Rights and Responsibilities

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Oct 10, 2006
Deep in the valley
The vast majority of us here on THR are believers in the Right to Keep and Bear Arms as a part of the Constitution of the United States of America.

I have seen plenty of good discussion about that right, it's power(s), and how far it's "umbrella" might (should?) extend. What I'd like to see is a discussion on the other part of this issue, namely the responsibilities attached to the right.

(This is probably going to be a touchy subject so BE CIVIL! We're trying to have an intellectual discussion here.)
I'll bite.

One of the hardest things for me about being a "true believer" in the RKBA is the realization that there are a whole lot of people out there who are not responsible enough to own or keep guns.

We belittle some. We call them sheeple. With others, we talk about Darwin and even use that old cop's canard: "Well, at least no people were involved."

On the other hand -- and many frequent this board -- we've got a bunch of wannabes (tactical wannabes, revolutionary wannabes, tough-guy wannabes, etc.). Many of them too -- IMO -- often lack the responsibilty needed to own or keep guns.

But the fact is that they -- all of them -- have the RKBA, and we need to defend their right. Rights are not dependent on responsibility -- PERIOD.

Nonetheless, the practical fact remains that if a large portion of a society lacks the reponsibility needed when acting on a right, there WILL be attempts to curtail it.

It sucks.
But the fact is that they -- all of them -- have the RKBA, and we need to defend their right. Rights are not dependent on responsibility -- PERIOD.

Well said!
If rights came with responsibility requirement attached, 95% of newspapers would go out of business for irresponsibly printing garbage :evil:
Some people consistently say irresponsible, hateful, inane or useless things. They have the right to say them just as much as someone who really has something useful to say.

I think a lot of people simply will never own guns. Some will own them and not practice how to use them, and we are blessed that death from negligent gun handling is at a historic low. The concealed carry right winnows the field of potential owners even further due to the licensing requirements and the very clear legal exposure/obligations undertaken.

Some people will never understand their obligations and others will. It rides along with the consciousness of what can happen from negligence, as the quote above from Eric Raymond makes so clear, IMO. Some people just never get it.
Gentlemen, you've cut right to the crux, the very core, of my current thought project.

I have heard many take the tack "It's a right, there are no obligations, it's something you get like breathing". But I have never seen ANYTHING in this world that doesn't have some attendant responsibilities. We may not like to acknowledge limitations or requirements but they -are- there and I don't believe that calling something a right causes it to be free from obligations, nor do I believe having an attached framework of obligations cancels out being "justly entitled" to something (a right).

The evidence of my own eyes is that even in places like Vermont, exercising the right to keep and bear arms exists within a framework of responsibilities and one who intentionally and/or with malace smashes that framework looses their "just entitlement" and thus their "right". (Hence a possible justification as to why criminals are disarmed).
Responsibilities follow rights. If someone abuses his rights, he should be punished accordingly.

However, our society is moving more and more toward prior restraint. Now, we must often prove our responsibility by obtaining a license or a permit before exercising our rights. Naturally, this development only affects law-abiding subjects, who are usually the most responsible folks to begin with.

~G. Fink
By choosing to CCW, I believe I have three primary responsibilities:

- Maintaining proficiency with my gun and the laws governing its use
- Remaining aware of my surroundings while avoiding unnecessary confrontations
- Teaching my kids gun safety, and keeping my guns out of their reach (and that of their visiting friends)

The third point, about my kids' access to my guns, is subject to change as they grow in age. But 3rd parties/thieves/visitors will still have no direct access to my guns.
The reason safety and training is mentioned in my sig is because I worry about exactly what you have brought up.

I see many folks whose zeal and excitement about their part in 2A and RKBA activism overwhelms any thoughts on safety or responsibility.
Mostly I see it in folks who are new to the concept of activism and the idea that they can make a difference.
But I see it in old hands as well.

While I do mention the importance of safety and responsibility whenever I can, the lack of the priority doesn't concern me too much because I know there are many others who do see it's importance and act accordingly.

The way I see it, it's not an immediate problem and we can't afford to alienate any supporters over something that we can gradually educate away.

cuchulainn said "Rights are not dependent on responsibility -- PERIOD."

That is true.

I believe that it is our responsibility to train and educate those who need it in safe and responsible firearm ownership...if they are willing and want it.
I just had a discussion with my postman the other day. He told me that he doesn't own a gun because he has a temper.
I told him that it was a personal choice and I am glad he recognized the fact that he may not be ready to shoulder the responsibility that comes with owning a gun.
I never try to talk people into owning guns anymore (I used to do this), because I don't know their situations.
I think that when someone tells me they don't own a gun for a certain reason and I explain to them that I am glad they don't own a gun too (for the same reasons they just gave me) it furthers our cause by showing that I am different than they and that is why I can own and carry a gun responsibly.
My reasoning for this is that most people's arguments against the ownership or carrying of guns is that "people" (they of course mean themselves - that's all they have to go on) are not responsible enough.

