If I were to ask you what you considered to be the most important right you possess, how would you answer? If you are like most people you probably haven’t given it much thought. Yet I would be curious to see the results of a massive poll asking that very question. When speaking of rights most people assume I am talking about the Bill of Rights and one of the rights protected by those ten amendments to the Constitution. What most people fail to consider is that one of them, the Ninth Amendment, states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” What that means is that just because a right is not specifically listed among the first ten amendments to the Constitution does not mean the right does not exist.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence he listed three basic rights that we as humans possess; those being Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That third right that Jefferson mentions, the Pursuit of Happiness, is almost redundant. First you have the right to Life, that is the right to live and not have your life taken from you. Secondly you have the right to Liberty. Liberty is defined as being without restraint in your actions. Doesn’t liberty then imply that you are free to pursue happiness?
So what we basically have is the right to Life and the right to Liberty. You can’t enjoy liberty if you are dead can you? So for you to enjoy one, you must have the other. Therefore the right to life would seem to be of greater importance, albeit only slightly higher, than the right to liberty. They are almost equal, but if you are alive and do not have liberty you can, although it may prove difficult, restore your liberty. You can’t reverse that though. Once you are dead you cannot restore your life. So life beats liberty for the top position.
As a human being, and I’m not talking about a citizen of any country, tribe, or other group to which we may belong, but as an individual human being vested with all your rights, what would you consider to be your most important right? I don’t know about you, but I would think that the right of self-preservation or self-defense would rank up there at the top.
You have to remember that all of your rights existed before government ever came into the picture. If you were the only human being on the planet who would there be to tell you what you could do and what you couldn’t do? If you were the only human being and there was no document listing your rights, would that mean you had none? No, you would retain all your rights, with the law of nature being the only law by which you lived. Under this law of nature it would basically be survival of the fittest.
Under the law of nature your primary concern would be self-preservation. That means your primary concerns would be the seeking of shelter and the providing of food for your sustenance. Everything that you might acquire, be it some sort of dwelling to live in, tools you made to make your life easier, and food you planted or hunted for, is yours, that is it is your property. This is the origin of property, that which man has taken, or created out of the things that the world provides for our sustenance.
Times have changed for many of us, we now live in civilized societies where we have ‘jobs’ we go to so that we may earn a paycheck and purchase the things we need, the concept is still the same. The money we earn is the fruit of our labor, and the things we exchange the money for are therefore our property as well.
In a state of nature man was free to defend his life and his property by whatever means he felt the situation required. There were no laws saying man could not use force to defend what he had acquired, it was a fundamental part of his nature as a human being which gave him the right to defend what was his against any threat posed, be it by animals scavenging for food, or other men.
When men formed into civil societies, that is groups of men living together, they did so for one purpose, to better be able to defend themselves from common threats, or as John Locke wrote, “… for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.”
Eventually governments came into existence. Probably the first forms of government were simple councils of tribe members who had the ultimate authority to settle disputes and manage the affairs of the tribe. Over the course of history government has taken many shapes and forms, but there are but two ways government may be instituted; it can either be established by a conscious act of the people, or someone, or some group, may take power for themselves. Those two modes of government are behind every republic, every dictatorship or monarchy that has ever existed, and those which have yet to exist. Power is either granted, or it is taken.
Yet no matter what form government may take, man’s basic rights remain eternal. Look at our own country; the original 13 colonies were established under a rule of a monarch whose word was law and it was final. Yet they fought back, believing in the concept that as free men they had rights which no ruler could proscribe. They obtained their independence, their liberty, and for the first time in history a nation existed that could establish which form of government it might take, and which powers it might hold.
Our nation’s Founders understood not only government, but they understood men. They realized that man is a flawed creature, full of weaknesses and susceptible to corruption and vice. This is what James Madison meant when he wrote the following in Federalist 51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
If you think for a moment that a people who had just fought a long bloody war to gain their independence from a tyrant were going to create a system of government which was just as tyrannical as the one they just rid themselves of, then I may as well stop writing right now as you are beyond hope.
What our Founders did was to establish a system of government which was bestowed with a very limited amount of power, just enough to manage the affairs of the nation and provide for its common defense. Checks and balances were created which gave no one branch too much power and allowed the others to halt any possible slide into tyranny it may take. And above all, with the inclusion of a Bill of Rights, the rights of the people were to be secured against any and all violations.
