When something is your right, it means it cannot just be taken away. Not unless you break the law and your rights are removed as punishment. If something can be taken, it is a privilege, and privileges can be removed anytime if whoever grants them decides to stop granting them.
This isn’t exactly high-level constitutional law stuff, either. This is a basic understanding the Founding Fathers had from the get-go. It’s why they fought a war against the most powerful nation on Earth. Having their rights respected was worth the risk.
Yet, for former Idaho Attorney General Jim Jones, rights don’t really work like that, apparently. That’s based on his writing over at The Hill.
Two groups of conservatives made contradictory decisions last week on whether there should be a balance between the safety of the American public and the rights of a small, but very vocal, minority. A group of 15 Senate Republicans broke with their party and voted for a modest gun safety bill. At the same time, the GOP-appointed majority on the U.S. Supreme Court made sure that there will be more guns in public places. The Senate’s action will save lives; the court’s action will likely add to the tally of gun deaths.
The six Republican-appointed members of the Supreme Court struck down a century-old New York law requiring a showing of “proper cause” to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun. Although the ruling was an immediate blow to public safety, the longer-term effect of the decision will pose an even greater safety threat.
The court departed from a consensus view developed by lower courts over the last decade that allowed gun rights to be limited by concerns over public safety. Instead, it focused the inquiry solely on whether a restriction is based on “history or tradition.” If a similar historical analogue for a gun limitation cannot be found, it may well be unconstitutional, without regard to the effect on public safety.
More than anything else, our governmental entities and public servants must understand that private rights ought to give way to the public good. We don’t believe a person’s First Amendment rights extend to falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Second Amendment rights must also yield when they infringe upon the paramount right of the people to be safe in public places.
Not only no, but hell no.
Of course, Jones invokes the old canard of yelling fire in a crowded theater, as most who try to justify an infringement on our gun rights tend to do, but you’d think a former attorney general would understand that this was a hypothetical presented by a justice during a case and that decision was ultimately overturned in part by Brandenberg v. Ohio. That case found that speech could only be regulated if it were likely to cause imminent lawless action.
Plus, let’s understand that if we take Jones’s word that private rights ought to give way to the public good, then the question becomes, where do we draw the line? It’s clear that Jones favors restricting our right to keep and bear arms as a means of trying to ensure public safety, but what else is on the table?
Can we seize his home so we can house the homeless? Can we seize his car so it can be used for public transportation? Can we lock Jones in chains and make him do road work for no reason other than we simply need the road to be built?
Where would such a line be?
The problem here is that the line would be subjective. What’s “far enough” for Jones wouldn’t be far enough for someone else. There are those who actually do support things not unlike the examples mentioned above, after all.
The way you deal with this is to draw a line with objective criteria. These are your personal rights, and they shouldn’t be infringed upon simply because someone thinks it’s good for the public. The truth is, the smallest minority is the individual. Empower them, and everyone is equally empowered.
Our gun rights aren’t up for debate. First of all, we don’t buy the idea that gun control yields any of the benefits Jones seems to believe. Yet even if we did, rights don’t work that way.
And thank God for that.