Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

God given?

Some arguments used by the NRA go unchallenged. They become common truth because no one dares to challenge them. Such is a statement from this article about  measures to restrict ammunition and/or guns: "Mr. Pratt added: “These politicians need to remember that these rights aren’t given to us by them. They come from God. They are God-given rights. They can’t be infringed or limited in any way. What are they going to do: limit it two or three rounds. Having lots of ammunition is critical, especially if the police are not around and you need to be able to defend yourself against mobs.”" 

I decided to ask some people I know about the implications of such a statement. My friend, Rachel is a minister and a chaplain who is involved in the gun violence prevention movement. She helped to establish the "God not Guns" site which is a way for people to think about how their faith and the issue of gun violence prevention intersect. Rachel uses "Gundamentalism" to describe how this works for the gun lobby: "It creates a relationship that takes on elements of the sacred – that gun rights are God-given rights that cannot be limited at all. This belief in divinely given gun rights lifts gun rights above all others in the Constitution. Though the Constitution grants inalienable rights to us, none of those rights are unlimited. We have freedom of assembly, but we need to get a permit first. We have freedom to petition our government but we can’t crash legislative meetings. We have freedom of speech but we can’t yell fire in a theater. To say that gun rights cannot be infringed or limited in any way is to go against Constitutional intent and precedent. But the relationship between God and guns is a much more visceral and emotional one for some gun owners. It is beyond reason, really. And I think that there are some people who truly believe it and others who exploit this religious gun fervor to promote gun sales and wield political influence. 
"Gundamentalism" elevates the 2nd amendment to the level of a sacred text and the gun becomes a religious icon synonymous with freedom and the American ideal. In the theology of Gundamentalism, loss of human life is not a sin that society can be held accountable for. Mass shootings such as the one in Tucson are seen as the responsibility of a single criminal and there is no communal response other than prayer and more guns."

"The problem with Gundamentalism is that it is a distortion of the Biblical message.  Gundamentalism creates suspicion and divides us one against the other. Rather than seeing every person as a child of God, created in God’s image and worthy of our respect and love, Gundamentalism encourages us to see each other as ‘the other’ someone against whom we must be armed, someone against whom we must be protected." 

So from the Christian perspective, "It destroys the understanding of Christian community – can we really see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ if we think we might need to shoot the person next to us in the grocery store?  And there is no doubt that in Christian tradition Jesus came not as the leader of an army or a violent revolution. Jesus had an entirely different vision of God’s Kingdom. He said that the greatest commandment was to love God with heart, mind and soul, and that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. He talked about loving your enemy, doing good to those who hate you. The over arching message of the Bible is one of justice – justice that comes out of compassion for neighbor and love of God."

Then I asked a Jewish friend what she thought about this idea that gun rights are God given. Right away she mentioned the Old Testament verse Isaiah 2:4-" New Living Translation (©2007): "The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore." That one should be familiar to a lot of people. Another friend  who attends my own church made this observation: " I'm pretty sure one of the commandments is "Thou Shalt Not Kill" -- not "Thou Shall Be Allowed the Killing Weapon of Your Choice."

The Muslim religion came from the same roots (Abraham) as the Jews and Christians so presumably they worship the same God. Differences in the 3 religions, however, obsurce that relationship at times. Islam is a gentle and non-violent faith, as are Christian and Jewish faiths. Since my next door neighbor was born in Lebanon and practices the Muslim faith, I decided to ask him what he thought about this idea of gun rights being "God given". His first reaction was incredulity. He doesn't see it that way at all. His faith finds offensive use of violence unacceptable. Using a weapon for self defense for your family, yourself and your country is acceptable but he thinks that people take advantage of that for their own agenda. He thought that inserting God into the gun rights discussion was an effort to justify already held beliefs and decisions. Then he mentioned an Egyptian verse that he paraphrased this way: if anybody asks for peace, you are obliged to answer them in the affirmative. By the way, we all understand here that much violence has occurred in our world in the name of religion of all kinds. People do not always "practice what they preach".

