L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 217, March 31, 2003
CHANGE THE CODE!
Exclusive to TLE
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add "within the limits of the law," because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
Second Amendment advocates, sadly, are more than passingly familiar with the argument that rights are subject to "reasonable" restrictions. When, on occasion, the genocide enabling morons who refer to themselves as "gun control advocates" are forced into a position where they must condescend to acknowledge that the 2nd Amendment does indeed protect an individual right, the "reasonable" restrictions argument is their primary fallback position.
Usually, their argument will go something like this: "All right. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the 2nd Amendment does protect an individual right. Even granting that, the right isn't absolute. Like all rights it's subject to reasonable restrictions."
"I'm a free speech absolutists." they'll continue. "I believe strongly in the unfettered freedom of the press. In spite of these strong beliefs, however, I realize that those rights aren't unlimited. There are certain reasonable restrictions placed upon both of those rights. For example: There are reasonable laws which forbid me from using my freedom of speech to slander another person, or from using the freedom of the press to libel another person. And, as everyone knows, I can't use my freedom of speech to falsely shout 'Fire!' in a crowded theater. These are reasonable restrictions that we, as a society, have placed upon the freedoms of speech and of the press. Why should a personal right to keep and bear arms, if such a right even exists, be any different? Why shouldn't that purported right be subject to similar, reasonable restrictions?"
Taken at face value, this may *seem* like a reasonable argument, and many who claim to be 2nd Amendment advocates have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.
The problem, of course, is that the "reasonable" restrictions argument is utterly, irredeemably fallacious. It's just another Big Lie, in a seemingly never ending stream of Big Lies, promulgated by the victim disarmament crowd to forward their agenda.
Worst of all, it works amazingly well. The fact that many so-called 2nd Amendment advocates have been converted to the cause of their enemies, and themselves tolerate, support, or even demand "reasonable" restrictions demonstrates this fact quite eloquently. Herr Goebbels would be pleased.
It's time we put this particular falsehood to rest, permanently, before it can cause any further damage.
As Jefferson put it, our rights consist of "unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others." In other words, our rights end at precisely the point where they begin to infringe upon the rights of another. This is the fundamental principle that underlies the entire concept of rights, and, it seems to me, the Zero Aggression Principle as well.
What's more, most people—yes, even the unprincipled murderer, mugger, and rapist enablers of the victim disarmament movement—will agree that our rights only extend to the point where their exercise would begin to infringe upon the rights of another.
Keeping that underlying principle in mind, let's look a little more closely at those "reasonable" restrictions on our freedoms of speech and of the press that the victim disarmers typically use as justification for restrictions upon our right to keep and bear arms.
The one thing that all of the acts proscribed by those "reasonable" restrictions have in common is the fact that every one of them constitutes a clear, direct, and provable infringement upon the rights of others. Libel and slander violate one's long standing and universally recognized right to maintain one's good name and reputation. Shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater, when there is no fire, creates a legal fraud. In other words, since our rights only extend to the point where their exercise would begin to infringe upon the rights of another, neither libel, slander, nor falsely shouting "Fire!" in crowded theater were ever part of our freedoms of speech or of the press to begin with.
"Now wait a minute," some may be thinking. "Since slander was never part of my freedom of speech to begin with, how can a law that punishes acts of slander be considered a restriction, 'reasonable' or otherwise, on my freedom of speech?"
"Hold on a second here," others may muse. "If the freedom of the press never included a 'right' to commit libel in the first place, how can laws that punish libel be restrictions, 'reasonable' or otherwise, on the freedom of the press?"
"Just hold the phone there," still others might ponder. "Since, right from the beginning, I've never had a 'right' to falsely shout 'Fire!' in a crowded theater, how can a law that punishes me for doing so be a restriction, 'reasonable' or otherwise, on my freedom of speech?"
Not one of the "reasonable" restrictions typically cited by the victim disarmament crowd, as justifications for restrictions on other rights, act in any way to alter, diminish, or restrict the freedoms of speech or of the press. In other words, they're not restrictions at all. It's a Big Lie.
Unfortunately, people are seldom persuaded by facts or reason, and nowhere is this more true than among supporters of the victim disarmament movement. In spite of having been involved in the "Great American Gun War" for over a quarter-century now, I've yet to see a committed victim disarmer concede to superior facts or reason.
Raising a superior argument does produce one distinct benefit, however. It often encourages them to shut up for a while, presumably for fear of looking more foolish than they already do. And, ultimately, wouldn't we be at least a little better off if they'd all just shut the hell up?
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