Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why gun rights are different than other rights

With the national convention of the National Rifle Association (NRA) this weekend, it is a great time to examine gun rights.  As one of the most powerful special interest groups in Washington and in every state capital, the association gets its perverted way more than not.  It has evolved from an organization that was promoting safety and use of firearms to a “civil rights” group that is fueled by manufactures whose only interest is to sell more guns.

The NRA has it wrong for the most part.  They believe that any regulation of guns is going against what the founders had planned for us.  But, of all the rights we retained in our social contract with one another and with the signing of the Constitution, the right to bear arms is different.  It warrants greater restrictions than others because of the differences.
First, rights retained are not absolute.  If the community has a compelling reason it can restrict a right.  If the exercise of a right by an individual will directly cause harm to someone, the community not only has the right but the compelling responsibility to restrict it. 

Next, all rights have been restricted.  Speech has been restricted by fighting words, pornography and libel.  Assemblies of people can’t restrict the movement of emergency vehicles.  The property we own can’t have structures that may cause harm to the neighbors.  Even the right to face an accuser can be revoked it if is reasonable to believe that the witness’ safety is in grave danger. 
Finally, and perhaps the most important issue, the full exercise of the right to bear arms carries with it a risk that no other right carries.  If someone is shot and killed, the victim can’t stand up and respond.  Yet, if a speech is given that criticizes a politician for his policies the politician can stand up to respond.  If a group of people assemble to protest that same politician’s policy, he can gather another group of people to assemble in support of his policies.  No one is directly harmed.  But, when someone is shot and killed, all rights are lost at that point.

We didn’t give up the right to own weapons, the NRA has that correct.  Many people disagree on the meaning of the second amendment, but in the end, it does provide at the very least the right to own weapons.  But, a right retained doesn’t mean we also didn’t provide the community with the responsibility to insure a safe and peaceful environment.  A community may not prevent ownership of weapons to members in good standing but it does have the right to reasonably restrict the possession and use.