(Rights) Are There Rational Limits on Gun Ownership?

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From philosopher Andrew Lewis: A question and answer on gun limits:

from: Limits on Guns?

Limits on Guns?


In a proper society, individuals surrender to government the right to the use of retaliatory force. How does this line of reasoning applies to gun control. If it is moral and hence legal to own a weapon that can kill many quickly, where and what reasoning draws the line of what types of weapons are permitted?

GM, Southbridge, MA


Individuals do not surrender the right to retaliate against force, we only delegate it. Morally, that right remains in the hands of individuals and, to secure our rights, we appoint officials to deal with it in a just, civilized manner.

Criminals, of course, pay no respects to rights and cannot be relied upon to wait for police forces to arrive before they perform their crimes. It would be a poor system indeed that allowed no defense against criminals until after a crime has been committed. Hence, the right to self-defense necessarily exists, and so does the right to bear arms for one's self-defense. Even thisrightlyis monitored by a court system which must determine whether an action is taken in self-defense or not. (That the courts today do not consistently uphold this right is another matter.) The right to self-defense does not include the right to mete out punishment at all; that is the province of the courts, and you may take only and whatever action is necessary to protect your life (or other innocent lives) and property when no police force is available to do so.

As to what this means for where the line is drawn for owning particular kinds of weapons, I can offer only general principles. To determine which weapons are legitimate requires knowledge of the weapons' capabilities, and extensive legal expertise, areas in which I am not expert.

The proper line is drawn at the point beyond which there is no legitimate civilian usage or necessity for a particular weapon. To put it another way: no weapon that may only be used for purposes of war is legitimate civilian property. An individual may rightly own whatever weapons are necessary for self-defense, hunting or sport. (There may be other legitimate uses, but I cannot think of any not covered by these categories.) A weapon such as a tank or bomb clearly exceeds this line because its nature is to destroy and kill in large numbersfar larger than criminal intent (which is essentially expropriation) requiresbut handguns do not. The right to self-defense exists to protect individuals from criminals; tanks, bombs and biological agents are weapons of war, which is the province of a proper national self-defense.

What is necessary for personal self-defense is in part determined by what the criminals may reasonably be expected to use, and this implies that any list of permitted weapons be flexible over time. Should it become standard that criminals use assault weapons and bullet-proof vests (such as the two men who terrorized North Hollywood in 1997), then the scope of weapons permitted must recognize this fact. (That criminals already use such weaponshowever ill-gotten must also be recognized.) Under no circumstances should the ability for law-abiding individuals to protect themselves be arbitrarily limited to less firepower than what criminals are known to possess and use, just as America should not limit itself in its national arsenal when potential enemies are known to possess weapons of mass destruction.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), June 28, 2000


wow... need I say more? BTW, please don't take this as a "jab", but are you a lawyer?? (grin)... either way, you might consider using your literary skills to further the cause. Maybe a few editiorial like this in the paper... as hmmm would say hmmm...

-- keep the faith... (booann777@hotmail.com), June 28, 2000.

There are limits on all rights. You can't shout fire in a crowded theater, or slander someone. No right is absolute and all of them have limits.

-- The Engineer (spcengineer@yahoo.com), June 28, 2000.

It's not whether there are limits, but whether the limits are applied equally. You may not be allowed to yell "fire" in a crowded theater but you do not have to inform the government you might speak in that theater before entering. The registration and licensing of firearms would amount to the same infraction on the freedom of responsible gun ownership.

-- Hiway (Hiway441@aol.com), June 28, 2000.

The Lessons Of History: The Soviet Union established gun control in 1929. From 1929 to 1953, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Turkey established gun control in 1911. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Germany established gun control in 1938. From 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, mentally ill people, and other "mongrelized peoples," unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, 1 million "educated people", unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. 56 MILLION DEAD FOR WANT OF A METHOD TO DEFEND THEMSELVES EFFECTIVELY YET THERE ARE THOSE WHO INSIST "IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE"

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

myth:Gun Control Saves Lives

Fact:The truth is, gun control costs lives, as evidenced by cities which enforce near total bans on firearms ownership. That's because criminals don't obey gun control or any other kind of laws. This means that citizens who do are effectively rendered defenseless. So if someone tells you that gun control saves lives, ask them any of the following questions: How would a 5-day waiting period help a stalking victim?

How would banning affordable firearms protect a the poor from neighborhood criminals? Would prohibiting your mother from carrying a gun help her to escape a rapist, or help your son repel an attacker? Would keeping your gun unloaded and locked up save you from a home invader? Would keeping you from owning semiautomatic firearms stop a criminal from getting any gun he wants? What about limiting how many guns you can buy in a month?

How would this nation have been founded and its liberties secured had gun control been in force? How did gun control save the lives of blacks before, during and after the Civil War? Which gun control laws helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust?

If an attacker were advancing on you right NOW, which of the over 20,000 gun control laws currently on the books in this country would you rely on to save your life?

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

"Americans have the right and advantage of being armed - unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." --James Madison, The Federalist Papers No. 46


-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

"Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?" --Patrick Henry, 3 J. Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions 45, 2d ed. Philadelphia, 1836

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

"The supposed quietude of a good mans allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside...Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them..." --Thomas Paine, I Writings of Thomas Paine at 56 (1894).

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

What the Courts Have Said About the Right to Keep and Bear Arms "To prohibit a citizen from wearing or carrying a war arm . . . is an unwarranted restriction upon the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of constitutional privilege." [Wilson v. State, 33 Ark. 557, at 560, 34 Am. Rep. 52, at 54 (1878)]

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

"Both the oligarch and Tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of arms."--Aristotle

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

"If the Constitution is to be construed to mean what the majority at any given period in history wish the Constitution to mean, why a written Constitution?"--Frank J. Hogan, President, American Bar Assn. (1939)

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

" 'Necessity' is the plea for every infringement of human liberty; it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."--William Pitt

-- zoobie the nutbag (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

"Gentlemen may cry, 'peace, peace'--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! Is life so precious, or peace so dear, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" -- Patrick Henry to the Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775.

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), June 29, 2000.

Thanks, y'all, for your interesting contributions. Alas, I don't have the time to get involved right now, but maybe soon...

keep the faith,

The author was Andrew Lewis; I showed that at the top.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 01, 2000.

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