Saturday, March 26, 2005


The Florida state Legislature is considering a "shoot first, ask questions later" law. The potential Florida law would extend people's right to defend themselves not only in their homes but on their porches, in the street or in the car without fear of being charged criminally or civilly.

Trial lawyers say it is bad law, but victims say it would help to stop criminals not only in people's homes but on the streets. "I think it is absolutely horrible," defense lawyer Andy Haggard said. "To pass a law like this is vigilante law. It is going to cause chaos."

Five years after he was shot during an invasion of his home, Edmond Cody, who uses a wheelchair, said the law is necessary. "I'd be for it. I am a living example (of) the reason it has to be passed," Cody said.

Two versions of the "shoot now, ask questions later" law are winding their way through the state Legislature. Florida law now allows people to defend their homes from within. Haggard said the new bills would take these rights much further. "That young guy that is dating my ex-wife, I go to his office. I will agitate him. I will provoke him and he is going to do something and I am going to shoot him. That's self-defense, and you won't be charged civilly or criminally," Haggard said.

But, Edmond Cody said he sees the bill differently. His son, Derrick, shot two home invaders and killed one of them while Edmond Cody lay bleeding in the front yard. Edmond Cody calls Derrick his hero.


A Philosopher Derives Gun Rights from the Right to Life:

I take the view that some rights are logically antecedent to anything of a conventional nature such as a group decision or a constitution. Thus the right to life is not conferred by any constitution, but recognized and protected by well-crafted ones. If so, whether we have the right to life, or any natural right, cannot depend on the interpretation of any document. Therefore, with respect to the question of gun rights, the interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, albeit important, is logically secondary. The logically prior question is whether there are natural gun rights that need constitutional codification, recognition, and protection.

Here is a stab at an argument for natural gun rights.

(1) Every human person possesses a right to life. (2) If a human person has a right to life, then he has a right to defend his life against those who would seek to violate it. (3) If a human person has a right to defend his life, then he has a right to an effective means of defending his life. (4) A handgun is an effective means of defending one's life, and indeed, in some circumstances, the only effective means. Therefore, (5) human persons have a right to possess handguns.

It is easy to see that the conclusion follows from the premises. But are the premises true?

Surely (1) is uncontroversial. Note that this argument does not assume that every human being is a human person. Saddam Hussein is a human being, but it is arguable that by the commission of his crimes he forfeited his personhood, and with it his right to life. Some will hold that human fetuses are not persons, and so have no right to life. I believe they are wrong, but the above argument does not rest on the assumption that they are.

To see that (2) is true, consider what happens if you negate it. The negation of (2) is: (~2) Human persons have a right to life, but they do not have the right to defend their lives. The absurdity of this is self-evident. How can I have a right to life if it is morally impermissible for me to defend my life? My having a right to life does not entail any moral obligation on my part to defend my life, but it surely entails the moral permissibility of self-defense. For if I have a right to life, then others have an obligation not to harm me. This obligation of theirs entitles me to meet a deadly threat with force sufficient to thwart the attack up to and including killing the assailant. We appear to be at moral rock-bottom here. I say (2) is self-evident. Reject it, and there is probably no point in further discussion.

The negation of (3) also strikes me as absurd: "You have a right to defend yourself, but no right to the possession of any effective means of so doing." To will the end is to will the means. So, to will one's defense is to will the means to one's defense. Therefore, if it is morally permissible to will one's defense, then it is morally permissible to will the means to one's defense. I grant that qualifications may be needed. Arguably, felons ought not have the right to purchase firearms. A felon either forfeits his right to self-defense, or has that right overridden by the community's right to be safe from his predation.

(4) is obviously true pending some obvious qualifications that I left out for the sake of brevity, the soul of wit. A handgun is an effective means of self defense, but not in all circumstances, only if the defender is properly trained in the use of firearms, etc.

The conclusion follows from the premises, and the premises are defensible. So I say the individual qua individual (as opposed to the individual qua member of some collective such as a police force or military unit) has an individual right to posses firearms for the purpose of defending his own life. The existence of such an individual right does not entail that it is unlimited. Thus if I have a right to firepower sufficient to my self-defense, it does not follow that I have a right to firepower sufficent to lay waste to a city.

More here

Dear Mr. Mayor: "Dear Mr. Mayor ... You wondered aloud last week why Philadelphians feel a need to carry guns -- legal guns, using a city-issued 'carry permit.' 'For what?' you asked. 'Why are they carrying? They're not hunters.' No, Mr. Mayor, but some of us feel like the hunted. Following a single weekend that rang up 11 homicides you asked, 'For what?' The reason some of us want to carry legal guns is because some neighborhoods are swarming with criminals packing illegal guns. We carry guns for self-defense because police can't protect us from a homicidal maniac on the street or a rapist breaking in through a bedroom window. Police respond only after a crime's reported, mostly arriving in time to draw a chalk outline around the body."

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