bookmark_borderThere is no right to “feel safe”

“Canadians have the right to feel safe in their homes, in their schools, and in their places of worship. With handgun violence increasing across Canada, it is our duty to take urgent action to remove these daily weapons from our communities. Today, we’re keeping more guns out of our communities, and keeping our kids safe.”

These words by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are despicable and disturbing on many levels.

Most importantly, neither Canadians, nor any people for that matter, have the right to “feel safe” anywhere. Safety is not a right; liberty is. What that means is that people have the right to do anything they want, as long as it does not directly harm anyone else. People have a right not to be harmed; this is what restricts the things that others are allowed to do. People do not, however, have a right to feel safe. This is because the things that some people require in order to feel safe would actually require violation of the rights of others. For example, say that a person, in order to feel safe, requires their environment to be made gun-free and/or restrictions to be imposed on the ownership or possessions of guns by others. Achieving these conditions would require other people to be harmed by having their freedom to own and possess guns taken away. People do not have a right to anything that would violate the rights of others. Therefore, people do not have a right to feel safe.

Trudeau also errs when he claims that he has a “duty to take urgent action.” Actually, because the action taken by Trudeau violates people’s rights, Trudeau does not even have the right to take this action, let alone the duty.

Additionally, Trudeau errs in citing the increase in handgun violence across Canada as a reason for violating people’s rights. The conditions that exist in a particular place, or at a particular time, actually have nothing to do with which policies governments should implement. This is because the sole purpose of government policies should be to specify which rights people have, and to punish people who violate the rights of others. The moral principle that I explained above, which determines the rights that people have, is universal and objective and does not change based on what conditions happen to exist in a particular place or time. Therefore, government policies with regard to guns should have nothing to do with the amount of gun violence that happens to exist in the country. The only policy that any government should have with regard to guns is a policy stating that people have a fundamental right to gun ownership and possession. People’s rights are not dependent on living in a country that happens to have low gun violence rates.

Also, why is Trudeau bragging about “keeping more guns out of our communities”? Why is this considered good? Guns are morally neutral. Having lots of guns in a community is in no way a worse state of affairs than having few guns in a community, so this statement does not make sense.

Plus, why does Trudeau specifically mention “keeping our kids safe”? What does a person’s age have to do with the importance of keeping that person safe? Apparently, the safety of adults does not matter to Trudeau.

Trudeau needs to place less emphasis on “communities” and more emphasis on individuals. He needs to place less value on safety and more value on liberty. Trudeau needs to stop his morally bankrupt and illogical behavior that has inflicted enormous harm and punishment on innocent people. He needs to stop obsessing about “kids” and “safety” and “communities” and start actually respecting people’s fundamental rights.

bookmark_borderHochul’s disturbing comments about “radicalization”

“I have called upon and am working closely with our Attorney General to identify what’s going on on social media, and those questions are now part of our background checks. So, just like in the old days, you’d talk to someone’s neighbor. Now you can talk to their neighbors online and find out whether or not this person has been spouting philosophies that indicate that they have been radicalized. And that’s how we protect our citizens as well.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul made these comments at a press conference on August 24. Hochul is referring to her state’s new law which requires applicants for gun licenses to provide their social media usernames so that police can ensure that the content of their posts is acceptable before issuing a license.

These comments are disturbing for several reasons:

First, the use of the word “radicalized” presumes that radical views are something that originates outside of a person, as opposed to from within. It follows from this presumption that radical views are bad and wrong. After all, if certain beliefs can only come to be held due to outside influences, and not due to thoughtful, deliberate reflection, then those beliefs must be irrational and incorrect. But there is nothing inherently bad about radical views, and they are just as likely to be correct as moderate ones. A person can come to hold radical views through careful deliberation, just as a person can come to hold moderate views through such deliberation. In fact, one could argue that radical views are more, not less, likely than moderate ones to be a result of philosophical reasoning and analysis.

