In the wake of the Aurora shootings, I have been thinking about, as many of us are, the right to keep and bear arms. I am lucky enough to have passionate people on both sides of the issue, and because of my personal history of growing up in a hunting family in Texas, I don’t want the nullification of the Second Amendment. It is an important one, but we need to have good and many conversations about it. My frustration with gun rights advocates comes not from their desire to protect this piece of the constitution but from their belief (conscious or not) that this right is somehow categorically different from other rights. Somehow superior to other rights. They are misguided.
All rights have limits. In the abstract, they don’t, but name me three people that live in the abstract (then check to see if they have an arsenal in their basement). Freedom of speech is famously curtailed by the rule of “you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater.” Freedom of religion bumps up against the separation of church and state or is limited by the state itself (think about anti-polygamy laws and the FLDS). The freedom of the press is limited by invocations of executive privilege. Right of assembly often now requires bureaucratic paperwork to be legal. We as a society limit our rights in order to have them. We give a little away in order to have the core and important parts of those rights. Continue reading