Civil rights are essentially those rights guaranteed broadly by the Constitution and more narrowly by the Bill of Rights. At the heart of the Bill of Rights is the belief, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, that we are endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the right to be secure in our person and our property, and that any government must guarantee these rights to have any claim to legitimacy.
There is good reason that the rights to free speech, religious practice, a free press, free association and redress of grievances are the first to be guaranteed. It is no coincidence that the right to arm ourselves against an overreaching, tyrannical government, and any others out to do us harm, immediately follows.
Some have argued that the Founders were writing about muskets, which were state-of-the-art when our founding documents were written. I would respond to them with accounts of businessmen and homeowners in the wake of Hurricane Andrew and the Rodney King riots, who stood against armed thugs bent on depriving them of their property, and doing them bodily harm in the process. What about the innocent people who, with increasing frequency, are set upon at random to be “popped” simply for fun? What good is a limited-capacity magazine in the face of a dozen hoodlums armed with knives and bludgeons?
Far more lives are saved in a given year by legally armed citizens than are taken by criminals and the unhinged. Drunk drivers take a horrendous toll on innocent lives, so why is it only in the case of firearms that blame is placed on an inanimate object? In my view, any restriction or abridgment of our right to arm ourselves is as egregious a violation of our civil rights as voter suppression, discrimination in the workforce, or doing someone harm because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. Either all our rights have equal status, or they are meaningless.
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