Second, it is deeply wrong to base permission to exercise fundamental rights on whether or not a person’s views are considered acceptable. According to Hochul, if an applicant has been “spouting philosophies that indicate that they have been radicalized,” then that is reason to deny their application. In other words, Hochul believes that exercise of Second Amendment rights should be limited to people whose views are deemed sufficiently mainstream and moderate. This is, to put it bluntly, absurd. Holding radical views is absolutely not a valid reason for denial of a gun license. As explained above, whether a person’s views are radical or moderate has nothing to do with whether those views are right or wrong. But beyond that, people’s philosophies, beliefs, and views should have no bearing whatsoever on whether their gun license applications are granted, because people’s philosophies, beliefs, and views are none of the government’s business. Even if an applicant holds beliefs that are completely and utterly wrong, that is no reason to deny them the ability to exercise fundamental rights. 

Third, by conditioning the granting of Second Amendment rights on the acceptability of people’s social media posts, Hochul is treating these rights not as rights at all, but as privileges. Gun ownership is a fundamental right. In criminal law, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, because the consequence of being found guilty is for the person’s freedom to be taken away. Similarly, denying a person permission to own and carry a gun takes away a fundamental freedom. Therefore, decisions with regard to gun ownership must use the presumption of innocence standard as well: as long as the government does not have proof that a particular person is unfit to hold a license, the government has a moral obligation to issue the license. Applying for a gun license should not be treated like applying for a job. This is not a situation in which the government can set any standards that it wants and restrict licenses to only the applicants who meet those standards. The government should not be investigating or evaluating a person’s reputation, statements, philosophies, or beliefs, whether by talking to neighbors or by viewing social media profiles. To view rights as something that should be granted only if a person passes these evaluations is to view rights as privileges. And rights are not privileges; they are rights.

In conclusion, Hochul demonstrates two highly disturbing and false assumptions: First, that when it comes to political and moral philosophies, moderate equals good and radical equals bad. Second, that the ability to exercise gun rights should be conditioned on whether or not a person holds “good” political and moral philosophies. Not only is it authoritarian to restrict freedoms to people who hold the correct views, but it is even more authoritarian to presume that the correctness of someone’s views is a function of how popular and widely held those views are. Yet this is exactly what Hochul is doing. The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect the rights of minorities against a tyrannical, bullying majority. By openly stating that the expression of unusual views is a legitimate reason to deny a person rights, Hochul is completely defeating the entire purpose of the Bill of Rights and completely disregarding the concept of individual liberty. It is beyond disturbing that any public official would demonstrate such mindless conformity, such moral bankruptcy, and such disrespect for people who think differently than she does, as Hochul has demonstrated through her public statements. It is not okay for the government to limit rights to only those people whose philosophies it has deemed acceptable.

P.S. Although this is not directly relevant to the topic of this blog post, I would be remiss not to mention Hochul’s recent decision to order all Republicans to leave her state. “Just jump on a bus and head down to Florida where you belong,” she said at a campaign rally. “You are not New Yorkers.” Needless to say, these appalling comments are additional evidence of Hochul’s bigotry and intolerance towards people who think differently than she does. So much for progressivism being the philosophy of tolerance, diversity, and inclusion.

bookmark_borderWhen it comes to rights, you don’t need to demonstrate a need

One of the most common arguments in the gun rights debate is the idea that certain types of guns (or guns in general) are “not needed.” It is frustrating to see this argument being made again and again, because it is 100% wrong and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the nature of rights.

These tweets are a recent example: 

What this person, and so many others, fail to grasp is the fact that a person doesn’t need to need something in order to be allowed to have it. Fundamental rights exist regardless of need. If something is a fundamental right, as owning and possessing guns is, then people have the right to do it, whether they need to or not. 

Melissa is correct in stating that carrying a gun into Target or Subway is not needed. But so what? So only activities that are needed should be allowed? That’s interesting, because getting married is not needed, yet gay rights advocates treat it as an obvious truth that people have a right to marry the person that they love. (See this post for more examples of things that are not needed, but that everyone would agree people have a right to do.)

Next, Melissa pompously demands that gun rights supporters “demonstrate a need.” Well, no. That’s not how it works. If something is a fundamental right, as gun ownership is, then no one is obligated to demonstrate any need in order to exercise it. If something is a fundamental right, then people can do it for any reason at all, or for no reason.

