Some Rights Are More Equal Than Others?

by Jay D. Dyson — December 7th, 2002
I have never understood the mindset of those who seek to undermine our Constitutional rights in the name of security. Such a philosophy is in direct conflict with the core liberties enumerated in our Bill of Rights. Furthermore, the mere suggestion that citizens should give up their rights in the name of safety is an anathema to the spirit that brought this great nation into existence.

For a brief period following the terrorist attacks of September 11th of 2001, I thought I had been joined by the political Left in this stance. In the weeks following that dark day, I saw a glimmer of hope when both sides of the political fence stood tall and affirmed that they would not let our Rights be sacrificed on the Altar of Security.

But then the Left made it clear that some rights are not as equal as others. While their charges of "political opportunism" were copiously aimed at the President following 9/11, they hypocritically engaged in more than their fair share of such conduct in renewing calls for increased gun control. Their reasoning: our rights could be exploited by terrorists. And when that rationale was justly criticized, they they went even further and insisted that the Second Amendment did not apply to the People, but to government-controlled institutions.

The very idea flies in the face of logic.

How can it be that "the People" in the First, Fourth and Ninth Amendments means the People, but "the People" in the Second Amendment — ratified in 1791 — actually means the National Guard, which was created by an act of Congress in 1917?

For reasons unfathomable, these Second Amendment opponents conveniently forget that our Founding Fathers put their faith not in governments, but in the People. Furthermore, our Founders understood all too well that only an unjust government need ever fear an armed citizenry. Yet in the face of these simple truths, the Left nonetheless seeks to turn the People into a disarmed collective wholly dependent upon the State for our personal safety and security.

We supposedly live in an enlightened time in the 21st century, yet the arguments for increased gun control laws are little more than a contemporary reiteration of the flawed reasoning that gave humanity a 3,000-year history of bloodletting to cure all ailments. Just as the quackery of centuries past claimed that those who died following bloodletting hadn't been bled enough, so the Left claims that more gun control laws are needed when crime goes up where gun control laws are the strictest.

Still worse is the popular media coverage regarding our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms following 9/11. The nightly news saw fit to cheer those those who never before displayed patriotism for our nation when they bought flags en masse, but jeered those who exercised their Constitutional rights by purchasing a firearm for personal protection. For some reason, the mainstream media found it alarming that the American citizenry would actually do more than engage in a symbolic act in support of their personal liberties. Excuse me, but don't those people read their own reporting? They themselves have made it painfully clear that our own government cannot protect us at all times...yet they disapprove of a citizen's looking out for his own welfare? What do they propose we use to protect our families? Harsh language?

All too often, opponents to the Second Amendment claim that their goal is the same as the parent who purchases a firearm for defense: they want to protect the children. But even that excuse to abrogate our Constitutional rights is little but a thin charade. After all, these same people who insist that our nation's youth can only avoid a host of devastating sexually-transmitted diseases through state-sponsored sex education respond with nothing but vitriol when the NRA suggests that the best way to reduce accidental shootings among our nation's youth is through state-sponsored firearms education.

And in those cases where the Left's "save the children" campaign fails, they pull out staggering numbers of those killed by firearms ever year. Curiously absent from their impressive statistics are the numbers which show that for every person who died as a result of firearm misuse, no less than five people were saved from harm (and even death) by proper firearm use.

Granted, the loss of life from firearm misuse is unfortunate to say the least...but the numbers lose their impact when one notes that four times as many people are killed by automobiles and twelve times as many are killed as a result of medical malpractice. Yet none in the anti-gun camp cry for the banning of cars or physicians. Don't they even care about those who died needlessly as a result of those two very real threats to our safety?

Once the playing-the-numbers game fails, the Left ultimately attempts to assign the mere presence of firearms as a harbinger of violence; as if we in the laity are nothing but automatons with no conscience or self control. Hell, the next thing you know, they'll start blaming spoons for obesity.

All the same, what can we possibly do to balance our Constitutional rights with public safety? I would argue that the only way to keep the criminal element and mentally incompetent from getting access to firearms would be to stop according them basic civil liberties and keep them under constant custodial care. Of course, such a proposal would undoubtedly (and quite appropriately) provoke an immediate outcry from civil libertarians (who — curiously enough — refuse to champion the rights of sane people to keep and bear arms) since it would be unfair to those with a history of illegal or insane conduct. But as long as we treat the incorrigible, insane and/or incompetent members of our society as if they were law-abiding, sane and competent, then they will forever have access to the trappings of being a sane, law-abiding citizen...and one of those trappings (in a free society, at least) is unfettered access to firearms.

As I said, severely restricting the freedoms of society's maladjusted runs totally counter to the spirit and law of a free society...yet is it not even more insidious to suggest that the freedoms of the sane and law-abiding should be restricted simply because of the conduct of the insane and criminal elements? Is there not a presumption of innocence at the core of all of our civil liberties? Because when all is said and done, I for one will neither accept nor tolerate being treated like a criminal when I exercise my constitutional right to keep and bear arms. If the Left really wants to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have access to guns, then they need to restrict the movement of those people, not the guns.

Over the past several months, I have heard time and again the sage word of Benjamin Franklin that speaks to the issue of sacrificing liberty for safety. As Franklin so aptly noted, such people who take such a course of action deserve neither liberty nor safety.

...And they shall have neither.