Unalienable, Except for Those People

Unalienable, Except for Those People

Last week, the 9th Circuit upheld a federal law prohibiting an undocumented immigrant from possessing a firearm. The ruling in U.S. v. Torres went largely unnoticed among the politicos usually vocal about laws which restrict the right to bear arms. The NRA made no statement about it; there was no Twitter post by Dana Loesch, no long opinion pieces decrying judicial activism. No lamenting of the curtailing of our freedom and the tyrannical gun grabbers. Why?

Well, you might suggest it is because it is a circuit opinion, not SCOTUS, and therefore not of as much interest. But last summer when the same circuit upheld the Unsafe Handgun Act, which required newly sold handguns to have certain safety feature, the 2A pundits came out in force to criticize the “bizarre” law and the “nations most progressive court”.So there must be some other reason why the Torres decision is not a problem for them.

Maybe it’s because technically, undocumented immigrants are criminals, and 2A supporters believe that felons shouldn’t be allowed to own guns? Except that violating immigration laws is not a felony, and the NRA is on record for supporting the restoration of gun rights to convicted felons. So that can’t be it.

Obviously, then, it must be that they are not citizens and therefore the constitution does not apply to them. But that doesn’t square with the position of many gun rights advocates who insist that gun ownership is a “natural right” endowed by God, not the government.

From Kevin Williamson, writing for the National Review:

Conservatives take a different view, one that is rooted in the nation’s foundational philosophy. The American premise is a theological premise: that all men are endowed by their Creator — not the state — with certain unalienable rights. For our Founding Fathers, who were steeped in the Anglo-Protestant liberal tradition, this was not only the truth but the “self-evident” truth. The right to keep and bear arms, like the right to speak one’s mind, worship as one sees fit, and petition the state for redress of grievances, is not the king’s gift to give or to withhold — the matter was settled by no less an authority than God Himself. For those who are not of a religious cast of mind, the same conclusion can be arrived at through the tradition of natural law and natural rights, which the Christian liberals of the 18th century understood as complementary to their discernment of Divine intent.

And if that is the case, since undocumented immigrants are, indeed, people, then they logically must enjoy the right to bear arms regardless of the applicability of the constitution. Right?

That does not seem to be a position that the usual gun rights folks are in a rush to take. Rather, this would appear to be yet another example of “the Right of the People, but not those people, to keep and bear arms”. The truth of the matter lays bare a sad reality of hypocrisy and selective outrage. It damages the validity of the gun-rights lobby when they fail to exert their passionate advocacy equally.

The undocumented immigrant at the heart of the 9th Circuit case is Victor Torres, a Mexican man who has been in the US since 2005. Torres had a loaded revolver when he was arrested, along with bolt cutters, 2 items appearing to be silencers, and a stolen bicycle, and admitted to gang membership. There may be several legitimate concerns over Mr. Torres’ possession of a gun, but the only one which appears to be of any concern to the 2A crowd is his citizenship status.

The lack of outrage here is similar to the deafening silence by the NRA when a lawfully armed black citizen is gunned down by law enforcement, as has happened several times in recent years. Perhaps the NRA fears alienating its membership if it appears to be advocating for undocumented immigrants, or the rights of minorities. But the inconsistencies of their positions make them an easy target for criticism by those who question the purity of their motives and ideals.

Perhaps proponents of gun control would be more receptive to the arguments of gun rights advocates if the message was more consistent. As it stands, their selective application of their own principles leaves their position hollow, and the sincerity of their beliefs in question.


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Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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76 thoughts on “Unalienable, Except for Those People

  1. My thoughts:

    1) Torres is a defendant with really bad optics (gang membership, burglary tools, stolen property, etc.). It’s a rare group that takes on cases with such bad optics. Even groups who are really good about taking cases despite the optics (ACLU, etc.) have gotten burned by the optics.

    2) A lot of states won’t extend the right to legal resident aliens, and groups like the SAF are busy working cases trying to get those laws overturned. One step at a time.

    That said, your criticism of the NRA stands, especially given how much they’ve abandoned the legal field to play lobbyist and PR Troll. Their current modus operandi is to let smaller groups do all the legal legwork for a case, and then should the case ascend to the lofty heights of public awareness, they step in an act as if they’ve been involved all along. Since the NRA likes to wait until the 10 yard line to step in to try and play quarterback, the smaller advocacy groups have to be careful about what cases they back, because if the optics blow up in their face, it can be fatal.