With regards to the question that Melissa asks, obviously it is not good to have a situation in which anyone “goes and mowes [sic] down some people.” But the way to avoid such situations is simply for people not to use their guns to mow down people. The way to avoid such situations is not to require people to prove that they are not going to mow anyone down, because such requirements invade the privacy of all people and therefore violate everyone’s rights. 

Contrary to what Melissa is implying, it actually would be a good idea for “some closeted racist POS fresh out of HS, to legally ‘qualify’ to carry just because he’s 18.” Obviously, racism is not a good thing. But you can’t require people to prove that they are not racist before allowing them to exercise fundamental rights. If something is a fundamental right, as carrying guns is, then being 18 is completely sufficient to qualify. If something is a fundamental right, then everyone has the right to do it. If something is a fundamental right, then racist people are going to have the ability to do it along with everyone else.

Just as people are not obligated to demonstrate a need in order to exercise fundamental rights, people are not obligated to demonstrate a lack of racism, either. Rights are not privileges reserved for those who have demonstrated sufficient need or moral character. Rights are rights.

bookmark_borderViolating people’s rights is not a right

Within the past couple of weeks, I have noticed a disturbing trend, in which politicians and other public figures have begun to claim that they have a right to violate the rights of other people.

The first example that I noticed is this June 23 tweet by California Governor Gavin Newsom:

First of all, it is disgusting and reprehensible that someone would characterize a Supreme Court decision preserving individual liberty a “dark day” or “shameful.” These words are the exact opposite of the truth. Additionally, I am not sure why Newsom would speak of a “radical ideological agenda” as if that is something bad. How radical or moderate something is has nothing to do with whether it is good or bad, and ideological simply means having to do with moral beliefs, which also has nothing to do with whether the thing in question is good or bad. But most importantly, Newsom, preposterously, claims that by preserving individual liberty, the Supreme Court is somehow infringing upon the rights of states. In other words, he is presuming that states have a right to violate people’s rights. Not only is this false, but the fact that someone would make such a presumption is shocking to the conscience. There is no right of states to protect their citizens from being gunned down. Of course, states have a right to ban the gunning down of people, which all states have (obviously) done. But states do not have a right to enact policies designed to make it difficult or impossible to gun down other people, because this necessarily entails banning activities (such as the ownership and/or possession of various types of guns) that do not harm anyone. And this violates the rights of innocent people. By claiming that states have a right to enact such policies, Newsom is claiming that states have a right to violate people’s rights. But no one has the right to violate the rights of others. The whole point of rights is that they cannot be violated. It is disturbing that this would even need to be stated, but there is no right to violate people’s rights.

This tweet by Keith Olbermann is disgusting for similar reasons. First of all, Olbermann states that it has become necessary to dissolve the Supreme Court, even though there is absolutely no basis for stating such a thing. The fact that an institution made a decision with which Olbermann disagrees is not a reason to dissolve that institution. Second, Olbermann puts the word “court” in quotes, implying that the Supreme Court is somehow not actually a court. But the Supreme Court actually is a court, so there is no reason for Olbermann to do this. Most relevant to my main point is Olbermann’s reference to states that the Supreme Court has allegedly “forced guns upon.” This wording makes no sense and demonstrates that Olbermann shares Newsom’s false, preposterous, and immoral presumption that states have a right to violate people’s rights. In reality, states do not have any right to be free of guns, because the objects that people own and/or carry are none of a state’s business. Therefore, state policies that interfere with people’s ability to own and/or carry guns violate people’s rights. And states don’t have a right to violate people’s rights. Therefore, stopping states from violating people’s rights is exactly what the Supreme Court should do. Olbermann somehow thinks that it is good for states to violate people’s rights, and bad for the Supreme Court to make them stop doing this, which is the opposite of the truth.

