicating freedoms for some, but these dangerous cocktails are ending basic freedoms for many others. Nothing about that is patriotic.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down New York’s permitless carry law will likely make gun violence even more common—not less. The Court handed gun manufacturers, like those I used to work for, a victory by ensuring the presence of more guns in public places, boosting sales at the expense of public safety.
If this country is to realize the true promise of our independence, then we must also embrace the sort of responsibility that protects life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people. That means we must take responsible actions like strengthening background checks, increasing minimum purchase ages, and regulating dangerous firearms industry marketing practices.
Jun 25, 2022
The recent bipartisan legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the president—the first significant gun safety legislation at the federal level in nearly 30 years—is a positive step in the right direction. It’s far from everything we need, but it’s a sign that our leaders can actually work together and do something positive, rather than complacently accepting the status quo of 45,000 gun deaths each year.
There will be some who decry reasonable actions, just as there were those who criticized the formation of our democracy. But contrary to those inevitable claims, none of this is anti-gun or anti-freedom.
In fact, these are the sorts of responsible actions that will ensure all freedoms, including gun ownership, can continue to exist in relative harmony. If we do not take these actions, there will be more parades like that one in Highland Park, and more tragedies like the one in Uvalde.
If you’re with me, I hope you’ll consider joining Giffords Gun Owners for Safety, which is made up of responsible gun owners like me who know that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. As gun owners, we have a key role to play in fighting America’s gun violence crisis. Together, we can build a safer future for us all.
STAND UP FOR SAFETY
Americans are not as divided as it may seem. Join Giffords Gun Owners for Safety to stand in support of responsible gun ownership. We’ll share ways to connect with fellow gun owners and support our fight for a safer America.