    So, you aren’t wrong, but I can understand why Torres is being ignored.

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    • I think there are two issues here:

      1. As these things go, restricting undocumented people from owning firearms is really pretty defensible. It seems very unlikely that they will have gone through any sort of background check, among other things. I’m pretty in favor of gun rights, and very in favor of the proposition that everyone in the country has rights regardless of how they got here, but I believe this restriction is pretty legit (and I’d be really surprised if the courts disagreed).

      2. The NRA has twisted itself into horrible knots by trying to simultaneously be (a) a bulwark against any sort of new restriction on firearms ownership no matter how popular and reasonable it is while (b) also being a wholly owned subsidiary of the conservative movement, with all the authoritarianism and cop-worship that implies. So folks who (like me) are pretty sympathetic to (a) but recognize (b) as awful are not particularly inclined to give the NRA the benefit of the doubt when it exercises discretion.

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      • These are exactly the points I was trying to make. I totally agree with you.
        I wouldn’t argue against the law that was upheld here. I’m just pointing out the inconsistency of the absolutist “natural rights” people.

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      • As these things go, restricting undocumented people from owning firearms is really pretty defensible. (…) I’m pretty in favor of gun rights

        If something is a right, everyone has it. If certain classes of people can be reasonably prohibited from that thing, it’s a privilege.

        You appear to be in favour of gun privileges.

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        • This seems wrong, unless your argument is that prohibiting felons or children from purchasing or possessing firearms means that firearm possession isn’t a right.

          There are also a number of rights that citizens have and undocumented immigrants, and for that matter documented and legal immigrants, lack.

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          • All things are blurry. We accept that childhood is the period before one accedes to full access to one’s rights – but those rights don’t disappear, they’re held in trust by one’s parents.

            Doctors don’t just get to carry out medical procedures on children without consent – it’s just that the right to consent to medical intervention is held in trust by the parent.

            Prohibiting felons who have completed their sentences from firearm ownership – yes, I think that does mean it’s not a right.

            And I mean, I think the US would be way better off without the second amendment, openly treating gun ownership as a privilege that must be earned and carefully maintained – but I’m not an American so it’s not really my business.

            There are also a number of rights that citizens have and undocumented immigrants, and for that matter documented and legal immigrants, lack.

            Then those things are not rights but privileges of citizenship.

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            • “Then those things are not rights but privileges of citizenship.”

              I believe we’re suffering from a bit of linguistic drift here. My understanding (far from complete!) is that the word “right” originally connoted something much more like what we would currently term a privilege. IOW, rights were things enjoyed by particular persons or classes of persons, e.g. nobility. It wasn’t until later that the notion of universality became attached to the term so that we can now make a clearer distinction between the concepts.

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            • There are also a number of rights that citizens have and undocumented immigrants, and for that matter documented and legal immigrants, lack.

              Then those things are not rights but privileges of citizenship.

              I would say that, in the framework of this discussion, those things are rights of citizenship, not “natural” rights, which, if they exist, by definition apply to all people, everywhere.

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            • All things are blurry. We accept that childhood is the period before one accedes to full access to one’s rights – but those rights don’t disappear, they’re held in trust by one’s parents.

              That works for some rights and not others. There is blurriness, of course, but one of the things that causes the blurring is that all our rights are bounded, in some instances (very few and narrow ones for speech, much broader for some others) where they conflict with sufficiently compelling state interests.

              Now we’re sort of new to this whole, “Courts recognize firearm ownership as an individual right,” thing, but this seems well in line with the other restrictions that the courts recognize as legitimate.

              I’m not sure I believe that voting, or freedom of movement, or the right (yes, right) to remain in the country indefinitely are really “privileges of citizenship”.

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              • You and do make a good distinction – provided citizenship is itself inalienable once granted, then things citizens get to do that are inalienable unless the state can somehow persuade them to renounce their citizenship, could legitimately count as “rights of citizenship”.

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                • There is a problem in context when applying citizenship to the 2nd. The main problem is there was no United States to be a citizen of.