On a similar note, this article by the Daily Kos makes the common mistake of using the word “radical” as if this is somehow bad, which it is not, for reasons that I explained above. Regarding the reference to the “belligerent gun rights community”… it is absolutely shocking that people might be belligerent after having their fundamental rights relentlessly ridiculed and trampled on for decades. I can’t imagine why anyone would be belligerent in such circumstances. Additionally, the author of this article, Joan McCarter, makes the same mistake as Newsom and Olbermann when she refers to “states’ right to control guns.” As explained above, states do not have a right to control guns, because doing so violates people’s rights. And as also explained above, states do not have a right to violate people’s rights. No one does. Furthermore, McCarter bemoans the possibility that because of the aforementioned “belligerent gun rights community,” states might be “forced to buckle” and actually respect people’s rights. But states are morally required to respect people’s rights, so they should be forced to do so. Forcing states to respect people’s rights is exactly what ought to happen.

And finally, we have New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who preposterously claims that there are no restrictions on gun ownership, something that anyone who has ever attempted to purchase a gun would know to be blatantly false. In reality, there are far more restrictions on gun ownership than speech. Has Hochul ever been required to take a training course, fill out an application, pay a fee, go to her local police station, and be fingerprinted, before being allowed to voice her opinion on a topic? Somehow I think not. More to the point, just like the above-discussed public figures, Hochul claims the existence of “our right to have reasonable restrictions.” But such a right does not exist. Neither Hochul, nor any other person, institution, or entity, has any right to have restrictions on people’s ability to own and/or carry guns, because having such restrictions violates people’s rights. And there is no right to violate people’s rights.

In conclusion, to claim that governments have a right to violate people’s rights demonstrates utter moral bankruptcy, complete lack of logic, and an incredibly twisted and warped understanding of rights. It is disturbing that so many public figures have made public statements endorsing such an immoral, illogical, and simply wrong idea.

Source for all these quotes: Firearms Policy Coalition via Instagram

bookmark_borderGun control punishes innocent people

“White supremacy,” the headlines screamed in the days after the Buffalo shooting. Again and again, newspapers went out of their way to mention, as many times as possible, the race of the killer and of the victims. Articles featured quote after quote by so-called experts who pontificated about the growing threat of “right-wing domestic terrorism” and the “toxic beliefs” that allegedly motivated the shooting. Politicians solemnly droned on and on about the “poison” of white nationalism and how it must be eradicated from our society. The common thread among all these sentiments is that they demonstrate a greater interest in condemning and blaming groups of people based on their skin color and/or ideology than in condemning and blaming the shooter himself.

Then came the shooting in Texas. Unable (for the most part) to use this incident to attack white people for their skin color, the political and media establishment opted instead to attack everyone who believes that individual rights should be respected. Just as they have been countless times, the mindless, authoritarian platitudes are repeated ad nauseam. Pro-rights activists are viciously ridiculed for being irrationally “obsessed” with guns. The Republican Party is labeled a “death cult.” Newspaper headlines bemoan the “toll” of gun ownership and the “inaction” of Congress. Laws that actually respect fundamental rights are criticized as “lax” and “weak.” People smugly lecture anyone who will listen that Second Amendment rights apply only if someone is a member of a militia. “Since when is gun ownership a human right?” they derisively ask. (The correct answer: since the beginning of time.) “What clause in the Constitution gives you the right to mow down 10-year-olds with assault weapons?” they scream with a nastiness that is matched only by their idiocy. (The correct answer: none, and no one is arguing that any clause does. Only a moron would equate using a gun to mow down 10-year-olds with merely owning one.) “Enough is enough,” people mindlessly repeat. (My question is: enough of what? Enough of people’s fundamental rights being respected?) Even among Republicans, anti-rights sentiments abound, frequently prefaced by such dishonest statements as “I’m as pro-Second Amendment as they come, but…” Again and again, politicians and activists bemoan the fact that government has “done nothing,” as if it is somehow self-evident that punishing innocent people is the correct response to a tragedy.

Let me tell you unequivocally: punishing innocent people is never the correct response to anything. As I’ve stated before and will continue to repeat as long as there are those who disagree, people have a fundamental right to do anything that they want as long as it does not violate the rights of anyone else. Rights are absolute. You don’t get to take rights away simply because doing so would prevent tragedies from happening. And rights are not contingent upon their exercise being safe or healthy. Rights cannot be violated under any circumstances. Far too often, our society responds to tragedies by violating everyone’s rights in an attempt to prevent similar tragedies from happening again. This punishes everyone for the actions of a few. And punishing innocent people is never OK.

