Tuesday, 7 June 2022

"Arguments about [American] gun rights ... remain a mess"

"To see why it is proper for a government to regulate weapons and to understand the principles by which it should, we need to go back to some fundamental principles of moral philosophy, political philosophy, different kinds of rights, and the nature of government... 
    "You have a natural right to defend yourself against an attack, using unlimited force if necessary. But it still might rightly be illegal for you to own or carry a gun...
    "Remember, the proper question is not, 'Why can the government restrict my access to guns?' The proper question is, 'What share of its legal monopoly on the use of force should the government share with its citizens?' The proper answer is, 'Whatever is needed for those citizens to protect themselves when the government cannot.'
    "Unfortunately, this principle is not articulated in the [US] Constitution and we are stuck twisting the Second Amendment into service. Things would be better if we didn't have to....

    "The current situation in the US is a moral mess. The plainest constitutional defense for a right to own and carry a gun is no longer relevant. The main defense hangs by the thread of a 5–4 Supreme Court ruling weakened by its own caveat. The argument by economists and social scientists is morally empty. And the one possibly valid moral argument doesn’t appeal to any principle that is explicitly in the Constitution or that American politicians are sworn to uphold or, sadly, that people much believe in anymore.
    "Those wanting a morally strong argument for gun ownership should demand, primarily, protection of the natural right to self-defence and not of the civil rights of the Second Amendment. Those who want to help potential victims of murder, assault, and rape should not demand that those victims also surrender their natural right to defend themselves against such threats. Those social scientists honestly trying to determine social effects of particular gun laws should not propose that those determinations qualify as moral arguments, one way or the other. And those who believe a government’s job is to protect citizens’ natural rights should recognise that a government legitimately possesses a monopoly on force and with it a responsibility to regulate weapons.
    "Until we again recognise the difference between—and the relations between—civil rights and natural rights, and until we learn to again ground legislation in the protection of citizens’ natural rights and not on social statistics, arguments about gun rights will remain a mess."
~ John McCaskey, from his 2016 post 'Natural Rights, Civil Rights, and Guns'


Phil S said...

Condi Rice gave her reasoning for support of the right to carry guns in the recent excellent Hoover podcast Goodfellows. She described how her father and his peers armed themselves and forced the white supremacists in Birmingham Alabama to back down when the local sheriff refused to protect them. The continuing right to carry guns is needed in this era of woke authoritarian govt. Kyle Rittenhouse proved that.

Terry said...

McCasky's point about Ayn Rand having stressed that government holds a monopoly on the use of force quotes from the following:

"The difference between political power and any other kind of social 'power,' between a government and any private organization, is the fact that a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force. This distinction is so important and so seldom recognized today that I must urge you to keep it in mind. Let me repeat it: a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force.

No individual or private group or private organization has the legal power to initiate the use of physical force against other individuals or groups and to compel them to act against their own voluntary choice." (“America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business,”Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 46).

The context is she was stating what is the case, and has been the case, not what should be the case.

How can one say the government should have a legal monopoly on the use of force when one has the right to defend oneself? If one has the legal right to use retaliatory force to defend oneself, one can't then say the government should have a legal monopoly on the use of force. That would create a contradiction. The government should have a legal monopoly only on the *option* to be the first to use *retaliatory* force, and only in situations where exercising that option does not endanger a victim's life, limb, liberty, or property. It should also have a legal monopoly on the use of retaliatory force in the pursuit of justice.