If "God" is used to refer to the God worshiped all over the world, why then, do all of those people in Norway, England, Australia, Iceland, Italy, Russia, Latvia, and other places where "God" is worshiped  not have God given gun rights? Does "God" only mean Americans to have these very special gun rights? I don't think so. Given that, Pratt's argument is not believable. Inserting the word "God" into any discussion about gun rights is calculated and meant to be a conversation stopper. "You" can't take my rights away, they were given to me by God. "You" can't pass any reasonable gun regulations because my gun rights are "God given". And if "you" do, what does that make "you"? The enemy? The "other"? 

While looking for articles about the God given gun rights proclaimed by Erich Pratt, Director of Communications for Gun Owners of America, I ran across another blogger who agreed with me. Lady blaga, as the blogger calls him/herself, said:I wish that what happened in Arizona could lead to a real honest discussion about gun laws,..." The attempts by the gun lobby to stop the honest discussion about gun laws by trying to convince people that God has something to do with gun rights are dishonest." This way of influencing public policy is fallacious. The second amendment is one amendment, not more important than the others.

As the country copes with the recent gun violence in Tucson some faith based groups have decided to speak out. Faiths United Against Gun Violence is a newly formed group of 24 national faith-based organizations that will call on people of all faiths to see gun violence as a justice issue that can no longer be ignored. These groups will join with gun violence prevention groups to challenge our leaders and our country to do the right thing about gun violence. Most understand that "God" would want us to seek harmony and practice non-violence in our daily lives. Rights to own guns for self defense are one thing. To say that those rights come from "God" is quite another. It is dangerous to believe that gun rights are "God given" if it stops any common sense, civil and reasonable discussion from ending the acrimonious debate about the American culture of guns and violence. 


  1. In Luke 22: 36-38 Jesus is quoted commanding his disciples "… if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me." This verse is often quoted and seldom understood. Pro-gunners say Jesus is giving us a command to own weapons. Anti-gunners say that he was only telling his disciples to purchase swords so that they would be "transgressors" thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12. Neither is correct.

    The anti-gun position is destroyed by a simple reduction: 1) it is a sin to command others to sin, 2) Christ never sinned, and 3) therefore Christ never commanded his disciples to sin. Disproving the pro-gun position on these verses is a little more difficult. They have made the mistake of oversimplification – their interpretation is the patently obvious one. Let’s do a little exegesis.

    The context here is a discussion between Christ and his disciples at the Last Supper immediately preceding the crucifixion. Jesus rhetorically asks them in verse 35, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" Jesus is describing his time on earth when he directly watched over his disciples. In verse 36 He changes direction and starts talking about the immediate future in which His carnal presence will ultimately be removed after the accession: "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." The "now" referred to is the beginning of the disciple’s ministry to the world. Christ goes on to explain that things are changing because of the imminent fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: "And he was numbered with the transgressors" -- as indeed he was when crucified as a criminal side-by-side with two thieves (when Jesus took upon Himself the sins of those He saved, even God the Father forsook Him – in this manner Christ was a transgressor).

    So what is Christ saying? Basically, "Times are going to get tough – I’m not going to be here directly with you anymore. The world is going to hate you for the message you are presenting them." So what does this have to do with gun control? In this verse Christ uses the private ownership of weapons in an example and gives it a positive countenance. It is interesting to note in verse 38 that the disciples already owned two swords.

  2. Yes, Rob. I anticipated that you guys would use that one. We can each come up with something. Did you miss that I mentioned that guns for self defense are one thing but claiming them to be god given is another? This does not make owning guns god given. " In this verse Christ uses the private ownership of weapons in an example and gives it a positive countenance. It is interesting to note in verse 38 that the disciples already owned two swords. " I know that you guys think you need to amass your arsenals in case you need them to fight against the jack booted government thugs who are surely coming to get your guns. That is your interpetration, not shared by the majority and not shared by those who practice the justice and peace view of religious faith.

  3. Interesting post, I may appropriate some of the material regarding "gundamentalism".

    We can get into a long debate about the New Testament, but the basic gist is that the New Testament is a selected group of writings which excludes the other writings termed apocrypha. . Some of them were vigorously suppressed and survive only as fragments. The earliest lists of works considered authentic "New Testament" were not quite the same as modern lists. For example, the Book of Revelation was long regarded as inauthentic (e.g. Antilegomena), while Shepherd of Hermas was considered genuine by some Christians, and appears in the Codex Sinaiticus, an ancient hand-written copy of the Greek Bible.

