To truly be free, we must stop conflating gun access with freedom

Watching a British TV show this past week in which the police chased a violent suspect through the streets, it was jarring to see a depiction of such a pursuit in which no guns were drawn or shot at the fleeing suspect. (I realize this is a fictional TV portrayal, but in real life 90% of UK police officers do not carry firearms.)

As I watched this scene unfold, with police sprinting, sans firearm, to apprehend their man, I was struck with the feeling that my reaction to the scene exemplified America’s very unique gun problem.

Most Americans would be jarred to witness such a scene, reacting in one of two ways:

1) “It’s insane that those cops don’t have guns. They should eliminate the threat by shooting him in his tracks before he harms anyone.”

2) “Wow. Maybe it’s actually possible to maintain a safe, functioning, modern society without a pervasive reliance on firearms.”

The former sentiment is almost an involuntary one for Americans, and I would argue that even a pacifist would have a hard time suppressing an initial feeling of ‘Where are the guns?”

This expectation — and feeling shocked by any absence of guns — is deeply imprinted in our nation’s collective DNA. Like any potentially destructive trait, instinct, or prejudice that humans must overcome to succeed as a member of civilized modern society, we have to make an effort to overcome our acceptance of the inevitability of gun violence.  As such, we have to call bullshit on those who continue to conflate unfettered firearm access with freedom, because our peer nations are experiencing far fewer gun deaths than the US.

Those kids in the classrooms yesterday experienced the exact opposite of freedom.  If freedom requires that a gun is fired inside a school every 2.5 days, we’re doing freedom wrong.


Eric Shepherd

About Eric Shepherd

Eric is a marketing professional working and living in Portland, ME. His writing on politics, science, and culture has appeared on,, and other national and regional outlets. Eric is also a public speaker on topics related to branding, social media, and cause marketing. He spent 10 years as a recording and touring musician. He has lived up and down the East Coast, but loves Portland the very most.