A Journal for Western Man




The Right to Arms

Michael Miller

Issue X- January 20, 2003


Gun 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 ownership. 

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 being. 

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 other men. 

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 necessary. 

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 criminals.

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 rights.

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 and Non-Punishment." 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 QP #3:

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 http://www.quackgrass.com.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Click here to return to TRA's Issue X Index.

Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.