“No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” – Thomas Jefferson draft of the Virginia Constitution
In a recent POLITICO poll, an alleged 55% of Republican voters favored an assault weapons ban and a large percentage supported stricter gun control. My immediate reaction is two-fold: 1) I highly doubt the validity of any supposed poll conducted by the socialist news network POLITICO; and 2) thank God that my rights are not determined by popularity, popular votes, or the opinions of the majority! This article discusses why popular support is never a legitimate justification for violating the rights of individuals.
Let’s dissect an absurd hypothetical scenario to make a point about an important principle. Suppose that 99% of the population got together and determined that anyone with blonde hair should be immediately rounded up and put to death. Is this decision justified? Why not? After all, didn’t a whopping 99% of the population determine that blonde-haired people should die? Doesn’t the majority rule? Don’t the People decide what goes? Aren’t we bound to acknowledge the “will of the majority”?
Any right-thinking person will acknowledge the absurdity of the scenario just presented. Of course society doesn’t have a right to arbitrary kill blondes! Even if an overwhelming consensus wants to or votes to take away your right to life, no one has a right to deprive you of life or limb unless you have violated another’s rights or pose an imminent threat. Additionally, groups cannot be held accountable for, or punished because of, the actions of individuals.
These principles apply to any of our God-given rights, but let’s logically extend them to guns and gun owners. Does a majority of the population have a right to ban guns, even just certain types of firearms like “assault rifles” or accessories like 30-round magazines, if it decides that it wants to? Does a majority have a right to deprive you, a peaceable American, of your right of self-defense? Should gun owners as a group be punished and have their rights restricted because an individual wrongly abuses another person with a gun?
And if we can take guns away from gun owners because a mentally disturbed or evil individual kills or harms another person with a gun, can we also take away knives from knife owners when someone kills another with a knife? Why not? It makes as much logical sense to restrict knife use, ban certain types of knives, or confiscate knives from knife owners, as it does to restrict, ban, or confiscate guns from gun owners. Following this illogic through to its conclusion, can we take cars away from people if someone kills another person with a car? If not, then why not? And if you protest this action, aren’t you a hypocrite for favoring gun control?
Let’s look at a few numbers. The following are the FBI’s official crime statistics for people killed by attackers using rifles over a five-year period: 285 in 2013; 258 in 2014; 258 in 2015; 378 in 2016; and 403 in 2017. For the same years, the following were murdered by assailants with knives: 1,490 in 2013; 1,595 in 2014; 1,589 in 2015; 1,632 in 2016; and 1,591 in 2017.
If the logic of the gun-grabbers is followed, then shouldn’t we ban knives because knives actually kill exponentially more people than “assault rifles” do? If so-called “assault rifles” are supposedly such a huge problem, then knives which claim many more lives than rifles must be a much larger problem.
In a nation of 330 million where approximately 110 million people collectively own over 400 million firearms, doesn’t it speak to the level of maturity and carefulness of gun owners that only 403 people are killed by rifles in a 365-day cycle? In other words, in 2017 only 1.1 person a day was killed by an assailant using a rifle – a miniscule fraction of the number of lives claimed by abortion each day and far fewer than the number killed in daily car crashes.
Though these murders truly exact a heavy emotional toll on the families and friends of the victims, the overall number of people killed by assailants wielding rifles is statistically inconsequential when compared against the enormous population of the United States and the large number of gun owners. This low number is certainly not large enough for honest and informed people to claim there is a problem or to propose that the rights of 330 million people should therefore be stripped away.
Though statistics refute the claim that guns – let alone unjustly condemned “assault rifles” – are a problem, there is a more poignant argument that smashes the propaganda into pieces. The only thing that matters here is that God, or nature, gave us a right to defend ourselves. The right of self-defense does not automatically preclude the use of certain means of defense. In ancient times, people had as much right to defend themselves with the day’s best technology, be it a longsword or a crossbow. Today, we equally have a right to defend ourselves with a sword, musket, assault rifle, machine gun, bazooka, or grenade. And in the future, people will have the right to use lasers, or whatever advanced weapons then exist, in legitimate self-defense. Time and technology do not change our fundamental rights.
The means is simply not important. The only imperative thing is that we possess the right of self-defense and that this right be defended. This right is an inalienable right. It is God-given. We are born with it. It is the right by which we are enabled to defend all others, such as the right of free speech or the right of due process.
The U.S. Constitution also protects our right of self-defense. Though some might not like what the 2nd Amendment so plainly says, it says it nonetheless. No majority or opinion poll can take away this right guaranteed to us by the Constitution. President George Washington declared a vital principle:
“This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).
American citizens owe strict obedience to the established law of the land so long as the law protects our inalienable rights. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Our obedience to that inspired document is “sacredly obligatory” upon us. Unless changed by an act of the whole population of the United States through the amendment process or some other means, the Constitution is our standard and we are obligated to defend it – even if we don’t like it or agree with it. This includes the 2nd Amendment which defends the individual’s right to keep and bear arms – any arms – for their own personal self-defense.
We live under a government ruled by law. We are not ruled by the whims of rulers or of majorities. The majority can tyrannize just as easily as the minority may. However, our rights came from God and cannot be justly taken away. We are born with these rights. They cannot be taken from us unless we violate the equal rights of others. Thomas Jefferson stated:
“[R]ightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’; because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.”
No matter how offended you might be by the existence of guns – yes, even big ol’ scary “assault rifles” – the fact is that people have as much right to own them as you have to breathe air. Both are endowments of Almighty God. Both breathing and bearing arms in self-defense are natural rights. And when any law, no matter how much popular support it has, violates the rights of the individual, it is tyranny. Please consider that next time you start to think an “assault weapons” ban is justified.
Let’s restate the principle at play here by appealing to our past example. If the majority rules in all cases as some assume, then it has as much right to take away your guns as it does to kill blonde people. It would have as much right to take away your car, your knife, your gun, or your life. It would have omnipotent power to do whatever it wanted regardless of the law, the Constitution, or any sense of justice.
However, if Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and I are correct, then no majority or supermajority ever has the right to steal away or restrict your rights so long as you’re a peaceable citizen. If majority does not rule, and our rights are not subject to the whims of the majority, then your right to defend yourself with firearms, or any other weapon, is as secure as a blonde person’s right to live.
I maintain the radical idea that your rights are not determined by the majority. Your rights do not come from your neighbor nor are determined by him. And your rights certainly do not come from government. Our rights are non-negotiable. Government was instituted for the express purpose of protecting our rights. No public poll, no popular vote, and no majority of citizens can take away your rights. Period.
God preserve our rights under and the Constitution He inspired to protect them! Let us be faithful to our Founding Fathers’ vision of a free Republic where rule of law, not rule of men, prevails. May free men ever maintain their arms to defend their Liberty regardless of what unjust laws, tyrants, or deluded majorities decree. And may each American remember this central truth: You Do NOT Determine My Rights.
August 18, 2019.