Self-defense is a God-given right. Self-defense is a natural right. And, in America, self-defense is a constitutional and legally-guaranteed right.
After the right of life, which necessarily must be considered the first and foundational right, the right to defend life and all the things that make it meaningful – such as Liberty and property – is the paramount right. All other rights rely upon the right of self-defense for their protection. None of our rights are secure without the individual’s prerogative to safeguard them.
Think of a few examples. Freedom of speech means little to nothing if you can’t defend yourself against those who would seek to silence or punish your speech. The right to own and use private property would be precarious at best without the right and means to defend said property against thieves and greedy tyrants. The right to worship as we please would be subject to the mob if we didn’t have a means of defending our beliefs. And the right of life, as noted, would be fragile without a means to preserve it. Choose almost any right that humans hold dear and you’ll see that its security, stability, and tenability depends heavily upon personal, private, and individual self-defense.
I’m bold to state that self-defense is the cardinal right we possess as humans. It is the pinnacle in our canon of Liberties. It is our paramount and premier right. It is the very lynchpin of Freedom.
The influential English statesman John Locke described the supreme importance of the right of self-defense. I quoted him at length in my article “The Natural Law of Self-Defense” and recommend you to read that piece for an enlarged understanding of these principles. But a few crucial lines bear repeating here:
“This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in his power, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right, to get me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away every thing else. And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a state of war with me, i.e. kill him if I can.
“. . . force, or a declared design of force, upon the person of another, where there is no common superior on earth to appeal to for relief, is the state of war: and it is the want of such an appeal gives a man the right of war even against an aggressor, tho’ he be in society and a fellow subject. Thus a thief, whom I cannot harm, but by appeal to the law, for having stolen all that I am worth, I may kill, when he sets on me to rob me but of my horse or coat; because the law, which was made for my preservation, where it cannot interpose to secure my life from present force, which, if lost, is capable of no reparation, permits me my own defence, and the right of war, a liberty to kill the aggressor, because the aggressor allows not time to appeal to our common judge, nor the decision of the law, for remedy in a case where the mischief may be irreparable. Want of a common judge with authority, puts all men in a state of nature: force without right, upon a man’s person, makes a state of war, both where there is, and is not, a common judge” (John Locke, Second Treatise on Government, Chapter 3, Sections 18-19).
Did you catch that? Self-defense is permissible in any situation where an appeal to the courts and law is not immediately available. In situations when force, “or a declared design of force,” is used against you, a state of war has begun and you have a logical right to use force to stop the threat – yes, even to kill the threat. When someone illicitly tries to “get [you] in his power,” you may lawfully prevent it by destroying the threat.
What if you’re merely being robbed? First of all, there’s nothing trivial about property theft or property damage. The death penalty has been the verdict for theft throughout much of history. Second of all, it doesn’t matter what the offense is; you may still kill the aggressor who is attempting to get you under his control or who is otherwise using, or threatening to use, force against you.
Consider it logically. You don’t know what an aggressor’s intentions are. You don’t know, when a masked man jumps out at you on a dark street at midnight, whether he wants to rob, rape, or murder you. You don’t know, when someone busts down your front door while you’re sitting on the couch with your family, what the home invader’s intentions are. You don’t know when mobs chase you and try to put their hands on you what they want. You are justified in reacting aggressively to counter the “design of force” which is evident against you in all of these cases.
Please note that I have yet to refer to firearms or the 2nd Amendment. Our right of self-defense doesn’t depend on the U.S. Constitution and it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with guns. Let’s explore these truths a little.
At the outset, I said that self-defense is not only a constitutional right, but a natural and God-given right. What are “natural rights”? The term was routinely used by our Founding Fathers. Natural rights are those prerogatives inherent in every person at birth. They belong to the individual because of his or her humanity and for no other reason. Each person is therefore born with these “natural rights” and does not receive them from government, society, one’s family, one’s church, popular consensus, or any other source. If you were born, you have natural rights.
You may, in a sense, compare these natural rights, which are a part of natural law, with jungle law. In nature, lions, tigers, baboons, bears, bison, bees, etc., defend themselves, their territory, and their property (food, dens, nests, etc.). It’s not a societal convention – it’s hardwired in their natures. This is their most basic – and essential – right and idea. The only difference is that humans are even more important and valuable and have the seeds of godhood in them (Romans 8:16-17) by virtue of their Heavenly lineage (Psalm 82:6), thus giving them a greater prerogative to self-defense.
Samuel Adams gave one of the greatest explanations of natural rights. He said:
“Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature. . . .
“When men enter into society, it is by voluntary consent; and they have a right to demand and insist upon the performance of such conditions and previous limitations as form an equitable original compact.
“Every natural right not expressly given up, or, from the nature of a social compact, necessarily ceded, remains.
“All positive and civil laws should conform, as far as possible, to the law of natural reason and equity. . . .
