Tag Archives: conflicting rights

Why Do Gun Rights Trump All Other Rights?

As readers of this blog know, I’m a pretty rabid civil libertarian. But even I know that my right to free speech doesn’t mean I can stomp into your living room to harangue you. My right to free exercise of religion doesn’t include the right to impose that religion on students in my public university classroom. My right to petition my government for a redress of grievances doesn’t translate into a right to march into the legislature when it is in session and disrupt the proceedings.

In other words, the exercise of my rights is conditioned upon my willingness to respect the equal rights of others.

Granted, that little caveat is widely ignored by citizens who are absolutely convinced that they and they alone are in possession of Truth that must be imposed upon others despite the fact that those others may have Truths of their own. Nevertheless, respect for the equal rights of others is a foundational premise of our legal/constitutional system.

Those for whom the Second Amendment is less a statement of rights than a religion just don’t get that. They seem to believe that the Second Amendment trumps all the other provisions of the Bill of Rights. A couple of years ago, the Indiana legislature blithely ignored the rights of employers to determine what safety measures they would require, and passed a measure allowing workers to pack heat in the workplace. Now, a state representative has introduced a bill to allow students–and presumably others–to come armed to campus.

There are sound reasons why IUPUI and other universities do not want guns on campus. We have our share of immature students, troubled students, and far more troubled visitors. (There used to be a self-described “evangelist” who “preached” loudly on the plaza next to my building, calling female students “whores of Babylon” and ranting about various sins he attributed to passersby. I don’t think arming him would have been a great idea.) I know that gun lovers really believe arming students would prevent tragedies like Virginia Tech;  I don’t share their sunny suppositions–my guess is it would be equally likely to increase the bloodshed. But whether I am correct or they are is not the point.

The point is that government should not be able to decide who can come armed into my home, my place of business or my office on campus.

Gun rights activists who are constantly criticizing government over-reach, constantly talking about limited government, ought to take a good hard look in the mirror. Their hypocrisy is showing.