Thursday, January 22, 2004

Rights and Reason: The right to bear arms

A proper government receives its power from the people; governments are delegated the individual's right to retaliatory force and the government places that right under the rule of law. The better a society is able to place the right to retaliatory force under the rule of law, the better and more efficiently men are able to resolve their disputes peaceably.

There is one element to the right to retaliatory force that can never be delegated, and that is the right to take immediate deadly action against an immediate deadly threat. Yet this obvious expression of the individual's right life is inconsistantly protected, both in terms of whether the individual is legally permitted to carry a firearm, and what kind of firearm he may carry.

I hold that an individual ought to be able to legally carry weaponry sufficient to protect himself from any individual in his immediate view. I hold that any man-portable direct fire weapon with a range within the bounds of unaided human sight should be available to the citizen. I see no reason to draw a distinction between semi-automatic fire and automatic fire, or the caliber and shape of the weapon. An individual has a fundamental right to protect himself from another individual within his sight.

I hold the right to respond to any other threat is the province of government. Threats of a larger nature are properly 'nationalized' and placed under objective rules and controls. No man, for example, may a man own a tank; such weaponry is beyond what one needs to respond to an immediate threat and there is no legitimate justification for an individual to own such a weapon. Nor may a man own a flamethrower, which is an indiscriminate weapon inappropriate for self-defense. Nor may a man own a nuclear bomb; such weapons are devices used by nation-states against other nation-states, and their control must be placed under strict guidelines and limited to only certain uses.

Now consider governments that place an outright bans on the legal possession of firearms, such as the District of Columbia. When the law banning firearm ownership in the District was first enacted, a suit was brought against the police department for failing to provide immediate policing on the level that would be available to an individual if he was permitted to be armed in self-defense. Amazingly, the courts ruled that the government was under no such obligation to provide immediate protection to its citizens. There, citizens are left literally naked against immediate threats against their life and property, and the deplorable crime rate in the District is the telling consequence of such a view.

Frankly, I find it appalling that such misguided logic is allowed to stand. Those of us who choose to arm ourselves do so because we value our lives. Accordingly, I say this: we must give equal vigor to defending the freedom of action necessary to sustain our lives as well. And just as we would not hesitate to confront an attacker, we must not hesitate to confront our leaders when they fail to defend our rights. The tools may be different, but the intent must always remain the same.

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