third part of my response on a gun control thread on Facebook. Specifically, my response to:
3. Self defense is a natural right, but it is not unlimited.
This statement is obvious, and I agree with it. The problem is it's being used to justify the disarming of law abiding citizens because they don't “need” a gun. So let's get into the moral and ethical side of self defense.
What does a right to self defense mean? It means that you have a God-given right to preserve your own life against someone who would take it, or cause you serious harm. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor... The one is intended, the other is not."
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
- If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful... Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.
It's pretty explicitly stated in 2265 “those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.” One could argue that this is restricted to police and military, since it talks about the "civil community". However, the basic unit of a community is the family and parents have legitimate authority over the family. I would therefore claim that this statement includes parents in the explicit right to bear arms.
Furthermore limiting this to police and military has a problem in that police are not charged with repelling aggressors, but merely arresting those who have broken the law. Several Supreme court cases have affirmed the fact that the police do not have a duty to protect citizens. So a narrow view of this would be that only the military can bear arms.
Even conceding a narrow view of paragraph 2265, what does the rest of it say about firearms? Note that “Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow” so lethal weapons are not out of the question.
What constitutes a legitimate means of self defense? Certainly one has the right to use one's body to defend itself (e.g. fists). But what if a 5 foot tall 90 pound woman is being attacked by a 6 foot 5, 290 pound man? Saying she has the right to use fists is essentially denying her any effective defense.
Any effective means of self defense must at least even the odds of the defender and attacker. In a
world where attackers are likely to be armed with deadly weapons (knives, guns, etc.) anything less than that is really no defense at all. There is an old adage “God made men, Sam Colt made men equal” referring to firearms manufacturer Colt. There is some truth to the saying.
A 5 foot tall 90 pound woman can hold off a much larger stronger attacker if she possesses a firearm and knows how to use it. There really isn't another weapon that can effectively stop an attacker who is physically superior. I'm not saying everyone should have a firearm, I'm saying that the right to self defense implies a right to be able to morally possess a firearm.
- A right to self defense requires a right to tools sufficient to defend oneself from likely attacks.
- Police have no duty to protect citizens from criminal attack.
Since attackers are likely to have deadly weapons (knives,
guns, bats) defenders should have recourse to similar tools.
Firearms are the only practical means of self defense
against a physically stronger attacker.