We all have a right not to be murdered. Even if the president, congress and Supreme Court concluded we didn’t, we would still have that right. We are all endowed by God, our Creator, with an inalienable right to life. It is not derived from any government. No one should be able to take it from us. We cannot give it away. It is inalienable. Yes, it is true, the government can conscript us to serve and die in wars. Yes, we can punish criminals with the death penalty. But none of those is “murder.” We have an inalienable right not to be murdered.
How do we avoid being murdered? The unspoken contract in America is that the police and other law enforcement agencies will protect us from being murdered. On the early frontier, when those government agencies were not available, everyone was armed to protect themselves and those they loved. Today when we see parts of America where that unspoken contract has been broken, where law enforcement agencies are obviously failing in their ability to protect us from murder, it is not uncommon for citizens once again to seek to arm themselves to protect that most basic of inalienable rights—their lives.
In addition to murderers, there are other great threats to our inalienable right to life. Those who drafted the Constitution were well aware of these. One was foreign foes, another was internal insurrections—both of which could destroy life, liberty and property. For that reason they created a strong federal government and a president with broad powers. But they were also keenly aware that perhaps the greatest threat to their well-being was their own government. The Revolutionary War was fought against their own—at the time , British—government. The holocaust was committed by the duly elected government of Germany against its own Jewish citizens. The Second Amendment right to bear arms was viewed as an essential safeguard by citizens against their own tyrannical governments.
“Against that backdrop, the framers saw the personal right to bear arms as a potential check against tyranny. Theodore Sedgwick of Massachusetts expressed this sentiment by declaring that it is “a chimerical idea to suppose that a country like this could ever be enslaved . . . Is it possible . . . that an army could be raised for the purpose of enslaving themselves or their brethren? or, if raised whether they could subdue a nation of freemen, who know how to prize liberty and who have arms in their hands?”
“Noah Webster similarly argued: 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 band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.”[i]
Some might hope that our own federal government will never be so tyrannical as to require an armed militia to oppose it. Some might hope that peace and civility will prevail nationwide and the right of individuals to bear arms to protect themselves will never be called for. We might just as well hope that no president will ever fail so to maintain the public trust as to require impeachment. But the power to impeach, so rarely used, is an essential part of our government machinery—just as the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms is essential to preserving our freedom.
Some conclude that disarming the entire civilian population is the proper way to prevent terrible tragedies such as recently happened in Aurora, Colorado. Denying the murderer access to a gun would not have prevented him from committing the crime, however. The alleged perpetrator of that terrible crime could just as easily have used a bomb to murder so many—as proven by the bomb he had in his home. But denying citizens the right to bear arms would deny them protection against murderers and tyrants.
There are reportedly over 12,000 gun caused homicides each year in the U.S., with many more being injured from gunshot wounds.[ii] This compares with about 6,000 deaths by drowning[iii] and over 32,000 in car crashes,[iv] almost one-third of which are alcohol related.[v] Yet there is no national campaign to outlaw swimming pools and to close beaches. There is no massive demand for reinstatement of Prohibition and a total ban on alcohol sales in the country, even though it would prevent as many deaths as gunshots.
What is perhaps more surprising—and shocking—is that there is no demand for an end to the almost infinitely violent games that enthrall so many young men in this country. Typical “shooter” and war related video games involve aiming guns and killing people by the dozens, even hundreds, in each episode. They are crafted to be as realistic as technology will permit. Does that affect behavior? Advertisers pay millions of dollars for a few seconds of advertising time on prime time shows—certain that portraying the behavior they want will cause people to duplicate that behavior in their own lives. There can be no rational doubt that it affects behavior. If video games and horrendously violent movies and television shows are protected by the First Amendment, then our society is willing to accept many deaths as a price to be paid for freedom of speech—even incredibly violent, commercial speech—just as we accept many deaths as the price of recreational swimming and alcohol consumption. Is the cost to society—gun related crime—too high for the right to bear arms and protect our lives and freedom? The founding fathers did not think so.