Although anti gun rights laws are often associated with Democratic or liberal politicians, the idea of gun rights actually fit in with liberal values.
Liberals place a particular emphasis on racial equality. Anti gun rights laws originated as a means of keeping recently freed slaves from being able to defend themselves or challenge their continued status as 2nd class citizens. Today, gun control laws predominantly affect law abiding citizens living in urban areas, which means there is a disproportionate effect upon racial minorities. Other gun bans target public housing, with a similarly disproportionate effect. Worst of all, gun bans prevent racial violence victims from defending themselves against their often armed attackers.
Liberals also place an emphasis on gender equality. Gun rights go hand in hand with this struggle, while gun control serves to disproportionately disadvantage women. That is because, as a matter of biology and/or cultural norms, women generally tend to be less physically strong then men. That means that even if gun bans worked (which they don’t), an unarmed woman can usually be overpowered by an unarmed man. An armed woman, however, is able to defend herself against a stalker breaking into her bedroom, or home invaders while pregnant. Furthermore, many women (such as my girlfriend) are more sensitive to recoil then most men. That means that handgun bans and “assault weapon” bans which take away the ability of law abiding women to have a lower recoiling gun for self defense will disproportionately affect such women.
Respect for those in the political minority
Liberal ideology also demands respect for political minorities. For example, gay individuals make up a very small percentage of the population, yet liberal ideology states that the heterosexual majority should not try to legislate away the rights of the homosexual minority. Similarly, gun owners are a political minority in many areas, with gun ownership rates somewhere near 1/3 of all households. Rather than respecting this gun owning minority’s right to have guns for self defense in their homes, some areas have allowed a slim voter margin to take away everyone’s gun rights. It runs contrary to liberal values to allow a majority to ride roughshod over the constitutional rights of a minority.
Equality between elected officials and the citizens
Liberals also rally against governmental corruption, and politicians who hold themselves to a different standard than their citizens. However some of the most anti gun liberal politicians are protected by armed bodyguards at taxpayer expense, while their citizens are forbidden to have guns for self defense. These same politicians will craft special gun amnesty provisions for themselves, while their unarmed citizens are being murdered at an increasing rate. Other politicians will focus on their own personal security to the detriment of their (unarmed) neighbors and other citizens. That is the pinnacle of a hypocrisy.
The foundation for many things liberals support, such as abortion rights and gay rights, is privacy. The idea that a woman should not be compelled to serve as an incubator for 9 months is based upon her right to be free from governmental intrusion into her body. Similarly, the idea that consenting adults should be free from governmental intrusion into their bedrooms is based upon privacy as well. Gun rights also fit in with other privacy rights, as law abiding citizens should be free to possess a gun in their own home or concealed about their person for self defense. Furthermore, the current anti gun rights laws are used as a pretext to violate the 4th Amendment rights of citizens.
Along similar lines as privacy is the idea of self determination. This basic idea also underlies abortion rights and gay rights, on the theory that the individual(s) should be able to determine their own course and destiny in life. The idea of self determination also calls for gun rights, as the individual should be free to choose to have a gun for self defense. Furthermore, an armed individual has greater control over their fate when facing a home invasion or other violent attack.
For the reasons discussed above, I am of the opinion that gun rights fit well with liberal ideology. It is a shame that some liberals have decided to fight against gun rights, but hopefully this trend can be reversed.
Thank you for pointing this out! I am really dumbfounded with my fellow liberals concerning their knee-jerk hatred of guns. I am a proud pro-choice, pro-science, pro-equality, pro-multicultural, pro-secular liberal, and I carry a gun. None of my other beliefs clash with my opinion about owning a handgun. It (gun ownership) shouldn't be liberal issue.
Thank you for this well thought out post. As a liberal, I agree with all of those points.
Wonderful article. I’m more of a moderate than a liberal but I agree with everything here.
I grew up in Ohio and have been fortunate enough to support pro-gun democrats like Rep Tim Ryan (my congressman until I moved) and Gov Strickland, who helped secure Castle Doctrine for us.
I’m a liberal and while I support gun ownership I’m not convinced that the Second Amendment is as you say.
I like that you can trace gun-ownership rights through common law and that colonies and states allowed gun-ownership. I think states should be allowed to decide gun-ownership laws for themselves.
If the founders meant to protect gun-ownership as a fundamental human right why didn’t they make it clear in the Second Amendment?
From my reading of it the Second Amendment can clearly be said to protect the gun-ownership rights of those partaking in a well-ordered militia.
When I think about why they would do this.. my best guess is that the Second Amendment is a committment by the federal government to allow localities and states to protect themselves from Native American tribes or Slave Rebellions.
Thats it. From my reading the Second Amendment does not prohibit gun-ownership. It just isn’t protected constitutionally and therefore gun-ownership is subject to rule of the majority.
Where I should I look for a history of gun ownership in early U.S. and a telling of how the Second Amendment was treated in that time? My next question is: do we know if all of the founders agreed to the same meaning of the Second Amendment?
I love this website and based on your lucid advise I’m considering an 18″ barrel shotgun for home defense.
Thanks, and I’m glad you like this website. I hope you’ll come back and comment more in the future too.
I would say that the Second Amendment clearly states a fundamental, individual right to gun ownership, independent of militia service. The prefatory clause concerning the militia merely discusses the purpose of the right, and does not serve to limit the right. The Supreme Court agreed, and this now the law, rather than just my opinion.
The Second Amendment has not yet been incorporated into the 14th Amendment, but I’m confident that it will be in the coming years, and then it will apply against state and local governments, just as our other basic rights so apply. I discuss incorporation and such in more detail here: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/10/05/2nd-amendment-incorporation-may-occur-in-the-nordyke-v-alamenda-case/
The Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller did an excellent job addressing your comments about militia membership, the meaning of “well ordered,” etc. I would encourage you to read that opinion here: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/img/DC_v_Heller_slipopinion.pdf
I refer you to the opinion not because I wish to dodge your question, but because I can’t hope to match eloquence of Justice Scalia (and I don’t want to spend 45 pages discussing it, which is how long it really takes to reason through the issue, as the Supreme Court did.) After you read the heller opinion, please feel free to let me know if you’re still not convinced by the Supreme Court’s reasoning on these issues.
Thank you for this website. I am a gun owner AND a great believer in many political philosophies that would be considered liberal. I don't understand why guns are so vilified by my fellow liberals. I like to shoot. I like to hunt. Just because a gun may be used in a crime is no reason to ban all of them. Just enforce the laws on the books.
I believe in personal freedom and personal responsibility. My actions should be subject to my own desires as long as I endanger no one else.
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