A “right” to bear arms must be constrained not to be a “freedom” to kill

I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “fundamental” human “right” or “freedom”.

Of course any society can establish whatever laws or rules and regulations it likes and insist – if it can – that its members follow these. Societies can define and adopt long lists of “fundamental human rights” or “freedoms” as privileges for their members. The granting of such “rights” does not – in itself – guarantee that members of that society always enjoy the rights accorded. Compliance with laws and rules and regulations is not in-built as with natural laws. Many of these “rights” and “freedoms” are contradictory and can be in conflict with each other. Some rights are used by some members to breach other rights and freedoms accorded to others. “Fundamental” freedoms are found to be unworkable and are then constrained or subjugated to other laws or rights. Some are made applicable to some and not to others. The will of the majority is expressed as laws for the majority which are sometimes used as a means for the oppression of minorities. Rights granted to individuals are subjugated to the rights assumed by the state. (It strikes me also that any “law” which does not in itself guarantee compliance is just a made-up rule and has no special “sanctity”. The “sanctity” of human laws is fundamentally suspect.)

None of the so-called human rights or freedoms are in fact fundamental or absolute in practice. Nor should they be. Common sense dictates that they must be constrained and circumscribed. But common sense is lost when the fanatical defense of any particular “right” takes on ideological proportions.

  1. The “right to life” is never absolute and is always circumscribed. States – and their organs – ascribe to themselves the right to take life in specific circumstances. Exceptions are made in cases of self-defense or abortions or accidents or actions in the service of the state.
  2. The “right of universal suffrage” is never absolute. There are always groups of individuals who are denied the right to vote (children, mentally disabled, resident non-citizens, criminals, certain occupations….)
  3. “Freedom of speech” is never absolute. What society considers to be libel, slander, blasphemy, hate or even politically incorrect is banned under pain of punishment.
  4. “Freedom of thought” is not as absolute as one may think. Thinking “terrorist” or “conspiratorial” thoughts is a punishable crime in many societies.
  5. The “right to liberty” is always constrained by the right of a state to incarcerate those it considers dangerous to society. Parents are allowed to curtail this right for their children. Doctors and hospitals are allowed to curtail the movement of their patients.

In the US it is self-evident that the “right to bear arms” is not sufficiently circumscribed. In spite of its implied “freedom to kill” it is fanatically defended to the point of absurdity.

The latest tragedy at Sandy Hook is part of a  long history of school shootings in the US  but the almost religious fanaticism surrounding  gun rights has so far held common sense at bay.

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