Do we have to justify our rights?

In response to one of my Second Amendment articles posted on the Tenth Amendment Center’s Facebook page, some commenters asked: “What is your position on school shootings,” and “How do we stop kids from shooting each other?”

It’s easy to see what they are getting at, but my response is this: Are you implying that my rights are contingent on my answer? Do I even have to give an answer at all if, in your eyes, I want to keep these rights?

If that is the case, are we going to start asking a free speech advocate how they intend to stop news publications from committing libel or people from spreading lies about each other on social media? Libel and defamation of character are both wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that people have a right to speak and write what they wish, and it is not their duty to explain how they intend to prevent the misuse of those rights by others.

To do so places an unfair moral obligation on law-abiding citizens to explain or justify their rights whenever someone else commits a crime.

Certainly, solutions to horrible atrocities such as mass shootings can and should be discussed. Practical measures that do not violate individual rights should be considered, and if proven effective, implemented within the bounds of the Constitution. But the conversation has to begin by acknowledging that innocent, peaceful people do not have to defend their rights every time someone abuses that right in order to do evil, or even stipulate they create a political response that placates the person demanding one. This flips the whole notion of “innocent until proven guilty” on its head and leaves people in perpetual fear of losing their rights when a crime occurs. It makes them morally and legally responsible for the behavior of others.

It is perhaps incidental that this month marks the anniversary of FDR’s executive order calling for the internment of Japanese Americans following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. To be sure, the comparison isn’t perfect, but the fact remains that more than 100,000 people had their basic civil rights violated by the government in response to a mass killing. Innocent Japanese-Americans shouldn’t have had to justify their ability to exercise their rights after Pearl Harbor any more than I do after what happened recently in Florida.

I don’t need to explain why I, or any other person, “needs” an AR-15 any more than I “need” a copy of Brothers Karamazov or a first American edition of 1984. It is my right to purchase and own them without having to give a reason to anyone.

Our right to keep and bear arms, like all other rights, does not come from general consensus or through sufficient persuasion of certain individuals. It is an unalienable right, bestowed by our creator, or nature, however you choose to look at it.

TJ Martinell

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