Many people seem to have the idea that if they can just be emphatic enough, or angry enough, or graphic enough in describing a tragedy that has happened, then it will somehow make it clear that innocent people should be punished. I am tired of hearing politicians and activists pompously moralizing, again and again, about parents grieving the deaths of their children, about communities in mourning, about the gory details of the violence that was committed. No one denies that the deaths of innocent people are tragic. What we deny is that punishing innocent people is an acceptable response. It simply does not follow from the fact that a bad thing happened to someone, that innocent people ought to be punished. And this is true no matter how bad the thing is. No amount of dramatic storytelling, graphic detail, or pompous moralizing will cause this to follow. No amount of grief, no amount of rage, no amount of self-righteousness gives someone the right to punish innocent people.

I am an autistic person who loves statues and history, who believes in individual rights, and who is just trying to get through each day the best that I can. I am angry, and I am exhausted. I am tired of public officials, celebrities, and people on the internet falling all over themselves to proclaim their solidarity with whatever group happens to be popular at the moment, while ignoring the feelings and needs of people like me. I am tired of having my fundamental rights taken away when I haven’t done anything wrong. I am tired of being stigmatized and shamed for actions that I had nothing to do with, solely because I happen to have the same skin color as the perpetrator. I am tired of being attacked and insulted for having the audacity to believe that rights should not be violated. I am tired of being punished by having my liberty restricted for actions that I did not do and situations that I did not create. 

Instead of focusing on punishing the actual shooters, far too many politicians and members of the media focus on punishing entire groups, whether that be white people, young men, gun owners, victims of bullying, pro-rights activists, or legislators who opt to respect rights instead of violating them. I am tired of the sneering faces, filled with self-righteous intolerance, condemning and blaming me for another person’s actions. I am tired of the scorn, vitriol, and insults being heaped relentlessly upon me – and upon all people who believe in individual liberty – as if I am the mass murderer. I am tired of being called immoral, when failing to distinguish between murderers and innocent people is the epitome of moral bankruptcy. 

I haven’t survived a mass shooting, or lost a family member or friend to one, but I am a person, and my well-being matters also. I have experienced, and continue to experience, unbearable loss, anguish, and pain, yet society has not only neglected to punish everyone for what happened to me, it has neglected to punish even the perpetrators themselves. What makes these pompous and self-righteous people so superior to me that society has decided that when I am harmed, no one should be punished, but when they are harmed, everyone should be?

Headlines about people being killed in mass shootings understandably capture the public’s attention, and the photos and stories of the victims understandably tug on people’s heartstrings. As the faces of shooting victims are splashed across newspaper front pages and the TV news, and their family members tearfully and angrily testify before Congress, it seems sacrilegious to argue against the idea that such tragedies should be prevented by any possible means. However, attempts to prevent tragedies at the expense of individual rights must be opposed, because freedom is crucial to having a life that is worth living. The gradual chipping away of liberty – whether by mandating medical procedures, banning the ingestion of substances, or imposing hurdles to gun ownership – is not as dramatic as a mass shooting. But it is just as destructive, if not more so. Of course, these victims didn’t deserve to die. But neither do I deserve to have my life destroyed by being robbed, one by one, of the things that make it worth living. The face below is not the face of a shooting victim. It is not the face of someone who has been harmed by gun violence. It is the face of someone who has been harmed, and will continue to be harmed, by authoritarian policies that attempt to prevent crimes by punishing those who do not commit them.

This, as you may have guessed, is my face. If you support gun control, you support harming me. Just as mass shootings end innocent lives, immoral laws destroy innocent lives, one violation of individual liberty at a time, by making them no longer worth living.

That is not as attention-grabbing as children being shot to death. But it is equally important.