                  The text of the 2nd was written before the nation was formed. Before there were official national borders.

                  Citizenship didn’t exist. The 2nd and other much of ‘rights’ based language was put in effect to limit existing and future governing entities.

                  The primary privilege was to not be infringed on by governing bodies.

                  Of course the lawyer and judge tribe couldn’t adhere to that. Now they have laws on the books that go against their wishes. Fish ‘ em, they never should have messed with it in the first place.

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    • I wanted to sort of highlight the insincerity of their zero-sum approach. How they proclaim a belief in an unfettered, unconstrained right- but when the person whose rights are in question is unsavory, let alone a brown man from Mexico, it falls apart. I had a long debate this morning on Twitter after I posted this with a person who literally said “a citizen has different natural rights than an illegal alien,” which seems completely oxymoronic to me.
      When pressed, he tried to draw a distinction between “two classes of natural rights: a universal right or “human rights” to which everyone is privy; and a status right, or a right applying to one on the basis of the nature of their status, such as citizenship”. To me, that second one is the very opposite of a natural right.

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      • Wholly agree with you there.

        For me, I don’t support gun rights per se, I support the right to an effective means of self defense. Firearms are merely the most effective tool (IMHO) to enable that right.

        If someone developed a non-lethal means of self defense that was as available, portable, and as reliable as a firearm for stopping an attacker, my support for liberal gun rights would decline.

        Given that basis, denying a person the means of an effective self-defense solely based upon their immigration status is unacceptable. However, I’ve also come to recognize that my basis is something of a oddity among gun rights supporters.

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      • (…)a status right, or a right applying to one on the basis of the nature of their status, such as citizenship”. To me, that second one is the very opposite of a natural right

        You might even call it… not a right at all, but a privilege.

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        • The proper term is a civil right, that is, a right reserved for the citizenry. I think you could argue that self-defense is a natural right, but that the Framers specifically framed the Second Amendment in terms of the right of a people to be armed. You could go so far as to argue that an armed foreign national on American soil is exactly the kind of person that the people should be armed against.

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  2. I’m not a Second Amendment absolutist by a long shot but I think Pillsy’s #2 is spot on. The NRA has done a decades-long march from turning itself from a sporting organization into an organization that is lockstepped aligned with the conservative movement especially the rural base of the conservative movement.

    Also I think Kevin Williams is dead wrong on his views of the founders but this is a constant sorespot in American politics. They were not necessarily atheists in the modern sense of the word but it is clear that they were very secular in terms of their belief and the era. In Fantasyland, Kurt Anderson says that most of the Founders went to Church because they saw it as politically expedient and good for their careers, not because they were pious believers. Jefferson had his famous Bible will all the magic bits edited out.

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    • Most of the Founders were Deists. They believed God created the Universe, established the rules by which it run, and then let hang. What they did not believe in was an interventionalist God that heard human prayers, worked miracles, and smote evil doers.

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    • Williamson’s characterization of the founding era philosophy as theological is incorrect. I agree. I also think a lot of people get the Founding era wrong largely because they try to look backwards through the lens of a constitutional meaning that prioritizes nationalism over popular sovereignty, or more specifically state sovereignty.

      As I tried to discuss in a long-winded 2A debate two(?) years ago with some troll dude that never showed his face here again, “People” as a sovereign political unit had a distinct meaning and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms was discussed, it was in that context as opposed to the nationalist-leaning individual rights perspective that is completely incompatible with the Constitution properly understood as creating a system of dual sovereignty.

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    • “Further, as in human governments punishments are inflicted only for the general good; so also, in the divine. As it is an instance of goodness, and of regard to the peace and welfare of society, in the civil magistrate, to execute the penalties of the civil law; so is it an instance of goodness in God, and of regard to the peace and welfare of his great family, where the sacrifice of atonement is rejected, to execute the penalties of the divine law. For the good of the universe can no more be secured, unless the spirit and honour of the divine law be preserved in administration, than the peace of civil society can be preserved, unless civil law and justice be faithfully administered.”

