The debate about gun rights sparked by President Obama’s recent executive actions and his town hall meeting of January 7, 2016, has brought to light several popular misconceptions, of which the following are some of the more egregious.
Misconception #1: Only United States citizens have the right to keep and bear arms, and then only within the borders of the United States.
Answer: A right is something everyone has by virtue of their humanity. Rights derive from the“Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” as stated in the Declaration of Independence, and predate all governments as the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in District of Columbia v. Heller (June 2008). The Second Amendment uses the term “people” not “citizens” to remind us of the universal nature of this right. The fact that some governments do not honor this or other rights is immaterial to their possession.
Misconception #2: Governments may alter or abolish a right.
Answer: Rights are “unalienable” (Declaration of Independence), which means they cannot be taken or even given away. They are not derived from government, so they cannot be taken away by government. All anyone can do is punish someone for exercising a right, or impede its exercise by force or persuasion. Nevertheless, individuals still have the right.
Misconception #3: The right to keep and bear arms derives from the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Answer: The Second Amendment does not grant a right, but recognizes the natural, preexisting right that everyone possesses to arm themselves for hunting, sport, and self-defense. The lack of a Second Amendment would not affect the right to keep and bear arms one iota. The Supreme Court held in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876), that the right “of bearing arms for a lawful purpose” is “not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.”
Misconception #4: Mandatory background checks and filling out government fo