It is wrong for mass shooters to punish innocent people. And it is equally wrong for the government to do the same in response.

bookmark_border“No one needs an AR-15”

Proponents of gun control often point out that no one “needs” an AR-15 (or another type of gun, or a bump stock, or a pistol brace, or a gun in general). The argument seems to be that if a person does not need something, then they shouldn’t be allowed to have it.

This argument is, to put it bluntly, preposterous. Seeing it repeated ad nauseam by dozens and dozens of different people all over the TV, the newspaper, and the internet is one of my pet peeves.

When one applies this argument to other situations, it becomes obvious how wrong and illogical it is to argue that unless someone needs something, they shouldn’t be allowed to have it.

To name just a few examples, no one needs designer clothing, no one needs tattoos, and no one needs to get their ears pierced. Does it follow that designer clothing, tattoos, and earrings should be banned? Of course not.

No one needs 20 dresses, or 30 pairs of pants, or 40 sweaters. Does it follow that people should be banned from owning these amounts of clothing, and restricted to owning only the amount of clothing that they absolutely need? Of course not.

No one needs Beanie Babies, or Pokemon cards, or toy soldiers, or sports memorabilia, or video games. Should these things be banned? Of course not.

No one needs to get married, and no one needs to have a baby, because being single and being child-free are perfectly valid and acceptable ways of living. Does it follow that getting married and having children should be banned? Of course not. In fact, I’d bet that many people who argue passionately that marriage is a basic right also argue that AR-15s ought to be banned because no one “needs” them.

The list of things that people do not “need” could continue until this blog post became as long as a novel. When you think about it, the only things that people truly need in order to live are food, water, shelter, and perhaps medical services (if they have a life-threatening medical condition). But it would be insane to argue that because of this, these basic necessities are the only things that people should be allowed to have! Yet this is exactly the presumption that you are making if you point out that people do not “need” guns and think that this somehow proves that guns should be banned.

You don’t need to need something in order to be allowed to have it. The ability to have and do things that you like – whether that be clothing, body mods, toys, games, collectibles, relationships, or guns – is inherently valuable because it makes your life better. A world in which people are allowed to do anything they wish (as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of anyone else) is self-evidently better than a world in which people are allowed to have only the things that they need. Owning and possessing guns and related paraphernalia does not violate the rights of others. And for people who like such things, the ability to own and possess them makes their lives better. Therefore, guns and related paraphernalia should be available to anyone who wishes to have them. It really is that simple.

bookmark_borderGun rights supporters are not prostitutes

In today’s Boston Globe, Kevin Cullen wrote what is possibly the most offensive column that has ever been written, by any author, in any newspaper or publication.

“If only we really could throw a red challenge flag in the Congress to demand that the paid prostitutes for the NRA would be forced to sit and watch a ceaseless loop of video, replaying every school shooting since Columbine,” he writes. “Maybe a long, extended viewing of this madness, like a video waterboarding, would persuade the frauds in Congress to do their duty.”

He accuses members of Congress of “taking NRA money like gimlet-eyed hookers” and calls people who support the Second Amendment “morally bankrupt,” “utterly corrupt,” and “as nuts as Nikolas Cruz.”

It is infuriating to read and hear again and again, in newspapers, online, and on TV, these repeated personal attacks on people who support gun rights. Some people believe that the answer to mass shootings is to pass laws restricting individual rights in order to make our society safer; some (including myself) believe that individual rights come first. Regardless of what you believe, there is absolutely no reason to call people who hold different opinions “prostitutes” or “hookers” or to suggest that they be subjected to torture. This type of language is beyond offensive and unacceptable.

Enough with the all-too-common assumption that members of Congress who oppose new gun control laws are acting either out of cowardice, or because of donations from the NRA. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible for another person to actually hold an opinion that is different from your own? As difficult as it is to believe, some members of Congress actually believe that their duty is to uphold individual rights, not to sacrifice them in the name of safety. As shocking as this may be, it is possible for a human being to engage in deliberate, rational, independent thought and arrive at a belief that is different from yours. The fact that someone has different moral beliefs than you does not make them insane, corrupt, or morally bankrupt (sticking to one’s beliefs in the face of insults and criticism is the exact opposite of morally bankrupt), and it certainly doesn’t make them a prostitute.