Friday, October 12, 2012

What it Means to Be Conservative - Part 5: The Right to Bear Arms

Here we go. The long awaited fifth part of the What it Means to Be Conservative Series is finally here. If you've missed the others, check out the earlier installments.

Part 1: Limited Government and Free Enterprise
Part 2: Anti-Elitism
Part 3: Wealth Creation
Part 4: Natural Law

In Part 5, I'll be talking about a very important part of the conservative viewpoint: the right to bear arms.

Now, when we conservatives refer to the right to bear arms, we mean an inalienable right - a right that all people have by virtue of their existence and that cannot be rightfully taken away or given up. This right to bear arms is right up there with the rights to life and liberty. In fact, the right to bear arms is derived from the rights to life and liberty.

How so, you ask? Think of it this way. If you have rights to life and liberty, you must also have a right to protect your life and liberty from those who would threaten to kill or enslave you or else your rights mean nothing. If you have no way of protecting yourself, your rights to life and to liberty may be trampled on with impunity. Thus, there must be a right to defend yourself. Even our laws recognize this right. If someone threatens your life and you kill them while defending yourself, you go free. You can't be punished for murder when you act in self-defense.

The right to bear arms is an extension of the right to self-defense. You aren't required to use only your bare hands to defend yourself against those who are attacking you. You may use various implements in protecting your life and liberty - whether knives, guns, baseball bats, or whatever. And if you desire to own a particular object that makes defending yourself easier, you have the right to obtain and keep such an object. This is the right to bear arms.

However, while guns are very useful for protecting oneself, this is only one aspect of the right to bear arms. This argument alone is sufficient to show that we have such an inalienable right, but it doesn't show the full reason that this right exists or that our Founding Fathers specifically included this right in the Bill of Rights.

Plenty of people (on both sides of the gun-rights issue) speak of the right to bear arms as if it's all about the right to go hunting or the right to defend yourself against muggers. While hunting and defense against criminals are valid and very important uses of guns, this is not the reason that this particular right is one of the first rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights. You see, if the right to own guns is merely about having a rifle to go hunting with, then those who don't hunt...well, they don't need guns and maybe the government should keep them from having guns (or so some would argue). Similarly, some try to argue that cops may need guns, but private citizens do not since they can rely on law enforcement. There are flaws in both arguments, but even pointing out that people sometimes need to protect themselves because law enforcement is not present doesn't get at the real issue.

The real issue is that we the people must have the right to bear arms because without this right, we will not remain free. An unarmed people is not only at the mercy of violent criminals, but of their own government as well.

Remember that the Founding Fathers, when they wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, had just thrown off the oppressive government of England by force and instituted their own government. They knew that without arms - without guns in the hands of the colonists - they would never have been able to stand up to the tyrannical government that was violating their inalienable rights. The colonists were able to not only fight against the well-trained and well-equipped British military, but win - precisely because they had the arms to do so. With that in mind, they wrote the Second Amendment in order to ensure that future generations of Americans would not have to live in fear of their government.

Notice the language of the Second Amendment:
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Notice that it doesn't say "The need for a person to be able to kill deer..." or "The need to protect onself from criminals..." is the reason for this right. It says that having arms in the hands of the people is necessary in order for the people to remain free. They knew that the people must hold the threat of forcible removal of their government in order to prevent government from taking their freedoms. Without actual firepower in the hands of the people, the political power will not remain with the people either.

And, of course, history bears this out. Every government that has disarmed its citizens has soon become tyrannical - taking absolute power and killing large numbers of its own people. The history of disarmament is a bloody and gruesome one. The Founding Fathers knew that the same horrible attrocities could happen here as well and thus they gave us the Second Amendment to ensure that the people always hold the power.

So, on that note, here is 5th part of the video series with Bill Whittle, which points out many of the same points I just made. He makes some other good arguments as well. For example, he makes a very good point that if you take away the Second Amendment, you will also destroy the First Amendment because if someone decides that "real people can't be trusted with dangerous guns, it's just a matter of time until they decide that they can't be trusted with dangerous ideas either." He also makes the same point I have elsewhere, that guns are equalizers that enable the weak to protect themselves from the physically strong. Watch the video and comment below.

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