The conversation about guns: Part 2, Restricted rights.

(This is the second in a multipost series on the ongoing debate over civilian gun ownership. This topic was introduced here and further parts to this series will be linked at that introduction post.)

One of the pillars of the arguments advanced by the gun-banning side of the overall debate on civilian gun ownership is an attempt to preempt the concept that what they’re talking about is a Constitutionally-protected civil right. One of the distortions the mainstream media in this country has fostered is this notion that the Liberal/Left in this country is the side that’s concerned with protecting civil rights and the Conservative/Right is not. So it’s a sore spot in this overall debate that it’s the Left that is having a problem with Americans exercising their civil rights. The common refrain these days from those trying to justify their advocacy of gun bans is to point out – usually indignantly – that “no right is absolute!” Meaning, that all of our rights have limitations. The classic example is that the right to free speech does not grant one the right to yell “fire” in a crowded theater.

This assertion – that no right is an absolute – is a strawman at its heart. The only reason you’d make such an assertion, and especially in the tone in which it’s being expressed, is to counter the notion that somehow the right to keep and bear arms is an absolute and unlimited. There is no example of anyone credible on the side supporting the 2nd Amendment making such an argument. It’s an implication formed completely by the opponents of those supporters and then attacked, a pretty classic strawman. That’s a logical fallacy and that’s not a great way to start a debate, not if you actually have arguments that can be supported.

But let’s take a moment and look at the concept of limitations on rights. We, as a society, agree to the limitations of certain of our God-given rights when such a limitation is very likely to produce a positive effect. Take the freedom of speech from the 1st Amendment as a case in point. You have the right to speak freely, so long as what you’re saying isn’t slanderous or fraudulent. Your freedom of spech does not extend to falsely accusing someone of a crime nor in talking them out of their possessions as part of a swindle on your part. Your freedom of speech against the government – the speech that is actually protected by the 1st Amendment – does not protect you if you attempt to incite a riot. This is a limitation on one of our civil rights that we have agreed to and we’ve agreed because having that limitation produces the positive effect of keeping someone’s speech from getting you wrongly jailed or caught in a civil upheaval.

What’s missing in all of this talk about how we all just need to give up our rights to arm ourselves in defense of self, family, and community is the high probability that such a limitation would actually do anything positive. Forcing myself and other law-abiding supporters of the 2nd Amendment to disarm would do absolutely nothing to disarm the criminals who are the ones we’re all supposedly worried about in the first place. Putting restrictions on so-called “assault weapons” or high-capacity magazines was actually tried and the sum total of the positive effect of those laws was precisely zero. No positive effect will come from placing these limitations on our rights and it is for that reason that I and other supporters of the 2nd Amendment view them as, at best, unnecessary or, at worst, harmful to our civil rights.

That such limitations on Americans’ civil rights are self-evidently needed is true only if you’ve already decided you don’t want fellow citizens to be able to own guns. Absent that predisposition, this is an unwarranted violation of civil rights and should not be implemented.


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