Freedom to Bear Arms and Use the Bathroom?

When placed side by side gun control and transgender bathroom rights challenge traditional left-right conceptions of freedom.

The debates surrounding both gun rights and transgender restroom rights center on the level of control Americans are willing to cede to the U.S. government. Clearly, these issues are not comparable in terms of their implications: enacting stricter gun control laws and legislation prohibiting transgender individuals from using restrooms pertaining to the gender as which they identify are very different issues that should be evaluated accordingly. Yet, when placed side by side, these two issues, challenge traditional left-right conceptions of freedom.

In terms of gun control, I understand both sides of the coin. People who have proven to be dangerous and incapable of safely using lethal weapons should not be permitted to carry guns. But the right to bear arms is a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – a principle instituted in an effort to limit the power of the government and ensure the power of the citizens to keep their government in check. Those who support strict adherence to the Second Amendment are willing to give up some security in exchange for more freedom, and their beliefs should be respected so long as they abide by the law. It is difficult to reconcile freedom and safety, and Americans rarely agree about the amount of safety they want to compromise in the name of freedom, and vice versa.

It is difficult to reconcile freedom and safety, and Americans rarely agree about the amount of safety they want to compromise in the name of freedom.

But the people who value freedom so highly, fervently advocating for the right to bear arms, are often the same people who fight tooth and nail to restrict the freedom of transgender individuals. They argue that transgender individuals should not be allowed to use the restrooms which correspond to the gender they identify because these individuals pose a threat to public safety.

By supporting more lenient gun laws these individuals have already decided that upholding the Constitution and allowing Americans more freedom is worth the cost of less security. They say we should let more people have guns despite the potential risk they pose to the general public. But then, when you ask them to let people use the bathroom they want to use, they say “no way” because people might abuse that law in order to take advantage of women. They preach freedom until freedom calls for a change in the status quo. Quite frankly, it’s hypocritical.

Similarly, although stricter background checks could keep guns away from people who should not have them in the first place, potentially decreasing the total number of people killed or injured by guns, it is questionable whether people who have already been proven to disobey the law would be obey a law that calls them to follow more cumbersome procedures in order to carry and obtain weapons. If someone is willing to murder someone with a gun, they won’t have any qualms about bypassing standard regulations in order to get that gun. Stricter gun control could result in a smaller number of law-abiding citizens with guns, but would do little to keep guns away from miscreants, unhindered by the law.

This logic can easily be applied to transgender restroom rights. If a man is looking to sexually assault a woman, I do not believe that a law prohibiting him from entering the women’s bathroom is going to stop him. Besides, the act of sexual assault itself is already illegal.  A law prohibiting transgender women from using the women’s restroom might not keep sexual predators out of the women’s bathroom, but it would certainly ostracize transgender individuals who seek to abide by the law.

Evidently “safety” is not the primary reason why certain groups oppose transgender rights. If safety was the most pressing concern for people supporting legislation like the law passed in North Carolina, these groups would all support gun control as well. But they don’t. They are worried about psychotic individuals taking advantage of the legal ability to enter the women’s restroom, but are not worried about those same people taking advantage of the legal ability to use a lethal weapon. A psycho in the bathroom poses less of a threat than a psycho in the bathroom with a gun.

If safety was the most pressing concern for people supporting legislation like the law passed in North Carolina, these groups would all support gun control as well.

So maybe insecurity or entirely misplaced fear are more fitting and logically sound reasons for wanting to keep transgender individuals out of the bathrooms they want to use. Maybe Americans who support laws discriminating against transgender individuals are afraid after all, but they are not afraid of greater rates of sexual assault; rather, of the world moving a direction in which they are not comfortable with it moving. They are afraid of losing power they derive from discriminating against humans who they perceive as different from themselves.

The debates about transgender restroom rights and gun control both involve deciding how much freedom Americans are willing to cede in exchange for security. The key difference between gun control and transgender restroom rights is found in the fact that refusing transgender individuals the right to use restrooms according to their true gender is directly prejudice against one group of people. Gun control legislation, if implemented justly of course (that’s an entirely separate debate), should affect all Americans equally and should not be discriminatory. If freedom is our primary concern as Americans, it is essential that transgender individuals be able to use the bathroom they want to use without fear of legal prosecution. For as long as legislation calls directly for discrimination based on sexuality, we have not achieved true freedom.

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About Sara Otto

Sara is a senior pursuing a dual degree in Communications and Information. She is an aspiring broadcast journalist, primarily interested in politics, who hopes to contribute to a digital publication after graduating next year. She has never been afraid to challenge the status quo and constantly questions societal norms. When she isn't writing, you can find her climbing trees, baking vegan chocolate cakes, getting lost on purpose, or laughing at either herself or at nothing at all. As a wise man once said, "I do take my work seriously, and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously." -Alan Rickman