Why are Weapon Restriction Laws considered Liberal?

  • Why are Weapon Restriction Laws, such as Gun Control Laws, considered liberal, while a lack of restrictions is considered conservative?

    In most cases, it appears that laws and policies which grant personal freedoms and ease restrictions are seen as liberal, while the opposing viewpoint of asserting heavier restrictions for some intended good is conservative. This is the pattern for many topics, including: abortion, gay rights, immigration, doctor-assisted suicide, etc.

    Yet, gun control politics (and other related issues of weapon ownership, self-defense, etc) are the opposite of this; liberal beliefs are about lowering the amount of weapons available to the individual and in overall society, while the conservative stance is about granting more freedom of ownership. Why do these stances not follow the same pattern?

    @pb4gov That still seems to follow the pattern to me. Reform = less restrictions on prisoners, tougher = harsher restrictions.

    I always saw it more as liberals are fighting against the status quo (Obama and 'change'), whereas conservatives are trying to keep things the the way they were (Trump making America great again). People have always had the right to own guns, so conservatives like it that way, and liberals want to change it.

    "Liberal" and "Conservative" as applied to US politics are just labels, they don't mean anything, the same way Democrats and Republicans don't have any relation to supporting more democracy over representation or vice versa.

    @IllusiveBrian That sounds like it could be expanded into a full-fledged answer, if that is what you believe.

    Honestly going by the "historical" definitions Democrats would be socialists/collectivists and Republicans would be, ironically enough, Christian liberals/individualists

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    _Liberal_ has been hijacked by democrats. It used to mean that, but now you have to use the phrase _classical liberal_ or _neo liberal_ to refer to the original meaning of liberal before 1900.

    @DaaaahWhoosh, I've never been a fan of the "status quo" definition. At what point does Obama's change become the "status quo" that liberals are then suppose to fight against?

    Follow the money.

    @Chloe Is that so? Would be interested in any reference about that. I don't really know about the history but my perception of current use is that the label “liberal” is often used to ridicule democrats or the left in general, not something they “hijacked”.

    @Relaxed "liberal" is used to ridicule people only by those who disagree with liberal ideology. People who are themselves on the left end of the US political spectrum have no problem being called "liberal," and frequently use the term to refer to themselves, at least in my fairly extensive experience.

    @Relaxed For most, there is a differentiation between liberal and leftists, where conservatives see Liberals as those who disagree on policy but are for open discourse.

    How in the world are people posting answers to this question that say absolutely nothing about the fact that conservatives want the federal government to have less power and that liberals want the opposite? It literally gives the answer to this question.

    @SouthpawHare Just want to point out that that your examples are somewhat cherry picked. Although everything you've listed is an example of "liberals" wanting to grant more rights, liberals are also in favor of (as a broad generalization): environmental protection laws, labor standards laws, mandatory healthcare (among others); which are all things that restrict people's rights to do things (though with a positive outcome in mind).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_change - This is the mechanism which mutates terms overtime, making them thin webs of meaning, instead of pointed, singular references (like proton, sodium, prime number, etc.)

  • oerkelens

    oerkelens Correct answer

    4 years ago

    Labels like "conservative" versus "liberal" or "left" versus "right" are often applied to larger-scale political movements, parties or ways of thinking, without every single detail being thrown into the mix. The labels mean different things in different environments anyway: what is called "right wing conservative capitalist" in some European countries might well be perceived as "left wing liberal communist" in the United states.

    In the case at hand, the point of view on gun laws simply seems to roughly follow the political distinctions of "liberal" versus "conservative" in the way that "conservative" politicians tend to not want to change the existing (perceived by many, liberal) gun laws. Not wanting to change them is indeed conservative, even if the laws themselves may be considered liberal.

    Of course, the distinction "liberal" versus "conservative" is a strange one. After all, a liberal idealist living in a liberal country would probably be conservative - meaning they don't want to change the status quo. It just goes to show how those labels get thrown at things, and once they stick, change their meaning.

    Conservative positions have ZERO to do with not wanting to change laws. At least in the US. There are thousands upon thousands of laws that conservatives want to change.

