Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Right to Life

My comment on Joe Huffman's blog, which I have no doubt is there for all to see. Joe has never refused to post my comments or done any other petty nonsense like removing the link back here. I appreciate that.

I think what you guys have decided, if I understand you correctly, is you've taken a fairly universally accepted right like "life," the idea that we all have a right to "life," and you've moved from there to "self-defense."  If we have a right to "life" we must have a right to defend that life. So far so good.  But here's where you lose me and a lot of other people too, If you have a right to "self-defense," you keep saying, then you have a right to own guns in order to best exercise that self-defense.  I say that doesn't follow.

How about this?  We have a right to life, right? Too many guns in the hands of irresponsible or criminal people are interfering with that right, the right to life. We need proper (strict) gun control laws in order to ensure the ability of people to enjoy their right to "life."

Why would your leap of faith that easy individual gun ownership is the best way to exercise our right to life be any more valid than my idea that the best way is to severely restrict and control guns?
What do you think? Does it make sense?

Please leave a comment.


  1. One clarification: "selfish" vs. "altruistic". Owning a gun gives the feeling of personal protection, and is a perception of a personal "right to life" for them and their family. This being a selfish desire (I'm not using that as a negative term, though, like not sharing is "selfish").

    Whereas the desire for stricter gun controls is a desire for a safer society, a "right to life" for myself and everyone else in America, and thus is an altruistic desire.

    The two are not mutually exclusive. One can own a gun for personal protection AND call for stricter gun controls to make society safer.

    The problem comes when one's selfish desire for personal protection is extended to as many people as possible, including those who would abuse that right, and the obstruction of laws meant to prevent it.

  2. It one of those things which goes above their heads: the contradictory nature of "rights".

    Why is there a right to life?
    Is it because life is sacred?

    Then the use of deadly force makes no sense.

    All human beings are included (each and every human being), at all stages of existence, with every quality of experience, reflecting every type of human diversity, and encompassing every possible quality of relationship to the person who does the perceiving. What all are included in is a vision of their immeasurable worth and inviolable dignity. This means that each of these human beings has a value that transcends all human capacity to count or measure, which confers upon them an elevated status that must not be dishonored or degraded.

    This breathtaking and exalted vision of the worth and dignity of human beings is what we mean, or ought to mean, when we speak of the sanctity of life. It is a moral conviction that continually challenges our efforts to weaken it. Yet weaken it we do, whether purposefully or unintentionally. Most often we weaken it when we chafe against the implications of its universality—its vision of the weak, the enemy, the disabled, the stranger, the unborn, the sinner, the poor, the ex-friend, the racial other, or whoever else we find it difficult to include within the community of the truly human.

    Every effort to point out someone else’s violations of life’s sanctity implicitly requires us to examine our own fidelity to this exalted and demanding moral norm. This may be why the language of life’s sanctity has perhaps faded from public debate to some extent. Anti-abortion advocates who argued for the sanctity of (unborn) human life were met by anti-poverty advocates who argued for the sanctity of (born but poor) human life. Thoughtful moral theorists recognized that this was precisely right, and that a true understanding of life’s sanctity required a both/and rather than an either/or approach. But this hardly fits the culture wars paradigm. The sanctity of life is not so helpful as a political cudgel after all, which may mean its real value is as a bracing statement of human moral obligation.

  3. "Why would your leap of faith that easy individual gun ownership is the best way to exercise our right to life be any more valid than my idea that the best way is to severely restrict and control guns?"

    Because severe restrictions and controls of guns do not affect criminals.

  4. I understand what you are saying, but there's a logical disconnect in your line of thinking. To understand why your logic is flawed, we must first identify what rights really mean and the limitations of them.

    Would you agree that the free exercise of any of what we define as "rights" cannot infringe on the rights of others? I believe the old analogy if fairly accurate that the right to swing your fist stops at the tip of someone else's nose.

    It is abuse of your freedom of speech if it causes direct harm to another (such as inciting someone to harm or murder, or yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater). We have a right to be free from harm or abuse at the hands of another person, but it would be abusing that right if we attacked someone who poses no immediate threat to us because we THINK they may harm us. It is abuse of the right to keep and bear arms if you threaten, harm, or kill an innocent person with a firearm.