    Given that the four Canonical Gospels don't agree, you're on shaky ground asserting that Luke allowed for ownership of arms. I would say this since Luke was not one of "The Twelve"apostles, but was mentioned as a companion of the Apostle Paul and as a physician.

  4. As you like to say, Japete, we've already been over this one before. Do you believe in a natural, or God-given, right to life? From that extends all our other natural rights, including the ability to defend ourselves with the most effective tool of the times. For Jesus' disciples that meant swords, but for us it means firearms. All of our other natural rights (such as the right to say whatever we want and worship however we want) extend from this same natural, or God-given, right to life. These are the rights which the Constitution protects for us, not grants to us. I pretty much stopped reading your friend's quote about this so-called "Gundamentalism" when I got to the part where she claimed that the Constitution "granted" us inalienable rights. That is patently false, and once you make that leap, you can derive all manner of "common sense restrictions" against any of our natural rights, not just the right to keep and bear arms. Remember, our government exists at the consent of "we the people," not the other way around.

    By the way, I'm pretty sure the NRA would agree with my brief synopsis here, but you'll only find them talking about a natural or God-given right to keep and bear arms because they are a single-issue organization dedicated to the preservation of that one particular right. That also has a lot to do with their success, btw.

  5. Talk about dripping with sarcasm. I would hope you know the "god given" rights or creator refer to rights that all people are born with and that governments should not be able to take away. We fortunately live in a country whose forefathers saw that countries that only had gov issued rights could decide that you no longer had those rights.

  6. Oh and the New Living translation of Exodus 21:13 is "Do not Murder" That seems to be a little different than the The overly simplified "Thou Shalt Not Kill"

  7. Yes anon- that was my point. The fact that the NRA chooses to use and misuse the idea that somehow the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and amendments are God given is fallacious. The founding fathers wrote the Constitution. God had nothing to do with the writings. Yes, God is mentioned in the Constitution but to say that "God" granted the rights is totally false. As to life, I can see where you are going and I am not going to go down that road on this blog. I believe in "Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" which 6 people will no longer be able to have after last Saturday.

  8. Joan,

    I see that you continue to twist things to fit your own end.

    We have freedom of assembly, but we need to get a permit first.

    We only need a permit to assembly IF we are gathering in specific situations. Like if we are going to use public areas, if we will be creating traffic or safety concerns, if revenue will be generated.

    Under your view of the right to assemble, would you agree the government has the power to limit the number of people you invite to your house?

    That you have to have a permit before 3 people stop and talk on a street corner?

    That you have to have a license before friends gather in the park to have a picnic?


    And again

    We have freedom to petition our government but we can’t crash legislative meetings

    There are very few legislative meetings that the public isn't allowed in or to address.

    "Crashing a meeting" isn't petitioning the government it is interrupting the meetings and even then there are clear rules that the government power to act in secrecy is very limited.

    So, saying that we can't crash a meeting is no where near synonymous as petitioning the government.


    We have freedom of speech but we can’t yell fire in a theater

    One of the biggest distortions the anti-gun groups use is this one.

    Are you claiming that if there is a fire in a theater, NO one is allowed to announce it?

    Your claim that "no one can yell fire in a theater" is only half the truth. No one can ILLEGALLY or FALSELY yell fire in a theater.

    The simple way of putting it is no one can use the First Amendment to break the law.

    We don't have a problem with the same thing being said about the Second Amendment. No using firearms to commit murder, No using firearms to commit rape. No using firearms to commit robbery.

    Those things are already against the law -- just like causing a panic unnecessarily is against the law.

    And I'll address one of your scriptural statements here

    Another friend who attends my own church made this observation: " I'm pretty sure one of the commandments is "Thou Shalt Not Kill" -- not "Thou Shall Be Allowed the Killing Weapon of Your Choice."

    Does your friend have any way to reconcile the fact that God -- in the commands clearly states the punishment for several sins is death?

    How does he reconcile all the times that God says that people should kill sinners -- even for sins as small (to us) as disrespecting your parents?

    How does your friend reconcile that God commanded, many different times, that His chosen people kill in his name? To conquer a land, to kill all the people in it?

