Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rebuttal to "Rights Abdicated", by David W. Cooney

If any of these conjunctive predicates is false, then the antecedent is necessarily false also; if the antecedent is false, then the argument—though still valid—is no longer a sound argument. The power to bear arms may still not be infringed even if the antecedent is false, however, it will no longer be the case that this is due to the nature of the right to bear arms.
The problem with this argument is that, while you admit that there are rights not enumerated in the Constitution, you seem to deny that there can be any reasons for the specific right of the Second Amendment other than the one that is listed. This is false. Simply stating one particular reason does not mean that there are no others that could be used to maintain the right. Therefore, even if all of the given conjunctive predicates are false, you cannot reach the conclusion you have attempted.

Your argument fails to take the full context of the wording, as it was understood by its authors, into consideration. The specific mention of “a free State” was included to address the claims of the Anti-Federalists that the new Constitution would allow the federal government of the Republic to become a tyrannical authority over the otherwise sovereign governments of the States in the federation. Therefore, the federal government was, and still is, prohibited from establishing a standing army. I realize that this notion is pretty much a joke these days, but it was a very serious issue when these words were written.
According to the political philosophy that I briefly explained at the beginning of this essay, in such a condition as this, it is not a matter of opinion that the right of the people is voluntarily given to the government and no longer retained. In the specific case where a well-regulated militia is superseded be the delegation of coercive power to a professional organization, if the people still enjoy a right to bear arms, it is only in the form of a privilege.

For reasons that Thomas Hobbes explained, it is not possible to posit the simultaneous delegation and retention of rights without doing mortal harm to the very idea of government.
This is where Hobbes' argument fails utterly. In Hobbes' warped view that liberty consists of freedom from bondage, the argument seems to imply that granting the government a standing army means that individual liberty is guaranteed. History shows this to be absolutely false. Granting a government the right to have a standing army does not mean that the government has been granted the sole right to redress all injustices for which necessitate the use of arms. Otherwise, the establishment of a federal army would also eliminate the right for a local police force. After all, if granting the federal government an army in our name removes from us the right to take up our own arms, then it must follow that it removes the right of the local municipality to take up arms as well.

Yet, this is plainly not the case. By granting the federal government a permanent army (which we have not yet done in this country, even if that is the practical reality), we have only granted the government the authority to use the army according to the proper function of the government, namely defense of the country. Since there are many realities of life that may require the use of arms but don't constitute an armed threat to the country as a whole, the right of the individual to keep and bear arms is logically retained.

Indeed, it cannot even be used as an argument against the continued right for each State to maintain its own militia. The purpose of the Second Amendment was to protect each State from the potential tyranny of the federal government. Therefore, each State, in order to remain free, retains the right to maintain its own militia for that purpose. This is clear from the debates that took place at the Constitutional Convention as well as in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.

However, even the permanent establishment of State militias would not imply the abdication of the individual right to arms for the same reason that the establishment of the federal army doesn't. The purpose of the militia is only to defend the State which brings us to the establishment of police forces. What is their purpose? To enforce the law and capture criminals. However, no one with any use of reason can argue that the police are meant to be everywhere at all times. The reality is, as most police will readily admit, is that they typically arrive after the fact. Most of the time, they are responding to crime, not preventing it. Most police officers in the United States are ardent supporters of the individual right to keep and bear arms.

The woman who, after working late, has to cross a dark parking lot to her car still has the right to protection, and the police cannot always be there to provide it. Therefore, she logically has the right to arm herself against the very real threat of attack; likewise the shopkeeper who is confronted by robbers; the person sitting at home when strangers break in; and the law-abiding woman in the diner who was forced to watch while her parents and several others were shot in front of her while her gun was locked in the trunk of her car.

Additionally, it is not only the state that has the right to protect itself from the potential of tyranny by the federal government. The individual also has this right in regard to both the federal and the state governments.

In conclusion, the statement of a specific purpose for protecting a particular right does not mean that there can be no other purposes for that right, nor does it mean that the right is dependent on those purposes rather than an imperative right held by individuals according to the Natural Law. The granting of any right to a government does not constitute the abdication, even voluntarily, of that right for the individual, for the individual must naturally retain the right to protect himself against the government's abuse of that granted right.


Peter McCombs said...


I hope you don't mind that I changed your comments to my previous essay into a new post. I felt the comments area was a little bit too awkward for the expository style that thoughtful arguments often require.

In any case, I do have additional comments, clarifications, and arguments to present as my own rebuttal to yours. I shall publish them shortly.

David W. Cooney said...

"Most of the ardent supporters of the individual right to keep and bear arms in the United States are police officers."

I meant to say, "Most police officers in the United States are ardent supporters of the individual right to keep and bear arms."

Peter McCombs said...

I fixed it in the post. I also fixed a couple of minor typos last night.