Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Washington Post: Supreme Court to hear D.C. vs. Heller

Next spring the court will hear arguments in a case that could decide the constitutionality of handgun bans and other restrictions to the Second Amendment. The Heller case is interesting for seeing just how much a city, state, or federal district can ban the ownership of certain types of firearms. It is our right to defend ourselves when threatened with violence, and such a right has been enumerated in our Constitution. We do have the right to eschew violence as well, thanks to the Ninth Amendment. Thanks to the First Amendment, we also have the right to try to convince people to avoid committing acts of violence upon others.

We also have the right through the First Amendment to tell those people who preach non-violence that we strongly disagree with their opinion and will continue to keep that as the last resort should someone attempt to deprive us of our lives, our property or our inherent dignity. This is reconcilable with the potential act of violence stripping away the inherent dignity of the offender; he or she is a human being after all, and there is a base given by God that we must respect. Most criminals refuse to see that dignity in others, or they focus solely on themselves. By focusing on themselves, they twist that lens that reveals their own inherent worth, and declare themselves superior. Sometimes they will deny that any God-given dignity exists within them or the others around them and deny others their right to live peacefully. You can accept the abuse dished out by people like this, or you can resist them passively. You'll end up dead or subservient and unequal. You can resist actively by fighting, and they'll either be dead or they'll get the hint and leave you in peace. If we want to be left in peace, we must exhaust all available options first. You must defend yourself, though. Killing is the last thing you want to do. It should not be an easy choice, but it should be available nonetheless.

Even the Catholic Church recognizes this in the Catechism. Part 3, section 2, Chapter 2, Article 5, 2259 to 2269. (For those unfamiliar with it, think of the Bible as the Source Code and the Catechism as one of those huge books that give you very detailed answers as to why the source code reacts with programs in the way that it does. It's as much a troubleshooting guide as a "did you ever look at it this way?" guide.) We must respect the individual's right to live. We must also respect his right to defend himself from those who would deprive him of life. So, while we tell another person to look for ways of avoiding violence, we are not allowed to forbid him the right to kill when defending himself from those trying to kill him.

Some people have used the old phrase "Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six" to describe why they'll fight back. That's a bit too simplistic, but it gets the point across very well. It's my hope that the justices will affirm the right to individual right to self-defense as well as the right to own handguns for self-defense. This is going to be a big issue next year as both a legal issue and a political issue.

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