    How does your friend reconcile that Jesus told his disciple at the Garden of Gethsemane He could have 12 Legions of Angels defend him -- defend his person -- if He wanted it?

    Do you or your friend think the Angels would come down and just talk the Jesus' captors?

    Not using Anonymous to see if my comment will go through or not.

  9. Well, Bob S. So you decided to come out of your anonymous commenting and try again. I wonder if you will be published much, given that I have pretty much banned your remarks for good reason. I am publishing this only so that my readers see the extreme differences between some of my readers and myself.

  10. Joan,

    You have been publishing many of my comments - as long as I use Anonymous.

    What does it say about your style of debate that you'll delete my remarks if you know they come from me?

    I also notice that you don't address the issues I raise. You once again make personal jabs against me.

  11. What it says, Bob, is that I get a lot of anonymous comments so I don't always know they are you, of course, which is your intention. I will not comment on what you said. How can I answer your questions? That is why you are rarely published, to be honest with you. You start in on impossible questions that just can't be answered reasonably and then you keep at it until I have to turn you off. Ask me some reasonable questions. Perhaps I will answer them. Also, how can I answer for my friends? Are these sincere questions or gotcha provacative questions just made for the sake of argument? I am serious about that, Bob. You have a tendency to annoy bloggers by posing impossible and ridiculous questions and then you get mad when people don't answer them. Try another way of doing things and you might get some answers.

  12. Reasonable Questions?

    Isn't it reasonable to ask if a person can yell fire in a theater if there is an actual fire?

    Isn't it reasonable to ask how to reconcile "thou shalt not kill" with commandments to kill?

    Isn't it reasonable to address how we can assembly in our homes peacefully with your statement that we need permits to assemble?

    Those are reasonable questions to most people Joan

  13. Why would you ban Bob's remarks, Japete? He was not insulting or attacking you? Bob is completely correct, except for one small error. The original scripture said "thou shalt not murder". Even the scripture saw that at times, killing was necessary.

    As for the yelling of fire in a theater, your attempts to restrict or ban guns is akin to putting duct tape over someone's mouth as they go into the theatre. Instead, we punish those who cause a panic by yelling fire when one does not exist. Punish... after the crime... Not punish people who may never break the law.

    And you have said before that the government is allowed to take our rights away because they give them. I corrected you then. I correct you now. The Constitution protects rights. It doesn't grant them.

    Also, God is NOT mentioned in the Constitution. Don't get this confused with the Declaration of Independance, which is also where the quote that you used, "Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness" comes from. The Declaration of Independence is not a legal document; it is not the U.S. Constitution.

  14. Bob- this will be my last comment to your comments since I know you will keep at me until the veritble cows come home. These are rhetorical questions for which you know the answer. BTW- where are the commandments to kill exactly?

  15. Well then, anon,where do the God given rights come from? This is my blog. You do not see all the comments I receive. I publish those I choose to publish and have good reasons not to publish those I don't.

  16. No, Japete. The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution as a contract between the People and the newly formed government. In that contract the government (via the Constitution and its Amendments) promised to protect the natural rights of its citizens. You are hung up on the "God given" part, as if it comes from the Bible. It doesn't; everyone has these "God given" rights, including those of non-Judao-Christian belief, and even including atheists. That's why many people choose to refer to them as "natural rights" instead. They are ours solely by virtue of being born onto this planet, and no one can "grant" them to us. Some may certainly try to take them from us, however, and that's what we oppose. You'll also find that many of us pro-2A guys are actually pro-individual rights, which means that we believe that none of our natural rights should be restricted by anyone. In other words, our government was not created to be our omnipotent Parents to which we are subservient, but rather a vigilant watchdog of which we are the Master to protect us from threats greater than the individual while we go about pursuing life, liberty and happiness.

    The fact that you and your side believe that the government grants us rights, and thus can restrict or even take them away, reveals a fundamental disconnect between our respective sides that I'm not sure will ever be reparable.

  17. japete said...
    "Well then, anon,where do the God given rights come from?"

    Would that question not answer itself? God given rights would come from god.