“The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule. . . .
“In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave” (Samuel Adams, The Rights of Colonists, 1772).
Natural rights pre-existed before governments came into being. According to Samuel Adams, it’s “the greatest absurdity” to think that we even have the ability to “renounce [our] essential rights.” We do not. We were created with them and they’re ours by birthright. It’s tantamount to slavery to give up our rights. And, please note, that self-defense is identified as one of our “essential natural rights.” Specifically, Samuel Adams said that it’s absurd to renounce “the means of preserving those rights” and that the very purpose is the “defence of those very rights.”
The Boston Independent Chronicle published an editorial in 1787 that linked self-defense with natural rights:
“It was absolutely necessary to carry arms for fear of pirates, &c. and . . . their arms were all stamped with peace, that they were never to be used but in case of hostile attack, that it was in the law of nature for every man to defend himself, and unlawful for any man to deprive him of those weapons of self defence” (Les Adams, The Second Amendment Primer: A Citizen’s Guidebook to the History, Sources, and Authorities for the Constitutional Guarantee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, 118)
It was clear to the author of that statement that keeping arms was both “lawful” and “absolutely necessary.” It was also completely “unlawful” for anyone to take away private weapons. These weapons were to be kept to preserve peace, pursuant to the law of nature.
Finally, the early American statesman Henry St. George Tucker explained:
“The right of bearing arms – which with us is not limited and restrained by an arbitrary system of game laws as in England; but, is particularly enjoyed by every citizen, and is among his most valuable privileges, since it furnishes the means of resisting as a freeman ought, the inroads of usurpation” (Les Adams, The Second Amendment Primer, 105).
Another time, he elaborated:
“Now the natural right of self defence is nothing more than the liberty which the law of nature allows us of defending ourselves from an attack which is made upon our persons or of taking such measures as may guard against any injuries we are likely to suffer from another. . .
“. . . [A]s the law of nature allows us to defend ourselves, and imposes no limit upon the right, the only limit we can impose is the necessity of the case. Whatever means are necessary must be lawful; for the rule is general, that where is a right is absolutely given, the mean to exercise it must also follow” (Les Adams, The Second Amendment Primer, 105).
These are important clarifications. They explain that not only do individuals have a natural right of self-defense, but that it is unlimited and unlimitable. It is absolute. It is unimpeachable. If we have the right to defend ourselves, we must also have the absolute right to exercise it by any means. I’ve long argued that if Bob down the block thinks he needs a machine gun to defend his family, who am I to say no? If I feel I need hand grenades, what gives you the right to stop me?
If you have authority to limit my right of self-defense in any way, then you can argue that you have the right to restrict it totally. In most cases, our rights are not given with stipulations. Certainly, as was argued above, the right of self-defense must be unlimited, or “absolutely given,” or it can’t truly be said to exist. This is the weight of natural rights – the rights upheld by the Constitution and claimed by all humans at birth.
Now we move on to God-given rights. The concept relies upon one’s belief a higher power – a Creator. Those who acknowledge God’s creative power and authority also acknowledge that natural rights didn’t just pop into existence, but are part of God’s overarching Plan for mankind. Regardless of what you individually believe, Americans have collectively acknowledged God’s authority and in fact identify Him as the source of our natural rights. The Declaration of Independence clearly and firmly states that “all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
If you are a citizen of the United States, part of your political creed, canonized and codified and carrying the force of law, is the belief that humans are given their rights by God Almighty; including, specifically, life, Liberty, and the ability to work out their existence in happiness without interference. If you don’t believe this, I would say you’re not a true American and don’t belong here. At any rate, you repudiate the core of the Declaration of Independence and stand in defiance to the great men who created our Republic.
Alexander Hamilton made this strong statement regarding our rights:
“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power” (Alexander Hamilton, “The Farmer Refuted,” February 23, 1775).
It’s “self-evident,” as the Declaration says, that humans are endowed by God with their rights. It is the entire purpose of civil society and government to protect and secure these precious rights. But, in the ultimate sense, the power government has been delegated to protect rights comes from the individual who received his rights directly from his Creator.
Thomas Jefferson reasoned this way:
“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?”
John Adams affirmed that American Independence was achieved by implying the principles of Christianity – that conviction in the minds of the People that Liberty is from the Lord. Said he:
“The general Principles, on which the Fathers Achieved Independence, were the only Principles in which, that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite, and these Principles only could be intended by them in their Address, or by me in my Answer. And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all those Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities Sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence.
“Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God: and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System” (John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813).
The “only Principles” that united America in 1776 were the principles of Christianity. “Those principles of Liberty” that made America great were built on a foundation of the “general Principles of Christianity.” American Liberty and Christianity are therefore indissolubly linked, and the right of self-defense, therefore, comes from God Himself.
