God-Given Rights?

Today, the local newspaper featured a letter from a reader who was totally irate about the stance of a previous reader, who had suggested that some gun-control legislation was in order. The irate commenter stated that no one had the right to infringe or abrogate his “God-given rights” to carry weapons.

I’ve heard and seen that wording and argument more than a few times over the last few years, until I’d like to stuff the barrel of a weapon down the throat of any idiot who utters any more nonsense about God-given rights, especially about weapons. I’ve read the Bible more than a few times, and I’ve never come across any mention of the right to bear weapons. Yes, the God of the Old Testament often exhorted his chosen people to take up arms, but it’s never stated that there’s an absolute right to carry any weapon you choose in any circumstance. I’ve read the Koran, admittedly in translation, and I’ve gotten the same impression about Allah, but, since I can’t read Arabic, I have to rely on the translation.

Even if a holy text did state something like that, the “word” comes through prophets and not directly from the deity, and given that all individuals have agendas, I’d have to express some doubts. In addition, there’s the rather large problem that the Constitution expresses a separation of Church and state, and definitely does not endorse any specific deity…or that deity’s commands… as statutory or Constitutional law.

Now, many of these individuals citing “God-given rights” may think that they’re quoting the Founding Fathers. They’re not. The Declaration of Independence clearly states: “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….” Three specific rights, and not one deals with weapons, and as for the other rights, they’re never mentioned, especially not in terms of firearms. The Constitution allows firearms under certain conditions, but the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that reasonable limitations on that right are allowable and permitted, and that right wasn’t granted by any deity, but by men who framed our governmental system.

In tradition in practice, “rights” are set forth by men and women, usually men, and whether they believe they’re acting out the will of a deity, those rights exist under human law, and not under a divine command. Besides which, if you read the Bible closely, the Christian God isn’t even consistent with what the prophets reveal about him, especially in regard to killing.

So… lay off the crap about “God-given rights,” especially with regard to firearms. Just confine the debate to the existing legal structure and what might actually work… or might not, and why.

7 thoughts on “God-Given Rights?”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    While I’m inclined to agree that the connection of divinely instituted rights to firearms rights* is quite a stretch, the concept that rights in general arise from a source above ALL human authority is IMO useful; worth inventing a deity for even if you otherwise believe such to be a backwards and unhelpful concept. It means that any attempt to revoke rights (at least some, if not clearly specified further than in the quote from the Declaration of Independence) revokes the legitimacy of any entity, even government, attempting to do so. To my mind, that’s the clear political application, as valid now as 200+ years ago, if not more so.

    *which I still think should allow the average citizen the same firepower as a basic infantry soldier (yes, a full-auto M-16, although not necessarily grenades, nor squad-level weaponry), the losses to crazies being one of the prices of securing liberty against the risk, however small, of government becoming tyrannical; you can’t protect everyone, but you can refrain from standing in the way of equalizers (guns and education in the hands of just about every citizen, give or take felons and those committed via due process to guardianship for being a hazard to self or others). Oh, and insofar as there is a connection to divinely established rights, the final protector of all other rights is a (heavily) armed citizenry.

    1. Hannibal Crozier says:

      NUTS

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        The government is not your friend (even if it isn’t your enemy either…for now), and it has NO duty to protect you. If it doesn’t, and it doesn’t let you protect yourself, you have a problem. Should the day come that government becomes the enemy, and you’ve been disarmed, you DEFINITELY have a problem.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_of_Castle_Rock_v._Gonzales

        https://web.archive.org/web/20090904192158/http://mensnewsdaily.com/blog/longenecker/2005/07/significance-of-castle-rock-v-gonzales.html

        1. Daze says:

          Should the government be your enemy, and you’ve got an automatic rifle, you’ll have approximately zero chance of using it to shoot down the drone before your house disappears in a ball of fire.

          1. Daze says:

            … though admittedly if you have your own nukes and ICBMs, you’re in with a chance.

    2. RRCRea says:

      Back ANY of that up with what religions say (as per Modesitt), what the law says, what the Founding Father say they meant, what laws and jurisprudence has said since, or what was said by any of the antecedents of this form of government said (e.g. Athenian democracy). You can’t. You describe something as being true because it seems self-evident to you, but it’s really just you talking into an echo chamber.

  2. R. Hamilton says:

    I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, — Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws — Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe. — John Adams, “A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law” (1765)

    It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect – that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few. … They…consequently are instruments of injustice.
    The fact therefore must be that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist. — Thomas Paine, “Rights of Man” (1791)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_and_legal_rights discusses all this quite a bit. At least some believed that some rights are inherent, and others a result of social compact (a form of the “consent of the governed”).

    Even a modest survey of documents of the founder’s era, including state constitutions that predated the federal constitution, will show that many or most of the founders though that something along the lines of the 2nd amendment was necessary to ensure that government remained within the consent of the governed. Whether the rights thus protected derived from natural law, or the consent of the governed, is arguably secondary to protecting them vigorously, by any means necessary.

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