    If an individual abuses their rights by infringing on the rights of others, they waive their rights, which is why justice can be legitimately served (if you harm another, your have waived your rights of liberty and being free from harm at the hands of another, which is why self defense is justified, and why justice through the courts to incarcerate criminals is justified).

    This is why such rights such as "the right to feel safe" aren't really rights at all. Someone's "right to feel safe" cannot infringe on the rights of others. You have no right to force someone to leave your vicinity because you feel threatened by their very presence when no threat to any degree has been made. That means you cannot force black people to leave, or tattooed pierced people to leave, or gays kissing to leave, even someone openly carrying a firearm to leave.

    You have a right to PURSUE your OWN choices that make you feel safer, such as leaving the area yourself, or taking such measures as you feel are suitable for your own self-defense, but you cannot force someone else to give up their rights just because of your own feelings.

    By the very NATURE of what rights are and how righteous exercise of rights cannot infringe on the rights of others - you cannot force other people to give up THEIR rights in an attempt to preserve your own. You have a right to protect your rights against those that immediately threaten it, but you have no right to effect the rights of those who are not a direct threat to you.

    Am I making sense? Do you feel that one person's rights can legitimately force another to give up theirs? If so, why?

  5. There's an old saying: "When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." I think it applies to those who have an acute interest in carrying firearms. They want the right because they (consciously or not) want to need it someday.

    I suspect this because I know a lot of people who are all about self-defense. They talk about it constantly, wish they could do more, etc. And I understand the underlying concerns. But if it really were a worst-case-scenario kind of thing, why would they dwell on it so much? I realize that a garbage truck could lose control and crash through my wall, but I don't constantly dwell on the possibility or construct armor walls around my place. Most people, I would think, are not Debbie Downers. Including most gun owners. I think the idea that they'll need their gun excites them, and that's why they think the way they do and why they won't be swayed by your sensible argument.

  6. @Baldr, you wrote:
    "One can own a gun for personal protection AND call for stricter gun controls to make society safer."

    Find me a piece of gun control legislation that has had a proven, substantial, consistent effect to make any society safer, where the benefits outweigh the negative consequences, and I will honestly consider supporting it.

    Until then, it's only effect is to make people FEEL like such laws make a society safer, with no substantial difference, and some real nasty side effects (like criminalizing good people while not really affecting the criminals).


  7. @Laci, since you deleted all my comments on your blog (and insulted me viscously to boot), I'll have to point out the flaws in your logic here on Mikeb's blog :)

    No, I believe there is a right to life because we each have it just by our very nature of being sentient beings, to protect or to waive as we choose. Our rights cannot be forced on us and we cannot force our rights upon others, as that goes against the very nature of what our unalienable rights are.

    You can muddy the waters with all your suppositions and beliefs that rights don't really exist, or that they only exist if a society decides they do, but that is only, after all, your opinion.


  8. Baldr, I love that point you made. The gun control position is truly altruistic and the pro-gun one, often, not always, is selfish.

    Ian, Thanks for your thoughts. I think you're right about gun owners secretly, or even subconsciously wanting to have the chance to use their guns in action.

  9. "What do you think? Does it make sense?"

    No, not at all. It only makes sense in your mind. Even on paper or on the computer it doesn't work, it's like saying 2+2=17. No, it doesn't outside of your mind.

    "I say that doesn't follow."

    It does follow. Guns are the great equalizer. It is what allows a tiny frail old lady to ward off huge strong young men.

    "Why would your leap of faith that easy individual gun ownership is the best way to exercise our right to life be any more valid than my idea that the best way is to severely restrict and control guns?"

    There is considerable amounts of evidence that guns are the best way to defend the right to life. There are plenty of case studies in which the elderly, women, and the infirm successfully defend themselves using firearms against much larger and more powerful violent criminals.

    There is no evidence that taking away the means used by those people and so many others will help defend them.

    It's like saying prohibiting cars is the best way to help people to get around this vast country. WTF?

  10. You praise the other blogger for always publishing the comments yet you edit comments to your blog yourself. Somewhat of a dichotomy there, eh?

  11. P, you're barking up the wrong tree again. Have you had any trouble getting your comments published on my blog?