That being said, I think the responsibilities are (in no particular order)*:
1 - teach by example
2 - be a coward when necessary
3 - know the law (this includes state laws when travelling)
4 - teach and educate non-gunners
5 - be a part of the community (not "that gun nut up the mountain")

*not an exclusive list
Of course there are responsibilities for firearm ownership ...

There are responsibilities when you have kids too, but you don't have to apply for government permission to get (or get somebody) pregnant ;)

Yet ... :uhoh:
When one of the primary reasons for having that right protected - being part of the well-regulated (i.e. well-trained) militia - was made obsolete, along with it went a huge burden of responsibility; also done away with was the effect of being..."made" responsible - back then it was your duty to be proficient and safe. Your life, your liberty, and indeed your nation's survival really did depend on YOU being up to snuff.

Now just about everyone is left to the other primary reason for gun rights - self-defense..."self" being the key word - because, possibly other then some basic safety skills, no one is going to make sure you are responsible. Unfortunately these days, many people just can't handle that. It leaves the rest of us who can handle it doing battle over rights with those who can't manage themselves, who think everyone must be just as inept as they are, and who love relying on those situations where someone does screw up to make their point.
well-regulated (i.e. well-trained) militia

I always understood well-regulated in this case to mean adequately supplied as in having the tools to do the job.

Now back to the actual topic :)

Now just about everyone is left to the other primary reason for gun rights - self-defense..."self" being the key word - because, possibly other then some basic safety skills, no one is going to make sure you are responsible. Unfortunately these days, many people just can't handle that.
You know I'm not so sure that they can't but they sure have been trained into a "learned helplessness" mode.

I wonder if maybe one of the responsibilities that comes with RKBA is to fight against that learned (trained) helplessness.
Responsibility is always personal. If it is a set of behaviors mandated by an oppressive collective body (say, the US gov't), it is no longer responsibility. It becomes part of a set of rules to be enforced, right or wrong, by the guns of said government.
You can only take responsibility for yourself. Accept that there are consequences if you shirk them, but don't go whining to Hillary that your preferences should be enforced at gunpoint.
There is also the correlary responsibility of self reliance (defense of self and family). As shield 20 described, so many today don't want this responsibility. By giving away the right needed to exercise that responsibility, they have relieved themself of both. Then they need to relieve everyone else of the right in order to legitimize their inability to carry the first responsibility. The second responsibility (that come from the RKBA) is used as an excuse for disarming the rest of us.

Those who want to be dependent need for others to be required to be dependant as well. Others' independence is a threat to them. For a simple example, in a suburban setting, those who want to depend on a municipal water supply insist that there be laws prohibiting the drilling of wells. All then must join the muni water system, and their ability to remain dependent is protected
Sounds like the same reason alcoholics want others around them drinking. Somewhere deep inside they know their behavior is irresponsible but want the excuse of "hey everyone else does it too".

hrmmm, never considered that aspect before.
Perhaps a person's antipathy towards private gun ownership can be credited to a disease process.

A form of maladaptive behavior?
Rights, power, and responsibility are entwined together. A person can't (or realistically shouldn't) have one without the others.

We have rights to own certain items, such as guns, knives, cars, alcohol, and swimming pools. We have the power (read ability) to use those same items in any and every way, regardless of laws. Only our individual responsibility, which includes morals and our conscience, prevent us from doing harm with those items.

No law, no mandatory training, or threats of societal-ouster can prevent any person from grabbing a gun and going on a rampage; it all comes down to the individual.

The difficulty in preventing such action lies in the education (in a broad, raised-up-right, good family way) of the individual, at least to 95%. The remaining 5% covers uncontrollable mental defects and other influences.

So yes, owning a gun mandates a certain level of responsibility. But that responsibility can not be taught in mandatory safety classes, nor can it be verified by an instant background check.
As I wrote earlier, rights, power, and responsibility are tied into one large knot.

Rights and power may be able to be regulated (in the broadest way) but responsibility can not.

As a person matures he will learn to be responsible for his actions, whether he was taught to be or not. It's a basic human condition/instinct. Very basic, really. The axiom "Touch a hot stove, burn your hand" applies here at a base level. Most people, with help, are able to correlate the base responsibility to a general-responsibility, i.e: I am responsible for my own actions.

Of course some people never learn. That is why we are fighting for our rights.

Regardless of whether someone has matured enough to be consciously responsible for himself, he is still held accountable for his actions. From the best educated professor of philosophy to the most vile sociopath, our society holds the individual accountable for his actions. As long as we continue with that ideal, that style of governing, I think that we will be fine.
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