Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), departing Congress, reminds us of his ineffable Ron Paul-ness with a great statement on his House web site both defending gun rights and attacking the right-wing hysteria response via Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) (taken apart ably by Jacob Sullum here last week) of armed government guards in every school:
The impulse to have government "do something" to protect us in the wake national tragedies is reflexive and often well intentioned. Many Americans believe that if we simply pass the right laws, future horrors like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting can be prevented. But this impulse ignores the self evident truth that criminals don't obey laws.
The political right, unfortunately, has fallen into the same trap in its calls for quick legislative solutions to gun violence. If only we put armed police or armed teachers in schools, we're told, would-be school shooters will be dissuaded or stopped.
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. '
Paul points out, as he also did in his bravura farewell speech to Congress last month, that:
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.
Paul goes on to point out, as one of the only men in public life who would, that government itself is a machine of violence, fingering drone strikes, and he alienates both standard left and right in his effortless way by condemning government for both "endless undeclared wars abroad and easy abortion at home."
He then laments the mindset that would turn Sandy Hook into an excuse for further tightening 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. School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.
Paul winds up with the very important point that seeking the phantasm of total security through government inspection and control is a clear path to a "totalitarian society" that would "claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens lives."
This statement, especially considering that he didn't have to make it and it will surely annoy many in what might be considered his natural audience (Second Amendment absolutists) is a marvelous example of Paul's style as a politician. He was in the political game to root his opposition to government in an opposition to violence and control in all its forms, not just as a culture war game of fighting perceived enemies on the "other side." (i.e., those damn liberals!)
Paul's statement on Sandy Hook also shows the moral coherence of his libertarian politics and his foreign policy stance, a meshing that alas seemed to confuse many GOP voters, and is another reminder of how much his voice in Congress will be missed.