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Supreme Court 2A second amendment
Courtesy Jeff Hulbert

Public opinion polls show that as mass shootings and other gun violence has increased in America, Republicans actually oppose gun safety efforts even more. Predictably — and far more logically — Democrats and liberals respond to mass shootings and other gun-violence tragedies with greater support for gun safety laws.

Death anxiety has a profound influence on American politics in other ways as well: In red-state regions where coronavirus rates (and death rates) are highest, support for Donald Trump during the 2020 Election was also at its highest. In essence, death and sickness have made Trump’s followers increasingly loyal to him and the Republican Party.

Ultimately, America’s inability to create and enforce effective gun laws is rooted in competing conceptions of freedom. Conservatives emphasize “negative freedom” and a belief that government should be shrunk down to the bare minimum, and that “freedom from” is the most important aspect of democracy and human existence.

Liberals, progressives and other more humane thinkers understand that government can play a positive role in society. In this conception, “positive freedom” means that citizens can live better and more productive lives where, for example, they are free from anxieties about being killed in a mass shooting, or free from the fear that they may fall ill and not have access to health care, or free from the fear that their environment is dangerously polluted.

To state this equation differently, a gun owner’s freedom ends at the boundaries and limits of public safety. Likewise, the “personal freedom” not to wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic ends at the health and safety of other people.

A healthy democracy always involves a balance between these positive and negative understandings of freedom.

— Chauncey DeVega in Conservatives are mad at Michael Moore again — because he’s right about gun culture





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