Thursday, February 21, 2013

John Locke, Natural Law, and the 2nd Amendment

This US was founded on the notion of natural law.   When the founders wrote "we hold these truths to be self-evident," the truths they were talking about are natural law.  One such self-evident natural law is the right of self-defense.  John Locke explained it plainly as follows:
A Man with a Sword in his Hand demands my Purse in the High-way, when perhaps I have not 12 d. in my Pocket; This Man I may lawfully kill.
Natural law gives a man the right to self-defense, even if it means killing someone over a mere 12 pence.  Locke recognized sensible limits to this right: if the situation gives one opportunity to appeal to the rule of law, then one should.  Locke, for example, wrote about recovering a loan from another person:
To another [man] I deliver 100 l. to hold only whilst I alight, which he refuses to restore me, when I am got up again, but draws his Sword to defend the possession of it by force, if I endeavour to retake it. The mischief this Man does me, is a hundred, or possibly a thousand times more, than the other perhaps intended me, (whom I killed before he really did me any) and yet I might lawfully kill the one, and cannot so much as hurt the other lawfully. The Reason whereof is plain; because the one using force, which threatened my Life, I could not have time to appeal to the Law to secure it:
With natural law in mind, look at the full text of the Second Amendment:
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.
The Second Amendment does not grant people the right to bear arms.  As the founders understood natural law, the people already had that right.  The Amendment merely instructs the government not to infringe on the people's natural right.

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