  18. Your view is one shared by some but not all. There is no use in saying I am wrong her. Natural rights is a view of some in this country and not all. People do believe in different views of the world. You happen to believe in natural rights as your world view and I do not. If natural rights come before all else, where does law come in? I know that the folks on the extreme natural rights view of the spectrum don't believe in government at all. This is not black and white or right and wrong. It is a difference in how we each view the world. If the diiference is, as you say, fundamental and unbridgeable, that is too bad. I believe the founding fathers themselves had differences of opinion regarding this and came to some compromises that included both views but did not give one more standing than the other. Over years' time, laws have been interpreted by judges to support the natural rights view and to oppose it as a matter of law. Let's call this for what it is=we have differences of opinion. That does not make you right and me wrong. My view is as widely represented in this country as is yours, and I would say more widely supported.

  19. If, anthony, you believe that these rights are given by God which I do not. I believe the founding fathers got together to form a Constitution that would encompass all sorts of views of the world. Since the Constitution,as was pointed out, does not contain the word God but the rights are amended to the constitution, how does that make them God given? This is an ages old struggle. The Constitution is the rule of law in our country but parts of it are always up for debate and interpretation. That is why we have 3 branches of government. Not all of us view this the same way- see above.

  20. Exodus 21:12 12 He that strikes a man with a will to kill him, shall be put to death.

    Exodus 21:15 He that strikes his father or mother, shall be put to death.

    Exodus 21:16 He that shall steal a man, and sell him, being convicted of the guilt, shall be put to death.

    Exodus 21:23 & 23 If men quarrel, and one strike a woman with child and she miscarry indeed, but live herself: he shall be answerable for so much damage as the woman's husband shall require, and as arbiters shall award. But if her death ensue thereupon, he shall render life for life,

    Exodus 21:29 But if the ox was wont to push with his horn yesterday, and the day before, and they warned his master, and he did not shut him up, and he shall kill a man or a woman: then the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.

    Then there is the Whole 7th Plague where God killed all the First Born sons

    Exodus 11:4-6 This is what the Lord says: 'About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.'

    Now, how can a God who kills be against killing?

    How can a God who commands people be killed be against killing?

  21. Oh boy- here we go and here is why I won't publish all of Bob's comments. Give it a rest Bob. Take a break and do something fun with your Sunday afternoon. That is what I plan. Are you saying that God condones killing? That is just utter nonsense. You can take all kinds of verses of the Bible and justify anything you want. But justifying your own gun rights and saying that God kills is ridiculous. I'm done with this one. Please stop, Bob. You are so annoying when you can't let go of something and you have to badger people until they either get mad at you or turn you off. I am choosing to turn you off. I now remember why I stopped publishing you. Thanks for the reminder.

  22. Actually Joan,

    I'm watching a friend's baby and 4 year old right now.
    That is what took me so long to pull some references.

    So, while I'm sitting here watching kids, working on gun club business; I have time to check in here.

    I'll ask a simple question. How can you say that God does not condone killing when He directly killed the first born, when he commands killing as a punishment for sin, when he commands the Israelites to kill to take the Promised Land?

  23. The idea of "God given" rights like I said before is they are not Government granted. Now if you don't like the word god insert Natural or Creator given. As to at least the first 10 amendments to the constitution there was great argument against adding them. The reason was that the constitution already barred the gov from doing any of those things and people might view them as the goverment granting rights

    From WIKI More here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights

    "Essentially, Hamilton and other Federalists believed in the British system of common law which did not define or quantify natural rights. They believed that adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution would limit their rights to those listed in the Constitution. This is the primary reason the Ninth Amendment was included."

    You are correct that the constitution does not have god in it and for that matter it does not tell us what we can do rather it tells the government what they can and can not do.

  24. Here in on the east coast, all this "God" stuff doesn't seem to resonate that much with either side of this debate. Seems to me like there's plenty of holy book to justify whatever argument either side wants to make.

    Separately, the concept that the Bill of Rights doesn't create Rights, but protects some that all of the founders agreed already existed is pretty basic civics. I don't know why it seems to be controversial in certain circles.

    Was there disagreement about which rights to write down? Certainly. Were any of the Founders arguing that there were no natural rights? I don't think so. Natural Rights are the basis of democracy and liberal tradition; it's why we don't have Kings any more.

    You can argue that ownership of a particular item might not be in the scope of a natural right to self defense, but arguing against natural rights as a concept is.... well, not what I expected.

