What is wrong with rights?

red ensign

In my last post on American gun debates I opened the idea that these debates have been less than helpful in my Canadian context.

I aim to show that the classic presumption in English Common Law is for the ownership of weapons, and for their lawful use in domestic self-defence. To do this, we shall examine American history, as a spring board into this debate.

The charge brought by many a liberal on the hapless Canadian gun owner is that owning a gun is a mere “privilege” and is emphatically not a right. We are Canadians after all, not Americans. We can all agree that a Canadian is not an American. No matter liberal confusion regarding identity in other areas, they are right on this point.

So what? Does it matter?

History and tradition do matter. Americans have a 2nd Amendment. It reads,

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Article II 1789 Bill of Rights

We need to ask ourselves what that meant when it was adopted as law in 1789, and what bearing it has on us.

To recount the whole story of American independence and political development is not our aim here, but I will make a few remarks.

The American founding Fathers fought for Independence from Great Britain because they believed that the English Parliament was infringing upon the colonies’ rights as de jure states under the British Crown, and because they believed that the British King had neglected his sworn duties as liege-lord to protect the independence of the colonies and colonists from this infringement. If you do not understand this fact of self-perception, nothing the 13 colonies did makes sense.

In short, the 13 colonies, plus Vermont, (who fought a separate war with Britain) fought to maintain their Rights as Englishmen. Even a cursory reading of the stuff these guys wrote at the time proves this.

They came to see that the best way to protect their ancient liberties was through separation from Great Britain.

We need to see that they saw the world through their eyes, and their immediate context.  Political and religious thought in the 13 colonies were shaped by the events of the English Civil War from the 1640s’.

So what does all this matter to a Canadian? American developments springing from ancient English Common-law traditions do matter. Their developments can be seen as a parallel growth from a common root. To be sure, American law has no legal authority in Canada, but it ought to have an advisory authority derived from common ancestry and common traditions.

However, the common root does have legal authority in Canada. Queen Elizabeth II is our Queen, and via the covenants and traditions we possess in common with the British Crown we have good grounds for assuming all the ancient rights of Englishmen as being ours.

Incidentally, this is why I am a convinced monarchist. This tradition is worth all danger to keep.

What then were the common traditions the American colonists sought to defend? What was it that they thought they ought to have, and were willing to forego all comfort and safety to attain?

We shall sketch the English Civil War and some of the developments from it in the next posts in this series, in an effort to lay out some of these that pertain to the question at hand.




American gun-control debates aren’t helping us at all

thThis flag says it all. Stay away, keep off! I know my rights, and they SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. After all, the 2nd Amendment is in the Bill of Rights, right?

Slow down turbo. Lets consider together the impact of American gun debates on our Canadian conversation. The American 2nd Amendment is a glorious part of their Bill of Rights. I am in hearty accord with it, and Amen. However, I am no American. I am a Canadian.

One of the first things the opponents of firearm-freedom in my country do is throw this in my face. “You aren’t American, this isn’t America, you don’t have the Right to Own a firearm. It is a Privilege. And it is one the government has a right to take away at any time.”

This kind of facile argument is very frustrating to deal with, as there is a grain of truth to it. I am not American, and the American Constitution and Bill of Rights have no authority in Canada. But is that all there is to this? Are Americans the only men in the history of the world who have a right to own and bear firearms? Are they unique among men?

I think not. In a future post I hope to go into the American Constitution and the context surrounding the debates and men that formed the Bill of Rights. For now, we shall leave them by the way and move forward to sketch our program.

There have been several types of responses in the Canadian gun world to the typical anti-gun rhetoric above. One method has been to grant the premise that a Right does not exist where it is not enumerated in law, and then try to amend the situation by getting laws passed or struck. This method is fine, but the premise is flawed. More on this will follow in subsequent posts.

Another response has been to find a means of making Rights universal to Nature. If all men everywhere have universal and natural, rights… and property is one of them, then all Canadians have a natural right to arms. The logic of this is fine. Unfortunately, the leftists do not agree with the premise, and I partly agree with them.

So then, we are left in a dilemma. We know that owning guns and enjoying their use cannot be immoral. Somehow we know this, and yet we must make clear what we mean and do not mean. Our task is to form our thoughts, to bend our rational powers toward the effective communication of what we believe.

If Human Rights are so arbitrary as to require ratification by law, then we know they do not suffice. What if the ownership were not a Right? What if it were a Duty?

I aim to argue that the ownership and use of firearms, for defence in particular, is a DUTY of every man.