      -A Sermon, Preached in Lenox, in the County of Berkshire, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, December 6, 1787; at the Execution of John Bly and Charles Rose, for Crimes of Burglary

      (Plenty of religion, if I recall, these were immigrants, and the NRA didn’t exist)

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  3. Anyone here want to volunteer as a test case of the principle by carrying a gun into Mexico?

    Citizens have the right to bear arms. Aliens do not. Although in some cases and circumstances aliens may be allowed to carry arms, such as foreign officials, law enforcement, or allied military forces, it is not considered a right. At any time an alien may become an enemy alien due to the outbreak of war, and armed enemy aliens on the home front is considered a bad thing.

    This all goes back to basic British and American legal principles, along with things like government seizure of properties owned by alien enemies during wartime. For example, upon the outbreak of war, a French noble was going to lose his estate and castle in the English countryside. In principle, the castle would be undefended because we didn’t allow aliens to stockpile arms in English castles they might own – because that frequently ended badly.

    So every British subject had a right to keep and bear arms, which was a right not enjoyed by aliens residing in Britain, who at any time might become an army of enemy soldiers, which is why every British subject had a right (and in many cases a duty) to stay armed.

    Had Mexico been more observant about allowing aliens to bear arms on Mexican soil, they would still own Texas.

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  4. The NRA’s hypocrisy is well established (particularly regarding legally armed black citizens) but I just don’t see it here. There are numerous reasons that illegal aliens should be prohibited from buying firearms, the most simple of which is our inability to meaningfully screen for the kinds of convictions that bar people from having one. Yea entering illegally is only a misdemeanor here but I don’t see how the hell you can run a check on a Mexican national to determine what sort of record a person might have there. That’s especially so when our own internal system isn’t exactly knocking it out of the park.

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    • Are the traits and habits of character that would have led a person to commit crimes while a citizen and resident of Mexico, suddenly replaced with American ones should they become naturalized citizens?

      Does an American citizen who lives most of their life in Mexico and then returns to the US well into adulthood still get to own guns, or is there some period of residency in a region controlled by the Mexican justice system that annuls their citizenship?

      Or are you alright with gun ownership being, not a right, but a privilege conditional on at least (a) not having a criminal background, and (b) lifelong residency in countries with well-functioning justice systems, however that is determined?

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      • People who immigrate legally to the United States are thoroughly vetted through a well established process. Yes that has flaws and I’m sure there are some people with disqualifying histories who slip through but I somehow doubt we’ve got felons beating the legitimate system left and right. If someone can get through that process I’m comfortable with them purchasing a firearm.

        Regarding the ex-pats I’ll grant that it’s probably harder to vet them as thoroughly as someone who has never lived in another country. That said their status still requires connections to the US so there should be at least something there to work from. Your line of reasoning here seems to be that the imperfections in the current system for special cases justifies no system at all. Are you sure that’s really your view?

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        • Your line of reasoning here seems to be that the imperfections in the current system for special cases justifies no system at all. Are you sure that’s really your view?

          I think that a system that demands would-be gun owners demonstrate that they are not in one of the classes of individual whose access to gun ownership shall be alienated, is at odds with the interpretation that individual gun ownership is an inalienable right (whether a natural human right or a right of citizenship as discussed elsewhere here) rather than a privilege that must be earned.

          The only exception to that I can think of is requiring that individuals demonstrate that they are of the age of majority – at which point their rights, including their rights to consent to sex, to own guns, to vote, etc., are no longer held in trust.

          Logically consistent options I can think of are
          – individual gun ownership is a privilege that must be earned and carefully maintained
          – gun ownership is a right held by well regulated state militias, not individuals
          – individual gun ownership is just not a thing that’s going to happen at all
          – individual gun ownership is a right, so it’s available to any old jackass

          I have my own opinions as to which of those logically consistent options is a good idea, but I’m not presently advocating for any particular one.

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          • In that case your opinion is so far out of step with jurisprudence from the founding of the republic I wouldn’t even know where to begin the conversation. No right is now or ever has been without limits and many are subject to all kinds of nuances around immigration. By your logic the 4th Amendment is actually a privilege because there is no warrant or probable cause requirement at the border. There’s no right to free speech because the courts have carved out some narrow classes of unprotected speech.

            If the argument is that there are no such things as rights, and if so all I can say is I disagree.

