The Gun Thing, Part VI: Rights and Wrongs
Some thoughts on how the Second Amendment relates to American exceptionalism:
One of the more puerile criticisms is that America is alone among the developed world, and in stark contrast to the more “civilized” nations of Europe, in having private gun ownership enshrined in its Constitution as a right, as though the fact that we are alone in this regard is reason enough to abolish the Second Amendment.
Let me point out just some of the reasons why this is wrong.
- Simplest of all: Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right. We often forget the basic truth of this when we deal with Big Questions. We should stop doing that.
- America is not alone just in the first world, but in almost the entire world. Scour the maps and the data for countries with similarly permissive firearms laws, and you’ll find nothing.
- America is a radical experiment in the idea that government should be the servant of its citizens, not the other way around; that government is a necessary evil, not a benign entity and certainly not a force for good in and of itself. Part of this radical experiment is that the people will decide how best to defend themselves, their families, their property, and their country.
- Yes, this is in stark contrast to the way Europeans have always thought about the individual in the context of the state, but that was the point of the American revolution. That is, in fact, the whole point of America. It is that we enjoy rights given to us by our creator, not given to us by other men solely because of the blood that runs through their veins.
- Remember that in the 20th century alone, Europe had to have their fat pulled out of the fire three time by America. And why? Because each time - the Germans twice, the Soviets once - aggressor nations amassed armed forces and either launched war or threatened war with an unarmed and emasculated Europe. The idea that average citizens shouldn’t have wide-ranging freedoms in firearm ownership, and that their “betters” would protect them, is exactly what allowed World War I and World War II to turn into what they did, with the second world war segeuing into the Cold War.
- It is either the case that there is something special about the land mass between Mexico and Canada such that when you put your feet on it your human nature is changed… or there is not. I think it’s fair to say: “There is not.” Simply being an American citizen, or being a foreigner in America, doesn’t change your human nature and make you entitled to something more than, say, a Frenchmen or a Nigerian or a Laotian is entitled to. So if we are correct that the recognition and preservation of human dignity includes the right to defend oneself, and that such defense includes the possession of firearms, and that these are rights we possess because we are human beings… then it can’t be the case that what’s good for the human beings who happen to find themselves in America isn’t also good for the people who find themselves in France or Nigeria or Laos. It’s therefore the case that every country which prohibits its citizens from possessing firearms… is in error. In other words, the fact that America is alone in its permissive gun laws doesn’t make *us* wrong. It makes everybody *else* wrong. If the right to self-defense is a human right, not just an American right, then that’s where it leaves us. All of Europe, with the possible exceptions of Switzerland and the Czech Republic, are wrong. All of Africa: Wrong. All of South America: Wrong. All of Asia: Wrong.
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