You may also own and collect wines – table wines, dessert wines, fine wines, inexpensive wines. It doesn’t matter in the eyes of the law whether the wines you buy and own are in large bottles or small ones, or boxes or jugs. And you may drink any of the wines you buy, whenever you like.
What none of us is allowed to do, though, is to drink too much wine – or any other intoxicating beverage – and then drive while impaired. It is against the law to do such a thing, and it should be. By engaging in two perfectly lawful activities, drinking wine with dinner and driving an automobile, we may very well fall on the wrong side of the law. Most of us believe that is as it should be.
Tragically, some people will drive too fast, or recklessly, even when not drinking, and others can be hurt or killed as a result. And some people will drink more than the legal limit before driving an automobile, and many families we all know have been touched by the horror of losing a loved one to an accident with an impaired driver.
When tragedies like this happen, we never suggest that automobiles should be made illegal, or that we should prohibit the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages. And the reason we don’t is that we all recognize that the freedoms enjoyed by the vast majority of law-abiding citizens in our country should not be curtailed because some will abuse their freedom with awful consequences for other innocent people.
And notably, neither car ownership, nor driving, nor the ability to purchase a bottle of wine nor the privilege of maintaining a wine collection is a constitutionally protected right.
Gun ownership, though, is.
Today, you may own and maintain as many firearms with as many different uses as you like. Big or small, powerful or lightweight, costly or cheap alike; it is perfectly legal for you to purchase, collect and use as many guns as you like.
But strangely, when a nut with a gun – or with many guns – does the unthinkable and shocks all of us with his evil, some in the public marketplace believe that the correct answer is to limit the ability of the rest of us to own our weapons.
It is already illegal, as it should be, to shoot another person except in the most extreme of circumstances, such as self-defense. It is certainly illegal to enter a building and randomly shoot many people. And it is horrible beyond our comprehension that a person is even capable of walking into a school building and shooting six-year-old children.
But the fact that there is evil in the world, and that some people are deranged, is not a justification for telling the rest of us that we are instantly criminals if the government chooses to change the laws about gun ownership and use.
Every day, when you get behind the wheel and start your car or truck, so is someone else who is either chemically impaired or otherwise physically or mentally incapable of safe operation of a vehicle. But it is still legal for you to drive anywhere you want to, and the risk that the fellow next to you on the highway is out of control is a risk that all of us take every day.
But we are relatively safe on the road, because most drivers are, like you, concerned for their own safety and that of other drivers around them. So our roadways work for all of us.
It is a difficult fact for those who choose not to own and use firearms to understand, but it is a fact all the same: people are safer because law-abiding citizens around them are legally carrying sidearms. A decent person carrying a weapon is of no danger to decent people around him, and is actually a guardian unaware in their midst. Would that someone had been carrying in the movie theatre in Colorado, for example, and that joker’s reign would have been much shorter.
So let’s not make the awful mistake of striking at the heart of individual liberties in this country – and at the safety of all of us – just because a nation of 300 million people will have some sick people in our midst.
Andy Taggart is an attorney with Taggart, Rimes & Graham law firm in Jackson. He is a highly regarded attorney, political, business and community leader. He is a cum laude graduate of Tulane University, where he served on the law school editorial board. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of Mississippi College. A long-time presence in governmental policy and political arenas, he is a frequent speaker at major events and has been involved in a wide range of activities, from serving as CEO of the Mississippi Technology Alliance to chief of staff for the late Governor Kirk Fordice. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org