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            • I don’t know how useful the concept of ‘rights’ may be. The most telling ‘measures’ that prove that rights as a concept have no bearing, is that when faced by a large enough faction in a rule-by-force government there is nothing to prevent rights from becoming a useless construct.

              It is one of the reasons, I have walked away from the idea that a constitutional republic is a viable form of government.

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    • There are numerous reasons that illegal aliens should be prohibited from buying firearms, the most simple of which is our inability to meaningfully screen for the kinds of convictions that bar people from having one.

      So they should only be able to buy guns from private sellers.

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              • I guess I already live in a state where crim history is very easily accessible so that piece of it doesn’t bother me at all. The psych piece is more challenging but if you’re willing to do it with an FFL I don’t see the issue. Another solution is simply to say any sale, even private intrastate must be administered by an FFL (obviously states would need to mandate this, the feds probably couldn’t constitutionally).

                My perspective may be skewed. I’ve never bought a firearm via private sale (or even at a brick and mortar store) and have only gone through FFLs at gun shows or who I know privately. Even in my ultra gun-hostile jurisdiction it’s been quite manageable. The only time I felt particularly oppressed was before the AFB went into effect and MDSP was taking months to process the paperwork.

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    • It’s hypocritical because they argue against prohibiting felons from possessing firearms, prevaricate on background checks, and otherwise lobby against most any proposed restrictions. In doing so, they insist gun ownership is a “natural right endowed by the creator” and not subject to restriction by the government. If they really believe that it’s a “natural right” a person has just by virtue of existing, rather than one granted by the government, then there’s no reason why the right does not exist for non-citizens, who are also people who exist.
      I don’t disagree with you that there are numerous reasons why undocumented immigrants should not be permitted to own a gun. But judging by the silence of the NRA here, one’s citizenship status appears to be an acceptable reason for infringing upon a right they otherwise believe to be unfettered.

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      • I mean, I guess? It just seems like a really meta argument to call the technical hypocrisy in an instance where the policy outcome itself is the right one. It isn’t exactly ‘they’re right for the wrong reasons’ but it’s close enough to render the criticism at best banal and at worst raises questions about the policy you’re actually advocating.

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        • I’m not advocating any policy. I’m pointing out that if they adjust their policy depending on who it applies to, then they don’t really mean it. They are not sincere in their principles. It’s not banal- they base their entire policy argument on a “natural right” that they won’t advocate for “the wrong people”. It either applies to everyone, or they have to admit that restrictions are valid.

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          • “I’m not advocating any policy. I’m pointing out that if they adjust their policy depending on who it applies to, then they don’t really mean it. They are not sincere in their principles. It’s not banal- they base their entire policy argument on a “natural right” that they won’t advocate for “the wrong people”. It either applies to everyone, or they have to admit that restrictions are valid.”

            congratulations, now you understand how there can exist a principled argument that Nazis shouldn’t be banned from Twitter

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      • It’s not hypocritical, it’s fundamental to understanding where the right comes from and why it exists. Englishmen should all be armed on English soil. Newly arriving Vikings, Normans, Frenchmen, and Spaniards should not be armed on English soil because that always had a way of working out badly.

        We follow this principle today, allowing US troops to carry arms on US bases but not allowing enemy soldiers to carry arms on US bases. Armed Viet Cong in the Saigon embassy was a bad thing in a way that armed US Marines were not.

        Mexico allowed American immigrants to carry arms in Texas, and as a result Texas is no longer part of Mexico, and Mexico no longer allows Americans to bear arms in what’s left.

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  5. I think this article is mostly right on the substance, but I’m not sure that I see the point. Or rather, I see the point and just think that it’s the wrong point. Showing that some gun or even all gun rights advocates are hypocrites is something, but it’s not something that gets us any closer to a workable gun control solution.

    Over the course of US history politics went from high-minded arguments about natural law and human rights from supposedly objective and detached elites to a way more pragmatic scrum between interest groups for resources. This was probably a necessary corrective as those elites were never as objective and detached as the thought themselves to be.

    But now we are entering a new phase where hurting the political enemy is becoming more effective a political strategy than actually delivering for your constituency. I don’t see how that ends well. So I don’t see how arguments against gun rights advocates can feel really satisfying, but I don’t see how they get us to better gun control outcomes. But maybe I’m missing something.

