The date was December 14, 2012. The city was Newtown Connecticut. What happened was one of the most brutal massacres in history. 

The attack began that morning when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, in their own home using a .22 rifle. She had bought the gun years earlier, along with several other weapons, including an AR-15, two semi-automatic pistols, and a shotgun. After destroying the hard drive on his computer to make it difficult to find evidence, Adam Lanza gathered these weapons, along with several hundred rounds of ammunition, and drove his mother’s car to nearby Sandy Hook elementary school, a public school for kindergarten through fourth grade. Arriving at 9:30 AM, he shot his way into the school and was immediately confronted by the school psychologist Mary Sherlach and principal Dawn Hochsprung. Using his AR-15, he shot both women. Lanza then killed Lauren Rousseau and her class of 14 children, and entering a second classroom, shot first grade teacher Victoria Soto and six of her students. When the police arrived about 10 minutes later, they found 20 children and 6 adults dead, along with Lanza’s own body.

This incident only lasted a few minutes, but it had a negative impact on hundreds of people for the rest of their lives. It parted 26 families with their loved ones. It changed the future of an entire community.

Now think of all the lives that could have been saved, if these firearms had not been carried into the school that day. Think of all the children who wouldn’t have died, still with a bright future ahead of them. Think of all the families that would not have had to go through the grief of losing a loved one. 

How can we allow things like this to happen? How can we be so irresponsible as to let people casually carry weapons with them that are able to put an end to the lives of hundreds of people in a matter of minutes? 

We ask ourselves these questions often, but we often fail to answer the big question. That is, “Are gun rights really worth it?”

Let’s take a look at Great Britain, who has a long history of gun restrictions. Currently, in the UK, it is illegal to own or carry any firearm except for hunting or recreational purposes. The result: Great Britain has one of the lowest gun violence rates in the world, according to Criminal Justice Degree Hub, at 8.5 crimes per 100,000 people. That’s compared to 143 per 100,000 in the US. It looks great at first glance. But it’s not the whole story. That’s just gun violence. If we look at the overall violent crime rates in the UK, we find a total of 898 crimes per 100,000 compared to 387 per 100,000 in the US. The truth is, only 19% of violent crimes in the UK even involve any kind of weapon, with gun violence making up less than 1% of all violent crime. Fun fact: you’re just as likely to be attacked with stones, 3 times as likely to be attacked with a glass bottle, 5 times as likely to be attacked with a hitting implement (such as a golf club or a baseball bat), and 6 times as likely to be stabbed than you are to be attacked by a gun in the UK!

This tells us two things: First, just like a tool isn’t a carpenter, a gun isn’t a murderer; and second, taking away guns doesn’t take away murder.

It tells us that even if Adam Lanza had not had guns that day at Sandy Hook, he still could have killed many people, because he, not the gun, was the murderer.

The truth is, taking away guns doesn’t work, because when you take away guns, you take away freedom, and taking away freedom never works.

And that is what all too many Americans don’t understand.

When the second amendment, which grants the right to bear arms, was ratified in 1789, American’s loved their guns. In fact, a firearm was considered a necessary tool for survival, since guns were used for both hunting and self defense.

When planning the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto considered an attack on the mainland US. He decided against it though. He wrote, “To invade the United States would prove most difficult because behind every blade of grass is an American with a rifle.”

That was in 1940. Is it the same today?

When we first look into it, we see that in the 1940s, there were roughly 20 guns per 100 people in the US. Today, there are 120 guns per 100 people. Just like before, it looks great at first glance, and just like before, it’s not the whole story. When you ask how many people actually own guns, you get a totally different answer. According to a study by Northwestern and Harvard Universities, 3% of the US population owns half the guns in the country. When we look at a poll by Gallup, we find that only 22% of the American population owns a gun. That’s compared to an estimated 40% in 1940.  

According to a survey by Gallup, 64% of Americans believe that our gun laws should be more strict, compared to 28% who believe they’re about right, and 7% who believe they should be less strict. 

What’s happened is our society has come to regard the gun, not as a friend, but as an enemy that must be conquered, and because of this, our freedom is seriously endangered. As Andrew Breitbart put it, “Politics is downstream of culture.” When we fear our freedom to the point that we are willing to give it up, that is when it begins to be taken away. That is when the government steps in, like a tiny thread that at first seems harmless, but gradually binds us until we no longer have the strength to break free. When we value our safety more than our freedom, that is when freedom is no longer ours.

According to Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” 

The truth is, when we give up our freedom for safety, we end up giving up both freedom and safety. When we give up the right to bear arms, we are only giving up our freedom, along with our self defense.

We, the people of the United States, have a duty to defend our freedom. We have a duty to save it from extinction so that our posterity may enjoy it, as we have enjoyed it. And that can only be done by exercising it. 

The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. And the only way to stop someone who is using their freedom the wrong way is by using our freedom the right way.

When Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook elementary school, imagine if just one person had had a gun to fight back. Think of all the lives that could have been saved. Think of all the children who wouldn’t have died, still with a bright future ahead of them. Think of all the families that would not have had to go through the grief of losing a loved one. And think of all the lives we can save by defending and exercising that right to bear arms; by simply using our freedom the right way.