It may surprise some to know that the right of self-defense is written into the Bible and, therefore, constitutes one of those general principles of Christianity referred to. Exodus 22:2 states: “If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.” God clearly justified the killing of a thief, let alone an attacker, rapist, murderer, etc. But perhaps I’m getting off track. The point is that the noble men who founded America believed that rights come from God and stand above the power of government.
If rights are God-given – and I testify they absolutely are – it bears asking how He suggests we defend them. The Declaration of Independence says:
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness . . . when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
What is being communicated here? Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and the rest of the fifty-six illustrious men who signed the Declaration proclaimed it to be a right and duty to take up arms to thwart those violating their rights. This includes the right and duty to rebel against and overthrow tyrannical or corrupt government. The means of doing this, of course, is the paramount right – self-defense.
St. George Tucker expounded on this right and duty when he said of the 2nd Amendment:
“This may be seen as the true palladium of liberty. The right of self defence is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. In England, the people have been disarmed, generally under the specious pretext of preserving the game” (Les Adams, The Second Amendment Primer, 104).
Autocrats and despots hate the right of self-defense and always move to ban it. They know that their tyrannical aspirations would be impossible to get away with in the face of an armed citizenry. In a real sense, they acknowledge the preeminent place of the right of self-defense by focusing their attacks on it.
Noah Webster agreed that self-defense is a remedy to oppression, stating:
“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States” (Les Adams, The Second Amendment Primer, 105-106).
Justice Joseph Story of the Supreme Court chimed in, bolstering the argument that individual citizens may bear arms for self-defense and protection against tyrants:
“The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons who have duly reflected upon this subject. The militia is the natural defense of a free country. . . . The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a Republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them” (Les Adams, The Second Amendment Primer, 107).
In his book Principles of Constitutional Law, Thomas M. Cooley debunked the erroneous idea that only “militias” can have guns:
“The right is general. It may be supposed from the phraseology of this provision that the right to keep and bear arms was only guaranteed to the militia; but this would be an interpretation not warranted by the intent . . . The meaning of the provision undoubtedly is, that the people, from whom the militia must be taken, shall have the right to keep and bear arms, and they need no permission or regulation of law for the purpose” (Les Adams, The Second Amendment Primer, 108).
Finally, John Adams simply said: “Arms in the hands of citizens [may] be used at individual discretion . . . in private self-defence” (Les Adams, The Second Amendment Primer, 98).
Is it reasonable, in the face of this evidence and logic, to assume government has any right to take guns or restrict them in any manner? Of course not! The American People may use arms to overthrow oppressive government and the individual citizen may use them to defend his person and property. We have at least three sources to appeal to for this reasoning: The Constitution of the United States, which is the supreme law of the land; the law of nature which belongs to each human by right and supersedes the dictates of government; and the laws of God which trump them all.
The reason I chose to write this article at this time is because of the ongoing Kyle Rittenhouse trial. As of the publication of this article, the jury is on day two of deliberation. Anyone who has bothered to watch the trial has witnessed the rampant lies, witness tampering, and evidence manipulation of the smarmy, bitter prosecutors. This case is one of the most clear-cut cases of self-defense I’ve ever seen. It should have never been brought to trial. The only reason Kyle Rittenhouse’s fate sits in the hands of some random people in his community is because of politics. More than an attack on him, this is an attack on the very idea of self-defense and Freedom.
Kyle Rittenhouse must be freed. He used his constitutional, natural, and God-given right to defend himself against pedophiles, felons, and armed attackers who chased him, threatened him, and sought to do him bodily harm. If Kyle was not justified in shooting his attackers, then no one truly has a right to self-defense. Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero and I consider people who think otherwise enemies of the Republic and Constitution.
The Second Amendment is a litmus test for a person’s true commitment or antagonism to Freedom. America became a nation – the greatest nation on earth – because her People believed God had explicitly endowed them with the right to defend themselves against oppression and to safeguard their Freedom by force if necessary. To abdicate their rights without a fight was to consent to slavery. To allow a criminal or aggressor to take your life without a fight is little more than suicide. To take the life of an attacker, by contrast, is justified by holy writ, natural law, and the U.S. Constitution.
The right to keep and bear arms – to possess and use them – in our own personal defense and in the defense of our national Freedom, is our paramount right. Without it, Liberty is a lie. Without it, criminality rules. Without it, all hope is gone.
Stand firm for your rights, fellow freeman. Draw a line in the sand. Hold that line. Don’t fear tyrannical laws, conniving despots, or traitorous enforcers. Be prepared to defend yourself, your family, and your country against criminals, predators, and oppressors at every level. At the end of the day, when we stand up for self-defense – both in a private and national capacity – we stand with George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the other heroes of the Revolution. May God grant us the strength to defend our most paramount right so that we may more easily defend all of His sacred endowments!
November 17, 2021