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    • I didn’t write it for the purpose of achieving anything. What I wanted (and got) was a discussion on how to square the idea of natural rights with the apparent position by those same people favoring the denial those rights to certain subclasses of people.
      I’m not anti-2A, so if you were looking for my point from that angle I wouldn’t have expected you to find one. I am a proponent of sensible regulation, though.
      I favor honesty in debate. What I’m trying to draw out is an admission by the “natural rights” folks that they do recognize some restrictions of gun rights is a legitimate government power.

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      • I’m not looking at you from any particular angle. I’m not even sure what it means to be pro or anti-2A anymore. Whatever the 2A says and however you interpret it, there’s no “gotcha” there that solves the problem.

        To be very honest, my comment is probably just a venting of my frustration of how our political conversations have become so focused on beating the enemy rather than solving the problem. It’s not fair of me to lay that at your feet and that’s not my intention.

        What I think is that most gun rights advocates absolutely recognize restrictions but the contours of the debate make it such that they have no reason to defect from the NRA/2A absolutist camp. We’ve bundled our political beliefs in such a way that if you want one thing, your best bet is to stick with the coalition that favors that thing. Until that changes, I don’t see how we move forward.

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              • Ah no worries, it goes something like this:

                In premise construction I have found two primary objectivities.
                (there are others like Biblical Objectivity but, we will ignore those)

                The first is Empirical Objectivity. This requires the truth component, to be empirical. So when I go ask that person over there what the frequency of blue light is, they give me a answer pretty close to what that person over there gives. If I test it myself I get very close to what those two people said. So there is only very little variation in the objectivity of what the frequency of blue light is. So empirical truth ‘looks’ like ‘real truth’ to pretty much everyone involved. (Notice here there is not a averaging of widely varied opinions of what it is)

                The second is Social Objectivity. This requires the social truth component to ‘look’ like ‘real truth’ to everyone involved, like down to the individual level. So if I go ask that person over there what the social truth of a ‘legitimate’ government power is, they give me the same answer as that person over there. If I test the social truth myself I should find something very close to what those other two people said the truth was. (Notice here there is not a averaging of widely varied opinions of what it is)

                So that’s my bit on social objectivity. Jay may be correct that some things are not useful in the context of absolute measures, but I think the ranges we are talking have some wiggle room.

                Mainly the ranges of consent. People are at least a little flexible across the board in what they will consent too. There are particular rigid areas in everyones preferred perspective, but on whole there is some room.

                Consent is important, because there is a theshold of non-consent in which governing is not possible or even ‘illegitimate’. There may be timescales that non-consent and illegitimacy may occur, but they are less sustainable and favorable.

                Therefore the truth component in social objectivity must be resolved for consent to be resolved. I don’t see where you have resolved the truth component in your premise that there is a ‘legitimate governing power’.

                In fact, what we do see is there is a lot of people looking at your truth component of social objectivity and saying, “Nope, that’s not truth at all!”.

                And I mean if your response to a challenge of ‘that’s not truth at all’ is ‘yes it is truth, because I say it is!’, then you don’t have an argument, you have a opinion.

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                • I think I get that…
                  If the NRA does not object to the federal law that prohibits possession of a firearm by an illegal alien, then they have agreed that it’s ok for the government to make such a law… and I equate thinking its ok for a government to make a particular law with thinking it is a legitimate exercise of its authority.
                  Maybe we have a difference in our definition of terms here. I say “legitimate” meaning appropriate.

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                      • Oh, I’m sure that the parts of government that align with their individual ‘truth’ components ‘look’ like they should have authority.

                        People could even form factions where one believes social objectivity is X and another that believes social objectivity is Y.

                        That doesn’t resolve the issue of whether there is enough social objectivity that a government (authority) is ‘legitimate’ on a consent basis.

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                        • Also built into the claim ‘vast majority of this country’, your kind of doing that social engineering thing of averaging. This makes the social truth component of the premise no longer within social objectivity.

                          You can operate outside of social objectivity, but I think that just leaves you with an opinion once again.

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    • Showing that some gun or even all gun rights advocates are hypocrites is something, but it’s not something that gets us any closer to a workable gun control solution.

