In the wake of two shootings in a week with 18 people dead, there is talk about guns, society, liberty and security. In order to have a conversation we need to establish the basic fact that gun control and alcohol control are the same fundamental question about personal liberty.

According to the CDC, excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States each year, or 261 deaths per day. These deaths shorten the lives of those who die by an average of almost 29 years, for a total of 2.8 million years of potential life lost. Even with covid, over 41,500 people died by gun violence in 2020 in the US, which is a record, according to the independent data collection and research group Gun Violence Archive. That included more than 23,000 people who died by suicide. If you disregard suicides deaths from guns are about 20% of deaths from alcohol.

Alcohol is by any metric, significantly more lethal in the United States than firearms. And yet we never hear any of the questions asked about alcohol that we do about guns. If we did, those conversations might go something like this:

“I don’t know what he’s planning, but when I was in his basement I saw over a hundred bottles of wine. There is no legitimate reason for someone to have that much wine.”

“I understand some people like a drink, but no one needs a beverage as powerful as Tequila. Beer and Wine are all people need to be able to enjoy alcohol.”

“We just had ANOTHER drunk driving fatality in our town. It’s time to ban alcohol sales entirely! Or at least the police should have a comprehensive list of who bought what bottles!”

People can say whatever they want — but your rights involving alcohol should not be restricted by people who have made bad choices with alcohol. If you want to collect exotic alcohols from foreign countries, no government should stop you. If you want to build a wine cellar and store more wine than you could possibly drink, that’s your prerogative. And one someone abuses alcohol, breaks the law and causes a fatality they are a criminal. You are not. Criminals should not restrict the rights law abiding citizens. And that especially applies to your right to bear arms.

In fact your rights involving alcohol are already significantly restricted. You can’t make hard alcohol in your house. You can’t ship alcohol to your friends in the mail. You generally can’t drink alcohol in public.

Ask any responsible gun owner or responsible drinker — they have run into the restrictions on their liberty now because of the activities of people who have committed violent crimes.

Anytime a person is killed it’s a tragedy. We all wish for a world that was free of violence. We also wish for a world where we can exercise our free will. Those issues by definition come into conflict. Our society is one based on consent. Thomas Jefferson famously wrote “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” No government should be able to restrict the liberty of a person who is not a criminal or engaged in criminal actions.

Some people want more security in their lives. President Eisenhower had the answer for them: “If you want total security, go to prison,” he said. “There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking is freedom.” Someone else’s desire for more security does not give them the right to put you in a situation where any of your freedoms are curtailed.

Of course you don’t have a Constitutional right to drink. The repeal of the 18th amendment meant that alcohol was not illegal, but it’s not a protected right like speech, assembly or the right to bear arms.

Atlanta and Boulder were tragedies that involved guns, and we can and should talk together about meaningful things that can be done to ensure a safer society. None of those things can include the involuntary restriction of someone’s rights. Emergencies have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded, but the truest form of security in our lives is the commitment we hold to protecting each other’s freedoms.

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