  25. Yes, Bob, all right. Killing happened in Biblical times. God tested some people by asking them to kill to see what they would do. I am not a literal interpreter of the Bible. I can see that you are. Please, stop asking me this. Go look after those little ones. There's nothing better than that on a Sunday afternoon.

  26. I think we've been down this path before.

    I agree that there is nothing Biblical that tells us we must own weapons, or that we, as represented by our government, should not be able to limit ownership of types of weapons.

    The belief of our founding fathers was that we had a right from "God" or "nature" to self defense, from other individuals OR a government turned tyrannical, and therefore to sufficient arms for either purpose. But while I agree with that right whole heartedly, I've never seen a specific BIBLICAL basis for protecting ownership of a class of arms, such as semi-automatic weapons or whatever.

    But on the other side, the only part of the Bible you could possibly interpret to be pacifistic is the 6th commandment, and a little research shows that that commandment is properly translated (since KJV, when people had too much common sense to think of "killing" as referring to self defense) as "thou shalt not commit murder." And while the Quakers on my father's side would disagree, there's no biblical problem there with killing for legitimate self defense or war.

    When Jesus returns I'll gladly pound my AR-15 into a plow share (if he's against me having it for competition and sporting use, anyway) but clearly He expects some to still be around then.

    But I ask again ... why are you bringing your faith into this secular debate? Christ was clear that we shouldn't start a violent confrontation or escalate one, but he never told us not to be armed (not to live by the sword, but there's a difference between living by the sword and keeping one handy for when everything else fails). So doesn't this just build unnecessary barriers between those of us of faith?

    If Christ came to Earth tomorrow to to give a sermon, would he insist the church he visited have a "no guns" sign? Would he bar NRA members from attending? Would he preach about one gun a month? On closing the gun show loophole? And if not, should we be doing so in His name?

    I don't see anything wrong with getting involved in political issues, but when you proclaim that God is on your side ... well, there is no greater cause in your life than the Great Commission, to spread The Word. And to twist that commission around to be anti-gun, or pro-gun, or anti-Obamacare, or pro-Obamacare ... that's just wrong.

    I don't try to use my faith to support my cause, though that passage in Luke would do so quite handily, and I wish you would quit trying to use your faith to support yours. There's only one source for the word of God, and it's the same for us both, and you'll not find anything anti-self defense or even anti-personal arms ownership within.

    I've written in some detail on this subject here.

  27. Larry Pratt's quote is an expression from the point of view of natural rights theory. I think it's fine to reject this point of view, just understand by doing so you essentially do not believe in one of the core philosophical tenants this nation is based on.

  28. Hello Stephen and readers- I did not bring the idea of faith and God up. The NRA and gun owners of America have decided to use it for their own. I am responding to a statement made that gun rights are God given. That came from your side, not mine. The fact that a group of faith based organizations has chosen to be involved is up to them. They must believe in what I and others like me are doing.

  29. Sebastian- I don't think that my rejecting this philosophy means anything of the sort. I had never even heard of "natural rights" until you guys started bringing it up. I'm pretty main stream and hang out with others who are also pretty main stream. Most of the people with whom I am friends are college educated and many with graduate degrees. It just has not come up in any conversations or lectures or classes I have attended. This is what your side dwells on. Remember, there are a lot of people in this country who do not think the same way as you.The fact that some on the gun rights side appear to find this their life's view and takes it to extremes to be against anything the government tries to do is downright scary to me.

  30. You reference the "god not guns" part of the Brady Campaign in your post ... so I'd say that by inference, you do.

    I've seen all the NRA stuff, and nowhere do they claim a Biblically based argument, just the same one that Sebastian and others have mentioned -- and that one is historical and a root basis of our government, so it's appropriate. Though I'm not crazy about them referencing God even in that context.

    At least we can hopefully agree that much of the material on the "god not guns" site is, at best, a twisting of the various faiths it's trying to exploit. And, at worst, a sacrilege.

  31. God given rights are Human Rights as Jimmy Carter called them. The right to practice whatever religion you wish, the right to be safe from persecution and to own and hold property, etc. Human rights stand as the basis of modern democratic government and if one cannot resist tyranny, one does not have democracy.

