Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Where do my rights begin and where do the rights of others end?

Mike is an 18 year female to male transman. He is currently studying psychology at The Evergreen State College between making quilts. He someday aspires to be a social worker, and in the mean time, he wants to fix the fact that not everyone is born with an inherent right to be themselves

 So this is going to be a tough post to write. For those of you who haven’t heard yet, there was a shooting in Colorado. On Friday, at one of the midnight showings of the new Batman movie, a lone gunman entered the theater and started shooting. He had two assault rifles and a different gun, along with tear gas. He ended up giving himself up and is currently in police custody. Later, the police found out his house was rigged with traps, full of buckets and buckets of bullets. There are explosives or other flammable devices all over the place, dangerous items in a dangerous place. 

I went online looking for a petition to ban assault rifles on change.org, hoping to do something to make a difference and to prevent something like this from happening again. I have been campaigning as hard as I possibly can, hoping that I can make a difference. There are people online who have started a petition demanding that they get their assault rifles back, despite the fact that no national law about assault rifles exists. 

And that scares me more than I can say. There are people out there who are dangerous, violent, who don’t care for people who can go out and buy a high powered assault rifles. They can own these dangerous guns and carry them around. They can go to where I live, where I play, where there are children. Their right to bear arms should not cover these weapons that are designed to mow down humans like cattle to the slaughter, taking lives so rapidly it is almost incomprehensible. Never the less, there is no national law to ban assault rifles. 

 I cannot go out without fear. I went to my local comic book store and I was anxious the entire time. It was something associated with nerd culture and I was terrified to be there. The comic book store trips are my one big luxury. Once a week, it is my night to go out and socialize like I want to, to play games and enjoy myself and it was almost ruined by the fact that there are people out there who can own assault rifles and mow down my favorite place if they want to. 

And this brings up a really large question. Where do my rights begin and where do the rights of others end? Surely people have a right to enjoy their summer, to go out to see midnight movies with friends. It is an ultimate luxury, a mental health break and a time to enjoy yourself beyond the normal curfews and limitations. Instead, it is all too easy to get guns and buckets of bullets and threaten the safety and fun of a large crowd of people. There is a right to bear arms in the Constitution, and there is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. These things struggle to coexist with each other, a place of conflict where the rights of one individual intersect with another. 

This is in addition to the fact that the Westboro Baptist Church threatened (it is unclear if they actually showed up or not) to super-picket the prayer vigil for the victims of the shooting. The WBC decided that picketing the vigil was so important that they were willing to impinge on the rights of those who were grieving the loss of friends, family, or the feeling of safety and courage to go about daily life. I am all for free speech and I understand why censorship is a terrible thing and should never be allowed, but the dignity of those grieving family members deserves more. Those family members deserve to grieve in peace for their great loss and they deserve to have a community rally around them in a difficult time. It is another intersection, the rights of the grieving families to have dignity in their loss and the rights of the WBC to say whatever they want, wherever they want. 

These intersections of individual rights are not easy to live with. They are something to consider carefully, something to ponder and to wrestle with. In the end, I cannot necessarily support trying to censor the WBC. It is too murky to decide who gets to say what, and although I find their actions despicable and will fight them at every turn, I do not want them to be silenced by the law. It is comforting, in a way, to know that they are still out there and still able to protest military funerals because if the government will not turn on those who hate it, then surely there is room for those who have criticisms. 

On the other hand, taking away assault rifles does not impinge on those individual rights. Those high powered rifles are designed for one purpose. They are to take down a large number of people in a very short amount of time. There has not been a ban on these weapons since 2004 and they can be legally obtained. This is not something that I am okay with existing in my government. This is something that I am fighting to change. I found an online petition, and I have been attempting to get people to sign, if they can, so that a ban for these high powered rifles will be presented to Congress.
http://www.change.org/petitions/u-s-congress-ban-assault-rifles-and-high-powered-ammunition
People have the right to go about their lives without fear from high powered weapons, or really guns at all. In an ideal world, the only guns would be carefully monitored and would be for sustenance hunting or the self-defense of those who truly need it. It is these rights that I want to uphold when I campaign for this petition and it is for those lost that I wish to make a change.