Are Gun Rights Fundamental Freedoms or Government-Granted Privileges?

By John Zmirak Published on June 14, 2022

Last week I called out a writer from the Vichy-Con Ethics and Public Policy Center for his misleading, muddled endorsement of Red Flag laws targeting law-abiding gunowners. He made the mistake of answering me on Twitter, employing a few talking points that must have seemed clever to him — at first.

In doing so, he revealed an almost total ignorance of the laws he was advocating, what they would do, and what they implied. He gave lip-service to the Second Amendment, while advocating measures that would render it totally hollow — just as Jim Crow laws eviscerated the amendments guaranteeing black Americans full civil and voting rights, and due process of law.

For his benefit and everyone’s, I’d like to restate the lessons I hope he heard in that engagement, in a simple question and answer format. Perhaps you’ll find it useful in answering canned talking points that unreflective citizens pick up from the blogosphere (or their softheaded, Ned Flanders pastors), with solid, principled distinctions based in Constitutional and Natural law. Ok?

What is a fundamental right, given by God, recognized by our government, and guaranteed by our Constitution?

Such rights are those without which a human being is deprived of his proper dignity as an image of God. They are rights which are necessary for men to live fully and employ their God-given faculties, form families, support them, worship God, associate freely, pursue friendship, and take part in the public life of society. These also include rights which are necessary to resist violence, unjust coercion, and oppression.

What is a privilege, granted by the State, able to be revoked by the State when legitimate authorities see it as prudent?

These privileges include driving motorized vehicles on public roads, flying drones or aircraft, operating businesses that rely on the public enforcement of contracts, broadcasting on public airwaves, releasing pollutants into the ground, water, or air. All these activities may be regulated much more closely than the exercise of fundamental rights — whether such regulation is wise or foolish, which is a proper matter for political debate.

Are gun rights fundamental rights or privileges?

Gun rights are fundamental rights, akin to the right of free speech, free exercise of religion, voting, jury trial, due process of law, and protection from warrantless search, self-incrimination, or cruel and unusual punishment. Our Constitution enshrines gun rights for precisely this reason, and also as a back-stop protection against the rise of tyrannical government — such as those which murdered 170 million civilians between 1900 and 1990, all of whom had been disarmed by their governments.

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Our Founders made their reasons clear in the debates they had over the ratification of the Bill of Rights, as Steven Holbrook documents in The Founders’ Second Amendment. Our Founders modeled the Second Amendment on a comparable tenet in the 1690 English Bill of Rights, which made clear the connection of gun rights to religious liberty. No Second Amendment, no First.

For a philosophical, historical, and biblical argument why we Christians must embrace gun rights, see the long essay published by The Stream.

Do Red Flag laws on gun-ownership represent a “common sense” measure making the exercise of fundamental gun rights safer?

No, such laws treat fundamental rights with less respect than mere governmental privileges. It’s much easier, using Red Flag laws, to annul the gun rights of an ex-boss, ex-spouse, or political enemy than it would be to get that person’s liquor license or driver’s license suspended.

They short-circuit the due process of law, and are designed to abuse, harass, and finally disarm law-abiding gunowners. They are unconstitutional shortcuts that hand arbitrary powers to hostile neighbors and biased judges.

But we don’t want provably violent or insane people handling weapons. Surely that’s a legitimate restriction on a fundamental liberty.

It is, and the laws already provide for it. Federal background checks deny guns to convicted felons and previously committed psychiatric patients. Sadly, such background checks often go unenforced, for instance when people like Hunter Biden lie on their applications and go unpunished.

We certainly need to expand and improve mental health services, and increase the use of short-term involuntary commitment of provably unhinged citizens. This would save due process of law, our fundamental rights, and probably some lives.

Why did ten Republican senators just sign on to a Democrat-led bill that encourages Red Flag laws nationwide?

Because they are unprincipled cowards who don’t care about your freedom.

What should I do if my senator is one of those 10?

Let him know you will campaign against him in the next GOP primary if he doesn’t back down, that if he gets the nomination, in the general election you will write in “Ashli Babbitt” or “Jake Gardner,” because RINOs are worse than Democrats.

Why do the Democrats really want our guns?

So that they can turn the U.S. into a place more like the European Union, or Canada — where they can outlaw homeschooling, imprison pastors, lock down citizens in their homes, and generally treat citizens not like human beings but veal calves. Why else did they want to put Kyle Rittenhouse in prison? Not because he abused his gun, but because he used it properly in self-defense, as our Founders intended.

And should I buy guns and ammunition?

Yes, stockpile both, and never turn them in, any more than you’d hand over your Bible, your children, or your spouse to a tyrannical government. This is quite literally the last hill to die on.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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