"Right to life" vs right to bear arms

"Right to life" vs right to bear arms
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The First Amendment preserves a number of rights that mostly revolve around the right to speak up and challenge the government. The Second preserves the right to keep and bear arms.


The rest of the Bill of Rights preserves other liberties, but something you won’t see anywhere is a “right to life.”

That’s because the Founding Fathers knew that while people did have a right to live, there was absolutely no way for the government to guarantee such a right.

Unfortunately, an op-ed at The Hill argues that such a right trumps our Second Amendment rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to review a lower court ruling that struck down a law prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing guns. Speaking as someone who has represented families of women and children killed by domestic abusers with guns, the potential danger of this decision is hard to overstate. But under recent Supreme Court Second Amendment precedent, that danger is treated as virtually irrelevant.

How did we get here? Doesn’t the right of a child to live outweigh the right to own a Glock or an AR-15? In most of the world, yes. But in today’s America, probably not.

Until recently, the Supreme Court routinely prioritized public safety over private rights. The First Amendment, for example, protects the right to shout “fire,” but not in a crowded theater in which people could be trampled.

The fundamental principle that public safety — the right to life — constrained other rights was generally upheld by the Supreme Court until 15 years ago. On June 26, 2008, a 5-4 majority in District of Columbia v. Heller held that the Second Amendment provides citizens with a right to possess handguns to use in private self-defense. That means to shoot other people when the shooter believes it’s necessary.


And all of that was wrong.

First, let’s address the whole “can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” argument. Yes, you can. If you do so, you’re liable for any injuries that occur, but you can most definitely yell it in a theater. The case he mentions is Schenk v. United States and it actually didn’t cover anyone yelling any such thing. It was simply a comment in the majority decision regarding the prosecution of a man who handed out fliers urging people to resist the draft.

It was also overturned in Brandenberg v. Ohio because it was nonsense.

Yet this is some of the evidence of why our right to bear arms should be restricted? Because if so, you’re starting out on the wrong foot.

Further, the Court was right to roll back this idea that public safety trumps individual rights because that argument can and would be used to restrict literally anything. This idea that public safety is more important than personal liberty could easily be used to justify the banning of privately owned cars, for example. After all more people die in auto accidents than from firearms each year.

The idea that the “right to life” is something the government can protect and ensure is bizarre to me, because any government that decides it will preserve your life over your liberties is one that will rip all your freedoms to shreds, all in the name of public safety.


Even then, though, they’d fail.

“You cannot leave your house because you might get hit by a bus,” sounds extreme, but safe…until someone slips in their bathroom and breaks their neck.

The government cannot preserve life. It can’t. Even if everyone at every level of government sincerely wanted it, it cannot preserve your life, even if they were willing to trample on your rights to do so.

Yet, oddly enough, the right to bear arms has saved far more lives than guns have been used to take. Somehow, I think the author of this screed missed that.

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