Monday, October 24, 2005
Victory for Human Rights in Brazil
I meant to post a comment earlier on this morning's good news: the people of Brazil decisively rejected a referendum that would -- according to NPR -- have banned guns.
Let there be no misunderstanding: owning a gun is essentially a fundamental human right.
Doubt this? Let us reason together.
1. A gun is a product of human ingenuity; it is an extension of the body, and of the will. Insofar as it realizes potentiality inherent in creation, it participates in goodness; otherwise, it is morally neutral. People who say things like, "guns are bad," show themselves -- at least on this subject -- lapsing from reason.
2. There is no question that every human being possesses the right of self-protection; and, moreover, the positive duty to act in defense of others who are threatened.
3. Obviously, such things are governed by reason, and prudence. I am entitled to use means necessary to repel an attack, not to annihilate my attacker. Regrettably, sometimes in the course of stopping aggression, the aggressor dies. I'm not permitted (per Catholic teaching) to intend to kill an attacker; but if he dies as a result of legitimate self-defense, that's his fault, not mine. Just as it would be unreasonable for me to respond to an assault with a stick by blowing up a city block, so it is also unreasonable for me to be obliged to be so delicate about the well being of the aggressor that the innocent (including oneself) are endangered.
4. So, one is obliged to be proportionate in acting to repel aggression, whether in matters of national defense, or personal defense. The principles are the same.
5. Even were I willing to sacrifice myself -- to be a martyr for utter non-resistance -- in no way am I obliged to do that.
6. Even were I willing to sacrifice my own life, rather than injure an aggressor, I am not entitled to make that decision for others. In short, if someone is attacking, not me, but someone else -- and I can act to assist that other person, my obligation to defend the victim seems very clear.
7. A pause to summarize: there is indisputably a right to defend oneself, and a duty to defend others, from aggression, based on reason and prudence, in relation to the threat.
8. So it's not that complicated: if I come after you with apparent deadly force, you are entitled to use force, sufficient -- as you can ascertain, given the uncertain situation -- to repel me. You are entitled to be sure, since you probably won't get a re-do.
9. Who can take this right away from you? Society can, if you are convicted of a crime, via due process. Update: I ought to have said merely that Society can constrict this right; see next point.
10. But, even were you cast into the darkest, meanest prison, even there you have the natural right of self-defense. If your keepers fail in their duty to protect you, you are morally entitled to do so in your behalf -- even if you break the rules: because no human law can trump fundamental human dignity.
11. So on what grounds does a government -- even a majority of ones fellow citizens -- decide a whole class of people (or everyone) can't have guns? On the prudential judgment that one doesn't need them; that one can safeguard oneself without them.
12. Ah, but since it is your life on the line, you get to exercise the final prudential judgment. And, however noble you may feel, refer to statement 6, above.
13. St. Thomas Aquinas said, an unjust law is really no law at all.