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Preserving guns & freedom

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By Andrew P. Napolitano
Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 8:58 p.m.
 

The right of the people to keep and bear arms is an extension of the natural right to self-defense and a hallmark of personal sovereignty. It is specifically insulated from governmental interference by the Constitution and has historically been the linchpin of resistance to tyranny.

And yet, the progressives in both political parties stand ready to use the coercive power of the government to interfere with the exercise of that right by law-abiding persons because of the gross abuse of that right by some crazies in our midst.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, he was marrying the nation at its birth to the ancient principles of the natural law that have animated the Judeo-Christian tradition in the West. Those principles have operated as a brake on all governments that recognize them by enunciating the concept of natural rights.

A natural right is an area of individual human behavior — like thought, speech, worship, etc. — immune from government interference and for the exercise of which we don't need the government's permission.

In America, each human being is sovereign. Here, the delegation to the government of some sovereignty — the personal dominion over self — by each American permitted the government to have limited power in order to safeguard the liberties we retained.

But we did not give up any natural rights; rather, we retained them. It is the choice of every individual whether to give them up. Neither our neighbors nor the government can make those choices for us, because we are all without the moral or legal authority to interfere with anyone else's natural rights.

To assure that no government would infringe on the natural rights of anyone here, the Founders incorporated Jefferson's thesis underlying the Declaration into the Constitution and, with respect to self-defense, into the Second Amendment. As recently as two years ago, the Supreme Court recognized this when it held that the right to keep and bear arms in one's home is a pre-political individual right that only sovereign Americans can surrender and that the government cannot take from us, absent our individual waiver.

The dictators and monsters of the 20th century — from Stalin to Hitler — disarmed their people, and only because some of those people resisted the disarming were all eventually enabled to fight the dictators for freedom. Sometimes they lost. Sometimes they won.

The historical reality of the Second Amendment's protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, thus, with the same instruments they would use upon us. Most people in government reject natural rights and personal sovereignty.

Most people in government believe that they can write any law and regulate any behavior, not subject to the natural law, not subject to the sovereignty of individuals, not cognizant of history's tyrants, but subject only to what they can get away with.

Did you empower the government to impair the freedom of us all because of the mania and terror of a few?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.

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