These Two Studies Prove Republicans Wrong About Gun Control and Universal Health Care

Universal health care and reasonably restrictive gun control laws do not substantially impede economic and human freedom. Rather, in their proper context they represent the best way to address the balance between shared responsibility and individual freedom.

That is the conclusion I draw from two studies, the 2013 Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom and the 2013 Fraser Institute Index of Human Freedom.

Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia are countries that rank higher than the United States on these indices and each has a form of universal health care and decidedly stricter gun control laws than the United States.

American conservatives, libertarians, and those on the right, however, feel that any attempt to expand gun control laws and implement a form of universal health care is an assault on liberty. They have even supported a shutdown of the United States federal government in order to prevent implementation of universal health care in America.

The position of those on the right is totally inconsistent with what is occurring in the vast majority of Western and modern civilization. Most developed countries have a system of universal health care and sensible but restrictive gun control laws.

The conservative and libertarian argument against restrictive gun laws and universal health care is made even more specious when you consider the esteem in which they hold countries like Hong Kong and Singapore.

In Hong Kong’s two-tier system citizens are provided basic government-subsidized health care and can augment or replace that coverage with private health insurance. Singapore’s system is largely supported by a mandatory contribution that every person pays into a health savings account. Despite the heavy state intervention, Hong Kong and Singapore's health care systems are considered the most efficient in the world.

Nations throughout the world have successfully implemented versions of socialized medicine along with sensible gun control laws without jeopardizing liberty. New Zealand, for example, is ranked fourth in economic freedom and first in the conservative and right-libertarian Fraser Institute Worldwide Index of Human Freedom. In fact all six countries that rank higher than the United States on the Human Freedom Index have some form of universal health care as well as stricter gun control laws, as do the nine countries that rank higher than the United States on the conservative-based Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom.

Americans need not be afraid that registration, universal background checks, and controlling the sale of guns through private transactions somehow leaves us exposed to a dystopian world of tyranny. Nor should they be afraid that an insurance mandate or single=payer system constitutes a slippery slope towards the elimination of freedom and liberty. In fact universal health care may provide a means to address the epidemic of untreated mental illness, which in turn will directly impact gun violence associated with the disease. By definition a person with a mental health disorder is likely to have a pre-existing and a chronic lifelong condition. A universal health care system that removes caps, allows for pre-existing conditions, and requires mental health to be included in the insurance plan will address both scenarios..

While Hong Kong and Singapore were implementing efficient state sponsored universal health care they also managed to address gun control. In Singapore people must obtain a license to purchase a weapon and ammunition and provide justification for the purchase. Singapore requires that a record of the acquisition, possession, and transfer of each privately held firearm be retained in an official register. Private sales are prohibited and the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law. Hong Kong requires that an individual be trained and tested as a condition of obtaining a firearms license and only licensed individuals can purchase, own, or transfer a weapon or ammunition.

This seems to blow a hole in the conservative and libertarian argument that stricter gun controls and mandatory health insurance represent a path towards an erosion of liberty. Countries as diverse as Ireland, Chile, and Denmark prove that it is absolutely possible for a country to have both reasonably strict gun control laws and subsidized universal health care, while maintaining its economic freedom and liberty.

Even the small but rapidly developing nation of Mauritius (ranked eighth in economic freedom) has implemented universal health care and sensible restrictive gun control laws. If a small developing country like Mauritius can figure this out, then it is far past time for the conservative and libertarian movement of the United States to listen and allow America to catch up with the rest of the modern world.