In 1943 the Supreme Court affirmed that our rights remain intact. In the case of West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette Justice Jackson ruled, “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
Our rights, including our individual right to self-preservation/self-defense, cannot be taken from us or legislated away by those we delegate the power to govern in our stead. Our rights are ours and as long as each of us lives and breathes they will remain so. It is inconceivable that a group of men who had just fought a bloody war to gain their independence would turn around and create a system of government, delegating to that government the power to limit their rights.
Our government was established to make laws beneficial to the general welfare of the nation and to safeguard our liberty. But what is law. According to Bastiat, “Law is solely the organization of the individual right of self-defense which existed before law was formalized. Law is justice.”
Bastiat further states, “Life, faculties, production-in other words, individuality, liberty, property-this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.”
Then Bastiat tells of what often happens, “The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!”
But we as individuals have the right to stand up and defend all our other rights when they come under attack. Marcus Cicero wrote “There exists a law, not written down anywhere but inborn in our hearts; a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading but by derivation and absorption and adoption from nature itself; a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays it down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.”
The right of self-defense is an all encompassing right. It applies not only to those who would threaten our lives, take our property, or bring violence to those we love, it also applies to defending our rights and our liberty against those who would take those from us as well.
As Locke writes in his Second Treatise, “…whenever the legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence.”
The only way a government may enforce its will upon the people is through violence and coercion. Let’s face it, if you include the Supreme Court, Congress, and the Executive branches there are only 543 people in our government. Under normal conditions, if the government were just and fair, the people would willingly obey the laws it enacted. But if the government were to become oppressive how long could 543 people hold off an angry nation of over 300 million people?
That is of course unless the government had a standing army to enforce its will. Now by a standing army I mean not only an active armed forces at the constant beck and call of government but I also include any armed agency whose job it is to enforce governmental edicts upon the masses. By that definition I also include in the category of standing armies the ATF, the DEA and all the other alphabet soup agencies that can, by force and violence, enforce the will of the government upon our lives.
Yet in 1787 Noah Webster would write, “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of 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 pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.”
What’s my purpose in telling you all this? It all boils down to the fact that we are being disarmed, a bit at a time. Not only are there laws which tell us what type, size, and magazine capacity of the guns we may own but we also have laws saying when, how and under what circumstances we may use them for self-defense. That includes our ability to defend our lives, our property, AND our liberty.
It all boils down to a statement made by Sir William Blackstone, the famous English jurist who declared, “Free men have arms; slaves do not.”
St George Tucker, a Virginia Judge in the 1800’s writes, “This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty…. The right of self defense 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.”
As a nation we have been indoctrinated into picking up a phone and dialing 911 when we need protection. Yet the court has ruled that the police are under no specific obligation to provide protection for the people. In Warren v District of Columbia the court ruled it so and that has yet to be overruled.
Yet, in most cases, when the people take it upon themselves to defend their lives or their property with deadly force they become the criminals under our legal system and the whole weight of the injustice system comes to bear upon them.
Yet think back to what Bastiat said about the law, “Law is solely the organization of the individual right of self-defense which existed before law was formalized. Law is justice.” And then think about what Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, “But 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.”
The Law, as Bastiat wrote, has been perverted. It is now a crime to exercise your right of self-defense. It is a crime to defend yourself, your property, and your liberty. Those of us who speak of armed defense of all these things are looked upon with fear by those who have been conditioned to believe that the government is all powerful and can dictate how and when we may defend ourselves and our rights.
In Amos v Mosley the Court ruled, “If the legislature clearly misinterprets a constitutional provision, the frequent repetition of the wrong will not create a right.” Just because those we have delegated authority to pass laws which say we cannot defend ourselves and our property does not make it so.
Unless you are incapable of thinking and are devoid of reasoning, you cannot but wonder what would be the reason why those in authority would seek the power to disarm, or limit the people’s ability to use arms, for the defense of their lives, their property and their liberty.
I say never give up your guns or your right to self-defense. As King Leonidas told the Persian Army when they told him to surrender his weapons, Molon Labe which means “Come and take them.”
And always remember what Blackstone said, “Free men have arms; slaves do not.”