owners are fighting federal gun controls by declaring
that guns are their legitimate property, and that gun
registrations and controls are an invasion of property
rights. Most of them point to uncontroversial uses of
guns such as hunting and target shooting to justify gun
Justice Minister Rock replies for the feds that guns are
designed as man-killers, and that there is no legitimate
use for a man-killer in civilized society.
The public tends to agree with both sides. They agree
that there are many proper uses of firearms, and that
firearms in such uses are legitimate property. But they
tend to agree with Mr Rock that things specifically
designed as man-killers have no place in civilization.
There is something special about such property, and the
gun owners' stand on generic property rights seems
evasive; it does not specifically address the issue of
gun controls. The public is caught in a
contradiction, but because Mr Rock seems more candid, it
awards him the moral high ground.
He does not deserve it.
There is only one fundamental right—the right to
live—but it is all-encompassing. It means the right to
take all actions necessary to the maintenance,
enhancement and enjoyment of the life of a rational
All other rights are derived from the right to live. For
example, men need material values in order to live, so
the right to live implies the right to property—the
right to earn, use and dispose of material goods.
The right to self-defense is implied by the right to
live. To claim that one has the right to live, but no
right to defend one's life, is to claim a
contradiction. It is to claim that one's right to live
does not extend to preserving one's life from attack by
others. It is to declare that criminals are in the
right, that you are wrong to resist them.
right logically implies the right to defend it against
The right to self-defense implies the right to arms—in
exactly the way that the right to live implies the right
to property. In fact, the right to self-defense is part
of the right to live, and the right to arms is part of
the right to property. The right to arms is the
right to earn, possess and dispose of arms, of material
goods whose primary use is to kill other men. The right
to self-defense is the right to use them when
Self-defense does not imply a violent society, quite the
contrary. It is self-evident that defense does
not start any fights. And it is clear that the threat of
retaliation by their victims is a powerful deterrent to
Nor does self-defense imply vigilante action.
Self-defense is limited to the time of the attack. Later
punishment is a matter for government. 1.
Gun owners who defend their right to arms in terms of
property rights are right in principle. Their error is
the mainly rhetorical one of omitting specific mention
of the right to self-defense, the premise that leads
directly to the right to arms.
What of Mr Rock's supposed candor? In rejecting the
right to arms, he is implicitly rejecting the right to
self-defense, and therefore implicitly rejecting the
right to live. But to reject the right to live is to
reject all rights. The logical implication of rejecting
the right to arms is that men should be rightless
creatures at the mercy of any attacker. Mr Rock's attack
on the right to arms is a back-door assault on all
The pattern is familiar. Leftists have told us for
decades that even if we were deprived of our right to
property, our other rights would still survive. We've
seen how that notion worked out in Nazi Germany and the
Soviet Union. We are now watching how it works out in
Canada, where allegedly free speech is drowned out by a
host of orthodoxies financed by the government with our
earnings, stripped from us by taxation.
In logic, to deny a necessary consequence is to deny the
premise on which it rests—no matter what the motives of
the denier. To deny the right to arms is to deny the
right to live. The rest is just a matter of time,
circumstance, and how much the leftists think they can
get away with.
Now let's ask a deeper question: why are there
leftists? Why do some men persistently,
perseveringly, over decades, seek to erode rights and
extinguish freedom? Why do good people collaborate with
their schemes? What sabotages their opponents? When you
can answer these questions you will have unmasked the
great evil which infests the 20th century.
The answer is simple, but not easy. The great evil is
the morality of sacrifice, usually known as altruism:
the knee-jerk condemnation of selfishness.
Individual rights are among our most precious
possessions, the base of our freedom and happiness.
Therefore it is selfish to own rights and to
defend them. Therefore, on the altruist view, it is
wicked to own and defend rights. Therefore,
altruists seek to destroy rights, and to brand those who
defend them as immoral. This intimidates opponents, who
are usually terrified of being called selfish. It really
is that simple.
And it is that hard.
To understand this evil, you must brush away the
smears about selfishness. Admit that the models of
selfishness are those who earn their own livings, mind
their own business, and push back when they are pushed
around. They're good neighbors.2.
To fight altruism, you must uphold egoism, the
view that each man has the right and the moral
obligation to discover and pursue his own good. 3.
If you do fight it, you will be practicing the egoist
virtues of rationality, independence and courage. You
will be laying an ax to the root of collectivism and
statism. You will be building the moral foundation of a
society based on the full recognition of
individual rights, i.e., of capitalism.
1. For details of the right to self-defense in civilized
society, see John Locke's "Second Treatise of
Government," in Political Writings, published by
Penguin. Locke is the English philosopher who formulated
the principles of individual rights.
2. See "Crime
For a full account, see The Virtue of Selfishness,
by Ayn Rand, published by Signet.
3. Of course this includes women! No femspeak here. See
Michael Miller is an engineer and Objectivist
filosofer with thirty years of experience. He had been a
member of Boycott Alberta Medicare in 1969 and of the
Association to Defend Property Rights from 1973 on. He
writes in-depth filosofical theory in his publication,
Quackgrass Press, which can be accessed at
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