Our Constitution’s Second Amendment does not mention guns. It speaks to “arms,” but the word “militia” makes it impossible to understand today. So, let’s forgot it entirely. Instead, we should focus on something constitutionally far more important.
Our country has spent too much time on the concept of a right to bear arms and too little on our right to defend ourselves from attack. Our right of individual defense seems the core argument in our Constitution.
To understand, we must mingle two concepts. The first concept is one of property. Are we our own property? Said another way, do I own myself? Do I own my brain and my muscles, the product of my thinking and my labor? Do I own myself entirely? Or, can someone else own me?
The Constitution says that I cannot sell myself into slavery. Therefore, the law is clear as to myself as my own property.
Next, do I have the right to defend myself? Do not read this as the right to attack someone else; in simple terms do I have the right to defend myself from attack? Or must I just suffer an attack upon me?
Central to this is the notion that if I have an overarching right to my own defense then Congress cannot take that right from me. Therefore, after we establish my right of defense then comes a dialog of methods. And that is where our laws get contradictory. With some laws I cannot use the only appropriate defense when someone is bigger, stronger and armed – that is, to be armed myself. The law does not require me to defend myself, but can the law take my only effective means of defense away? I think not.
If Congress cannot pass a law that requires me to submit to an illegal attack upon my person, then Congress forfeits the right to discuss how I may defend myself. If they insist I can only say, “Stop attacking me or I will say stop again,” that is no defense. If Congress says that I can defend myself, then I can. Period.
Any attempt to moderate my defense of myself negates the act of defense. This is not to say I can be found faultless in my defense if I injure someone who was not attacking me.
So, lacking an ability to limit my defense because it is not constitutional to make me submit to attack, we do not have to discuss methods such as the use of which weapons, only the consequences of using a weapon incorrectly. I must accept my defender role as culpable for any innocent injury I cause. If I shoot an attacker and the bullet injures an innocent person, I must pay that consequence. As I consider my defensive options, I must consider my responsibilities for my own actions.
Mexico proves the point
There are countries that have taken away the ability of their citizens to defend themselves. Mexico comes to mind, since just a few miles from where I am writing this tens of thousands of innocent lives have been lost by shooting what I call “fish in a barrel” in that they are not allowed to shoot back. By law they must not shoot back, and can only bleed and die as a response to the attack.
In Mexico, citizens are not allowed to have guns. It is very against the law, which has not changed the fact that criminals kill thousands of innocent citizens every year. Being disarmed assures that the innocent victims will die with no right of defending themselves. Has the gun ban in Mexico made the citizens safer? No. Do they have a right to an adequate defense of their lives being taken from them by criminals? No.
In our country there are many political movements to take the means of resistance away from citizens “to make our society safer,” which has not worked in Mexico. In some localities it is illegal to have the means of defense when being attacked by someone with a gun. The attacker will be charged and you will be buried.
Are these laws prohibiting a robust defense really what our founding leaders had in mind? I think not.
Swickard is a weekly columnist for this site. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.