TAMPA, January 11, 2013 ― Supposedly, a philosophical debate is going on between “right and left” over the natural right to keep and bear arms. As usual, both sides are wrong.
The right to keep and bear arms is inseparable from the right to life. Here in the real world, arming oneself is the only practical way to exercise the right to life, which is properly defined as the right not to be killed by another human being.
Banning guns removes an individual’s ability to exercise the right to life. It places his life at the discretion of anyone who would take it away. Life is no longer a right, but a privilege, exercised at the discretion of criminals. Sometimes, the criminals wear government costumes.
When is this ever justified?
The only reasonable answer would be when an individual has wrongfully taken the life of another person. Even then there is room for an argument. If manslaughter does not carry a lifetime prison sentence, why does the perpetrator permanently surrender his right to life?
There is no justification for prohibiting gun ownership for virtually any other crime. Perhaps egregious assaults or child molestation also qualify, but that is still a tiny percentage of the population.
Even conservatives cast the net far wider. Standard conservative talking points go something like this. “We defend the 2nd Amendment rights of law abiding citizens who are not mentally ill to keep and bear arms.”
Virtually every word of this statement is wrong. And this is the “pro-gun” side.
First, there are no such things as “2nd Amendment rights” or “Constitutional rights.” Rights do not come from the Constitution. They existed before it. They exist regardless of the creation of any government, anywhere. They are endowed by our Creator, as our founding document states. They cannot be taken away. They cannot be voted away, not even by democratically-elected representatives.
Even Barack Obama supposedly believes this. He said so in his nomination acceptance speech.
By “law abiding citizens,” conservatives mean anyone who hasn’t been convicted of what the government calls a “felony.” The problem is that the government calls virtually everything a felony and they designate more innocuous behavior as felonious every day.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are currently over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States. It is unknown how many U.S. citizens alive today have ever been convicted of a felony, but that number must be in the tens of millions. No matter how long ago that was, those people are prohibited from owning firearms.
Martha Stewart was convicted of lying about whether or not she committed the non-crime of insider trading. What reasonable person could argue that because of this she should spend the rest of her life at the mercy of anyone who decides to invade her home or attack her on the street?
Ms. Stewart is to some extent a bad example. She has the financial means to hire armed bodyguards to protect her and her home and still comply with the law. Most convicted felons do not have this luxury.
Neither have most convicted felons ever harmed another human being. Two thirds of the U.S. prison population is incarcerated for non-violent offenses, about half of them for drug offenses.
For most of these people, there is no justification for incarcerating them in the first place, much less for violating their most basic rights for the rest of their lives.
Even the qualification that the individual not be “mentally ill” is bogus. It is true that the ability to reason is a prequalification for liberty, but it is not up to any bureaucrat to determine whether someone is mentally ill. The burden of proof that someone is mentally unfit to exercise their basic rights falls upon the accuser, not the accused. A person must demonstrate mental incapacity by some overt act and their incapacity must be proven before talk of violating their rights occurs.
If we allow the government to start requiring people to prove they are not mentally ill, they will achieve their gun ban without firing a legislative shot. Some have already called Tea Party or Occupy protestors “terrorists.” It won’t be a stretch for them to decree that certain political positions constitute “mental illness.” Ever been diagnosed with ADHD as a child in a government school? Someday you will be on the list, too.
If conservatives represent the strongest defense of the right to keep and bear arms, the debate is already over. They are nothing more than “Progressive Light” on this issue, as they are on most others.
Throughout human history, one chief identifying characteristic of the slave has been that he is unarmed. Free people keep and bear arms. Slaves are prohibited from doing so. Virtually every American, including most convicted felons, should have the opportunity to purchase and carry the firearm of their choice.
Don’t let politicians or their media partners define the debate. The 2nd Amendment is the last vestige of American freedom.
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.