    If you do not have the means to oppose a Govt imposing it's will upon the people then you have nothing. No free speech, no freedom of religion, nothing.

  32. Further, at the time the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were evolving, aligning a thread of ideas as inate and God given was common. All of the items in the Bill of Rights were seen as "God Given" or "endowed by our creator."

  33. Natural rights theory didn't evolve as a justification for gun rights. It's a philosophical construct to understand the source of all rights. I'm not going to knock you for having issues with it. I have some issues with some aspects of natural rights theory, but I agree with its essential premise that rights transcend government, and are neither given nor granted by it.

    It's probably possible to argue that the right to arms is not natural, but is an indirect right that supports the natural right of self-preservation. Another natural, or god-given right is freedom of conscious, freedom of thought, and freedom of speech. This is another right that transcends government.

    Not all rights are natural. The right to trial by jury, for instance, is a legal right, not a natural one. The right not to have troops quartered in your home is probably more similar to the Second Amendment in terms of how it relates to natural rights theory. Itself, it is a legal right, but it is a legal right that protects the natural right of property.

    It should also be noted, I think some have argued it, that these aren't biblically derived rights. God didn't come down on high and tell us about them. They are revealed in human nature, which is either a product of nature itself, if you're not a believer, or a product of God's creation if you are a believer.

    I am aware most people don't think much about their rights. I was not trying to suggest you are a bad American for not accepting it. There are legitimate criticisms to be made, I think, of natural rights theory. Our founders did believe in it, and were heavily influenced by natural rights philosophers. Really, without it, there was no legitimate basis for independence from Britain. The Declaration of Independence was a product of natural rights theory, through and through. That's what I mean when I say one needs to understand natural rights before they can truly grasp the principles the United States was founded on. Criticism of natural rights theory does not mean one is a bad American.

  34. No actually Stephen, we will not agree: " At least we can hopefully agree that much of the material on the "god not guns" site is, at best, a twisting of the various faiths it's trying to exploit. And, at worst, a sacrilege. " What exaclty do you find to be a sacrilege about it?

  35. I am not sure that natural rights, used the way you all use it, is the same thing as we have come to know as Human Rights. The term natural rights is in a resurgence now when it wasn't really spoken much about and not especially during the times of Civil Rights and working on human rights campaigns in out own country and countries all over the world. Those are generally seen to be rights to vote, rights to practice religion, rights to be in a partnership with someone of the same or opposite sex, rights to be free of totalitarianism. The natural rights stuff is different.

  36. As always, thanks Sebastian for your cogent and informative remarks. It is clear that you are a reasonable person who chooses not to attack my patriotism, my integrity and my faith in explaining something. I appreciate that a lot.

  37. Human rights by your own admission include being able to live free from totalitarianism. This is the single purpose of the Second Amendment, to have the ability to resist tyranny and totalitarianism.

  38. "This belief in divinely given gun rights lifts gun rights above all others in the Constitution."

    Are you entirely unaware of natural rights philosophy, or how strongly it influenced the founding?

    Gun rights aren't lifted above the other fundamental rights discussed in the Constitution, all of them are the same divine nature. What did you think this meant?

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,"

    Government cannot grant, nor can it repeal, the right to keep and bear arms, just as it cannot grant and cannot repeal the right to life, liberty, and property.

    ALL of the founders had this view of rights, federalist and anti-federalist both. You'd be hard-pressed to find a founder who was more opposed to Jefferson than Hamilton, but Hamilton wrote:

    "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."

  39. That's your interpretation. I don't see it that way, as you can guess. I thought it was an individual right to bear arms for self defense.

  40. You have some very interesting thoughts on the 2nd amendment. It is a short 27 words 3 commas and a period and the never the mention of self defense.

  41. Anthony,

    The 3rd Amendment doesn't mention garages, boat house, RVs, driveways or lawns -- but it would keep the government from having soldiers quartered there.

    The Freedom of Speech never mentioned blogs, printing presses, or any non-verbal means of communication --but it keeps the government from limiting those means of communication.

    Simple question - how could members of the militia gather to fight off an enemy if they didn't have the means to defend themselves?
    A corrupt government or foreign enemy could stop them one by one -- if they didn't have the means to defend themselves.