      The well-grounded perception that the NRA is acting in bad faith, and in particular is not interested in defending gun rights for people in their out-group, drives a ton of the political bundling that makes it so hard to implement a workable gun control solution.

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  6. *sigh*

    This discussion is pretty far out in the weeds. The “people” in the 2nd Amendment are the same people in the Declaration of Independence and throughout the Constitution. By “people” the framers did not include aliens, as they used “people” as a contrast to all the British subjects and other Europeans who were not Americans, but only in reference to here. The right of the British, and their Hessian mercenaries in New York, to keep and bear arms is an absurd reading if the amendment, requiring us to believe that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were actually pulling for the other side.

    By universal rights, we mean that the people, whoever the people are, have a right to keep and bear arms where they are the native people, so as best defend themselves against alien peoples who want to take over, or against their own government should it become abusive. That citizens are armed and aliens are not isn’t hypocrisy, it’s the basic principle that everything else is based on.

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    • “By universal rights, we mean that the people, whoever the people are, have a right to keep and bear arms where they are the native people, so as best defend themselves against alien peoples who want to take over, or against their own government should it become abusive. That citizens are armed and aliens are not isn’t hypocrisy, it’s the basic principle that everything else is based on.”

      The argument I hear does not use that framework at all. What I hear is an argument that every person- EVERY person- has a natural right to self-defense. Not just defense against foreign intruders or overreaching government, but a right to defend themselves against anyone who would do them harm, in whatever manner they deem necessary, and that the means of self-defense is not to be determined by the government.
      They often cite armed women fighting off would-be rapists, or homeowners thwarting home invaders when they trot out this “natural rights” argument.
      Does a person lose their right to fight off an attacker by whatever means necessary because they are in a foreign country? Maybe they do. But if they do, then that means this “natural” right which belongs to everyone is subject to limitation.

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      • Well, it has always been subject to limitation, going back to the Magna Carta and the various interpretations of it. Englishmen have a right to defend themselves on English soil, and to defend England on English soil. Aliens on English soil don’t have a right to be similarly armed, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything wrong with Parliament being surrounded by armed French or German “tourists”.

        And the principle holds all across the board, in all kinds of situations. Every country has a right to maintain a standing army, but no country has a universal right to maintain their army in someone else’s country, which would be considered invasion or occupation.

        US troops have a right carry arms on US bases, but enemy troops, especially uninvited ones, do not have a right to be armed on our bases. Marines could carry arms in the US Embassy in Saigon, but they didn’t recognize the right of Vietcong to be similarly armed in our embassy (which is US soil) because that right didn’t exist.

        You have a right to carry a gun, especially in your home, and I have the same right, but I do not have the right to carry a gun in your home, especially if I’m uninvited. Some people, such as policemen, may have that right, but that exception proves that the right is not a universal one enjoyed by everybody.

        The right comes with boundaries, both at the personal and national level, and the basic insight is whether you are likely on defense or offense. If you’re bearing arms in someone else’s country, or someone else’s house, you’re probably on offense, whereas the right exists for defense, thus the term “right to self-defense”.

        Going back to the Magna Carta and the war between Henry and Louis VIII, and various interpretations of it throughout the 1600 and 1700’s, the problem was armed aliens and the solution was armed natives.

        So although Americans have the right to keep and bear arms in America, they don’t have the right to bear arms in foreign countries, especially in light of the fact that in many small countries the number of US tourists vastly exceeds the size of the country’s native armed forces.

        Thus, few NRA members would dare to take a gun into Mexico without authorization because they would get the Mexican prison experience. Of course Mexico used to allow Americans to carry arms in Mexico, but that’s how we got Texas, so they don’t allow it anymore, except for legal residents who, like Mexican citizens, are allowed to posses a gun in their house. As the Mexican constitution phrases it “derecho a poseer armas en su domicilio”. We recognize that Mexicans have the right to keep arms, just not in the US, and just as we don’t have the right to keep arms in Mexico.

        So hopefully I’ve cleared some of this up. When they say everyone has a right to bear arms, there is a context to it that has a who, what, and where. Not in someone else’s home, not in a courthouse, not on a commercial airline flight, and not in a foreign country. Those situations require explicit permissions.

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