Is Self Defense a Natural Right?

Natural rights are those “unalienable rights endowed upon us by our creator” and have their genesis in universal natural law. They are to be distinguished from legal rights that emanate from man-made legal institutions, such as government. While natural rights do not come from government, they need to be protected by government; they need protection from those who would infringe them and deny them to us, such as criminals who attack and rob. They also need protection from government because it holds a monopoly on violence. Government strong enough to protect rights is certainly strong enough to take them completely away.

Because a right of self defense is necessary to preserve one’s very existence it must be a natural right. Not everyone agrees. The usual comment from radical leftists that “you don’t need a gun, the police will protect you,” evinces hostility to the idea of self defense as a natural right. A legal duty to retreat, still the law in some states, is an official declaration that the right of self defense is conditional. Some may say that no right is ever absolute, and reasonable conditions upon the right of self defense are appropriate. But a problem soon arises over just what conditions are reasonable or appropriate. A right to life and the pursuit of happiness are subject to only one condition; that one’s exercise of these rights not deprive another of the same rights.

Any argument that the use of force in defense of self is not justified, because it infringes the right of someone else to their life, is fallacious so long as defensive action is distinguishable from offensive action. The right to self defense only arises when some other, human or animal, has placed one’s life in jeopardy.

There are still many who believe that self defense cannot be justified. This notion is so prevalent that an entire nation, Great Britain, the very nation that was once the cradle of rational thought, has outlawed it. The results were predictable. Rampant violence by young street thugs against the law-abiding; victims who have the temerity to try to preserve their lives and dignity are given jail terms at the same time the criminal aggressors are allowed to go free.

Sarah Thompson, M.D., in her article Raging Against Self Defense, published by Jews For the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, has attempted to understand the psychology of those who are committed opponents of the right of self defense. She finds anti-self defense attitudes explained by the unconscious defense mechanisms of Projection, Denial, and Reaction Formation.

There is some solace for our curiosity  in psychological explanations of this sort.  We know a lot of people are emotionally and psychologically unbalanced.  That isn’t enough to satisfy, however.  We still need to know what motivates officials, who are otherwise mentally well adjusted, to crave such power over their fellow citizens as to try to deny them what is arguably the most basic natural right,the right to protect oneself and to live peaceably?

The answer to this question is more likely to be found, not in psychological studies, but in unbiased political science that explores another aspect of human nature:  the quest of human beings for power.  This inquiry starts with the premise that political liberty only exists where there is no abuse of power; it is an eternal experience that every man who holds power is drawn to abuse it; he will proceed until he finds the limits. [Montesquieu]

By way of Instapundit, I’ve found a recently written article that brilliantly describes the infringement of the Obama administration upon our natural liberties.  It’s not that the Obama government is that much different in its propensity to run roughshod on the rights of citizens; Montesquieu spent his life writing about the proclivity of all governments to overstep the bounds.  The Obama administration though, is especially shameless and determined to trample on rights it considers a threat to its power.

Mike McDaniel is a former police officer, detective, and SWAT member of a large police department. He has written a web article titled  Gunwalker and the Foundation of Liberty — The lives of the individuals harmed by Gunwalker mean nothing to statists.

[For those unfamiliar with the ATF scandal called “Gunwalker” or “Operation Fast and Furious” these links will help:  CBS News; Fast and Furious.]

McDaniel says the statists beliefs of politicians and bureaucrats care little for the individual except as it relates to their own ability to sustain their privilege and power.  The individual’s value is measured by how much or how little it means to the state. These attitudes are the necessary and sufficient foundation of socialism.

It all comes down to this: Is there an inalienable right to self-defense? If there is, each man has indisputable, inestimable value, value that he may rightly preserve even if the life of another man is forfeit. A man may kill another in lawful self-defense even if the policy preferences of the state would prefer his death. If a right to self-defense actually exists, it is in a very real sense the highest law of the land and all lesser laws must pay it deference. It fundamentally defines the social contract, the nature of the relationship between man and the state.

But if there is no such inalienable right, the entire nature of the social contract is changed. Each man’s worth is measured solely by his utility to the state, and as such the value of his life rides a roller coaster not unlike the stock market: dependent not only upon the preferences of the party in power but upon the whims of its political leaders and the permanent bureaucratic class. The proof of this analysis surrounds us.

Irony abounds in that England, the cradle of the common law and of our doctrine of self-defense, has utterly done away with even a government-condescended privilege to self-preservation. Not only have the English allowed themselves to be virtually stripped of firearms, British politicians have made attempts with varying degrees of success to ban knives. Attempting to protect the self or others from brutal criminal attack can and will lead to lengthy jail sentences in jolly old England — for the victims. Attacking criminals often go free, and often successfully sue their victims for daring to harm them in the process of depriving them of property or their very lives.

In the recent riots in Britain, we see America not far into the future if the progressive worldview is much further advanced. Contemporary England is a nation that spends a great deal of time and energy ostensibly caring for “the people,” yet cares not a whit for the life of any individual, particularly when that life is threatened or taken by a member of a favored political class or victim group, criminals included. This attitude and practice is a foundation of socialism.

Read the whole thing.

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