  42. The Supreme Court made it clear in Heller that the 2nd amendment is an individual right to keep and bear arms. The case came about, as you know, as a challenge to the D.C. gun laws which banned handguns for self defense in the home.

  43. If the Amendments to the Constitution can't be touched, why does the 21st Amendment exist? I sure would like to have one of these Constitutional scholars explain that one to me.

  44. An important thing to understand, and I think many pro-gun people forget this, is that natural rights theory is a philosophical construct. It's a way to think about rights, and identify them. It's not very useful for talking about how rights are actually protected in the real world.

    You can say the right to free speech, or freedom of religion, is inviolate, and can neither be granted or removed by government. That's a statement of philosophy. But talk to someone who lives in Iran about how much their natural right of free speech matters, you might get entirely different perceptions. You can say, philosophically, they still retain those rights, but from a practical standpoint they might as well not exist.

    That's the real problem with natural rights theory. It's something very abstract. Granted, abstractions are important -- religion is largely an abstraction -- but where the rubber meets the road, what rights exist is a bit of a collective understanding. Rights not valued tend to be quickly surrendered to the government.

  45. "If the Amendments to the Constitution can't be touched,"

    Nobody said anything about the amendments can't be touched, what has been recognized is that rights are inherent in the nature of man, and cannot be granted or repealed by government.

    If Congress and 2/3ds of the states decided to repeal the 1st amendment, the right to free speech and free religious expression would continue to exist. Rights don't disappear, simply because some government decides to infringe upon them.

  46. Bob S. and some of the others have shown us once again that the pro-gun crowd are masters at cherry-picking the parts that support their already-decided and fixed ideas. They do this with stats all the time, but when they get going on the Bible, whatch out.

    I'd like to play too. Jesus said turn the other cheek. He said forgive your ememies. He gave an example of it by allowing himself to be crucified.

    That's it, end of discussion.

    About the philosophy of the natural right to life meaning that we have the right to self-defense and that means we can have guns, I'm not convinced. Unless you're one of these characters who believes we should be able to have any weapons we want, shoulder-held missile launchers, for example, you admit we have to draw the line somewhere. Who's to say where we draw that line? That's what we often debate and your rights have nothing to do with it. We agree you have the right to life and the right to protect yourself and your family, we just don't agree on which tools you can have to do it.

  47. Self defense can include defense from tyranny as well.
    The supreme court never discussed that phase of the 2nd in Heller. The discussion that took place was over the 2nd including an individual component which previously had been unclear to some.

  48. "You can say, philosophically, they still retain those rights, but from a practical standpoint they might as well not exist."

    Rights very much exist, especially in regimes that routinely violate them. It's the violation of these rights that motivates resistance to the regime.

  49. jedge- "to the regime"??? - I'm just asking...

  50. MikeB302000,

    We covered "turning the other cheek" over on my blog.

    At the time, it was socially, morally and legally acceptable for a superior rank to strike an inferior rank (lord/vassal or master/slave).

    Note that it was LEGAL. For an inferior to strike back it would be breaking the law. Jesus' parable would and was fully understood at the time.

    By turning the other cheek, the inferior was non-verbally stating that (s)he considered himself/herself to be equal with the person who struck them.

    A corollary for today would be a law enforcement officer, while performing his job, striking a person. It is illegal to physically resist.

    The understood message was to non-violently resist lawful but morally wrong violence.

    Criminals raping, robbing or trying to murder people do not fall into this category.

    Or are you trying to tell me you wouldn't fight a criminal trying to rape your wife, to murder your children?

    I don't think so.

  51. Dear readers- unless there is something different or compelling, I will not be publishing more comments about religion and arguments about religion here. This is not the intent of the post in the first place and we will not be discussing our own faith and what the Bible does or does not say. We can all find what we want religious writings to say. We may all believe different things but any discussion about this will likely invoke intolerance. The point of the post was my view that the NRA and GOA is using the term "God given" to gain support for the 2nd amendment when the amendment says no such thing. And I am not going to get into more debate about that at this time. Give it a rest everyone. Time to move on.

  52. " jedge- "to the regime"??? - I'm just asking... "

    Yes. Rights are what motivate the law, or resistance to it. And that includes resistance to the government, when that government is destructive to those rights.