|Rich Lowry - A centrist to be sure, but at least with one foot grounded in originalism.|
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Opinion | Yes, Gun Ownership Is a God-Given Right
By RICH LOWRY
The fastest way to trend on Twitter, and not in a good way, is to say that the right to bear arms is a God-given right.
Texas state Rep. Matt Schaefer established this beyond a doubt in a Twitter thread in the immediate aftermath of the West Texas shooting spree. He said that he wouldn’t use “the evil acts of a handful of people to diminish the God-given rights of my fellow Texans.”
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Progressives were aghast at Schaefer’s sentiment, and when actress Alyssa Milano questioned how he possibly could defend it, Texas Senator Ted Cruz jumped in to support Schaefer’s argument (in less obnoxious terms).
The basic proposition actually isn’t hard to defend, and indeed it is written into our fundamental documents. This doesn’t mean that God wants you to own an AR-15, or that every jot and tittle of our current gun regime is divinely mandated. Far from it. Yet there is a natural right to self-defense and gun ownership is inherently connected to that right in a modern society.
This is glossed over or denied even by Democrats who have a connection to America’s culture of gun ownership. On “Morning Joe” the other day, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said, “I look at [gun legislation] and I always say, ‘Does this hurt Uncle Dick in his deer stand?’” That’s not really the question, though. The Second Amendment isn’t fundamentally about Uncle Dick bagging deer, but about his ability to defend himself and his family.
The notion of God-given rights shouldn’t be controversial. It is a bedrock of the American creed, written into the Declaration of Independence. It’s preamble says, of course, that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Usually no one bats an eyelash at rhetoric based on this formulation. In his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said “the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forbears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”
The Bill of Rights puts flesh on the bones of those “unalienable rights” of life and liberty, and numbers “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” among them.
Why? Because the founders believed, rightly, that everyone has an inherent right to self-defense.
John Locke, the English philosopher influential with the founders, wrote:
“I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred.”
As David Hirsanyi notes in his history of the gun in America, First Freedom, John Adams said in his defense of one of the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre in 1770, self-defense was “the primary canon in the law of nature.”
Owning a gun is an extension of this law of nature, and has been recognized as such for a very long time in Anglo-America. The right to bear arms had deep roots in England, and predated the Constitution on these shores. Pennsylvania guaranteed the right early on. In his draft of the Virginia Constitution in 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” (His language wasn’t adopted.)
It is out of this historical and jurisprudential soil that we got the Second Amendment. Guns would make it possible for Americans to defend themselves, and to defend their liberties.
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Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist of the importance of “the original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.” This right can be used if necessary, per Hamilton, “against the usurpations of the national rulers.”
This wasn’t an outlandish idea, rather a commonplace. As the great writer and reformer Noah Webster put it, “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 band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”
It is a canard that the Second Amendment contemplates gun ownership only in the context of militias. It clearly guarantees an individual right to bear arms. It uses the word “people,” which appears in other amendments denoting individual rights and mendments).
There was no doubt about this at the time. As Harsanyi writes, “not a single soul in the provisional government or at the Second Continental Congress or any delegate at the Constitutional Convention—or, for that matter, any new American—ever argued against the idea of individuals owning a firearm.”
The great legal commentaries of the 19th century expressed this understanding.
It was only later that the Second Amendment came to be considered essentially an ink blot, before its true meaning was excavated by scholars on the left and the right.
None of this is necessarily a trump card in the gun-control debate. Whatever their merits, the most commonly proposed gun-control restrictions wouldn’t substantially lessen gun ownership in this country. It does mean, however, that there is a limit to how far gun control can go in America, and that proponents of new restrictions should be fully aware that they are tampering with a constitutionally protected individual right. The Second Amendment doesn’t have lesser status than the First.
If Uncle Dick likes to hunt, good for him. But his right to own a firearm doesn’t begin or end there.
LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATEDemocrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.
Modified by TEEBONE at Thu, Sep 05, 2019, 11:37:48
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