Understanding the Liberal-Conservative Divide through the Gun Debate

Dr. Kyle Scott, TheConservative Professor from 1070 AM radio

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By KYLE SCOTT, UH professor & The Conservative Professor

The debate that has swept over the nation has now landed in the Lone Star State with the Texas legislature proposing laws that would decrease the restictions on firearms. The proposed measures would make it easier for students and faculty who legally own a registered firearm, and who hold the requisite license to carry a concealed handgun, to carry their weapon on college and university campuses in the state. At first blush this may seem like something new, but as we saw a few months ago at the North Harris campus of the Lone Star College System, students are already carrying firearms onto our campuses. All these new measures would do is to allow citizens who can legally own and carry firearms to protect themselves when the law fails to do so.

Laws are put in place to allow society to function more peaceably and productively than it would in the law’s absence. Thus, if a law has failed to meet this requirement then it has failed to justify its existence as a law. In the case of the North Harris campus shootings the laws that restrict the carrying of handguns on college campuses potentially endangered innocent students, faculty and staff. Had the intent of the shooter been to inflict more harm there would have been very little resistance as those who were closest to the scene were not only ill-equipped to defend themselves, but were no legally allowed to do so either.

Perhaps no other non-economic policy issue so clearly and distinctly demonstrates the difference between liberals and conservatives than the debate over gun restrictions and the Second Amendment. Liberal ideology, at least since the middle of the eighteenth century, has held onto the idea of man’s perfectibility; that through the right laws and social engineering the perfect man and social order can be established. In other words, man’s perfection can be brought about by man, and laws, by extension, are one way of perfecting man and the existing social order. Conservative ideology on the other hand, at least since Edmund Burke was the intellectual leader in England, believes in man’s fallibility and that any attempt by man to institutionalize and codify his belief in himself will have unintended consequences. According to conservatism, man should place his faith in the traditional order that is comprised of religion, family and social constraints developed through proper education and communal interaction.

This centuries long debate plays out in the current gun debate. On the liberal side is the call for more restrictions on guns as the thought tends to be that the more laws we have, and the more restrictive those laws are, the safer we will be with regard to gun violence. On the conservative side is the idea that individuals need to be given the responsibility and the opportunity to defend themselves when the guardians of peace and order are unable to do so.

The Texas legislature is taking steps to make sure that law abiding citizens are given the ability to rely on themselves rather than the government when their lives are in danger.

Originally posted at Your Houston News

Kyle Scott is the author of Federalist Papers: A Reader’s Guide and is a candidate for the Lone Star College Board of Trustees, Position #2. He teaches American politics and constitutional law at the University of Houston. His commentary on current events has appeared in Forbes, Reuters, Christian Science Monitor, Foxnews.com, Huffington Post, and dozens of local outlets including the Orlando Sentinel, Charlotte Observer, Philadelphia Inquirer, Houston Chronicle and Baltimore Sun.

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