    @Dunk I wouldn't say that conservative positions have absolutely nothing to do with not wanting to change laws. That may not define conservatism in the USA, but it is certainly a non-negligible part. And note that oerkelens said that "'conservative' politicians tend to not want to change the existing (perceived by many, liberal) *gun* laws", not laws in general. That seems to me to be more correct than incorrect.

    @Dunk: The point is that the meaning of the word conservative has to do with avoiding major societal changes, just as "liberal" has to do with lack of regulation. The fact that in the US, conservatives do want to change things, while liberals are often in favor of greater regulation, is exactly the sort of semantic shenanigans that the answer is addressing.

    @kundor - You are looking at liberal and conservative as words and interpreting them as a dictionary would. It is more accurate to look at those "words" as simply being "branding" names that don't necessarily have any relationship to the definition of the word. Case in point, liberals now call themselves "progressives". What they want to do will do anything and everything except "Progress" the country. Regressives/Destructives are far more accurate words but those wouldn't brand as well.

    @BenSandeen - Conservatism has nothing to do with wanting to change laws or not. The conservative viewpoint doesn't change because a law exists or not. The conservative viewpoint is largely rooted on what does the constitution say and what was the intent. You can claim that wanting to adhere to the constitution means not wanting to change laws but I disagree because wanting to adhere to the law is different from wanting to change the law but only according to the law. Many conservatives would gladly revisit the 2nd amendment but they won't because they can't trust liberal activist judges.

    Works the other way around as well. Down here in "liberal paradise" we consider the US democrats "far-right" and the Republicans "off-the-damn-scales-right". It's all about how far a desired world is removed (and in whcih direction) from the one the viewer happens to live in.

    Just wanted to chime in that conservativism has many definitions. A broader definition than the ones above is: Conservativism is not about opposing all change, but to let legal and political change happen when the majority of society is ready for it - not before. i.e. to not use laws and policy to change the norms and traditions of society, but the other way around.

    If you read conscervative as "literal interpreting of the constitution", which some do, then it's fits that literal reading of the 2nd ammendment would mean no laws should restrict use of guns. This is by no means the only way of defining liberal, but it likely partially explains how it became part of the conservative agenda originally.

    Conservatives actively work to change gun laws. Concealed carry, stand-your-ground laws, guns being allowed in campuses, bars, restaurants, and the workplace are all new phenomenon pushed by conservatives. The assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse (a change) by conservatives. Conservatives are currently working in many ways to further weaken gun control. The idea that "'conservative' politicians tend to not want to change the existing (perceived by many, liberal) gun laws." has absolutely zero relationship with reality.

    One problem with staking the conservative position the originalist interpretation of gun laws is that they were written for smooth-bore flintlock black powder weapons. The fact that a modern gun is covered by the 2nd amendment by definition requires a non-literal interpretation of the constitution.

    @Ukko No, it doesn't because the constitution doesn't explicitly say "smooth-bore flintlock black power weapons". It says "arms". Claiming an M-16 doesn't "literally" count as a "arms" is claiming that if you took an M-16 back to 1776, Benjamin Franklin would've said "this thing is literally not an arms".

    @godskook Can you say for sure that that is what he would say? You would be showing him a single weapon with more firepower than an entire company of his contemporary riflemen. Even today such a force multiplier would not be classified as "arms" that we commonly agree are covered by the 2A. Looking forward, should a semi-autonomous murder drone be counted as "arms"? Would Ben agree? As soon as you are talking about modern technology you are not able to talk about begin an originalist--it is necessarily extrapolation.

    @Dunk arguably they just want to *remove* the laws, as opposed to making new ones.

    @Ukko: There were weapons capable of reducing an entire company (e.g. a cannon loaded with grapeshot) when the Second Amendment was written and ratified... and private ownership of cannons was completely normal at the time. (Not saying that most individuals owned a cannon, there certainly were far fewer cannons than individuals. But a large fraction, even a majority, of cannons were privately owned.)

    The same argument could be made for a cask of powder. Or a poorly built tower, it could tip over and squash the lot of them. That all misses the point of how the level of lethality of modern arms, those you can expect a random Joe to own is orders of magnitude greater today. That doesn't mean that they should not fall under the 2A, just that the argument that this is what the founders wanted is not an originalist argument.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM