A concept such as the human right to self defense seems common sense enough. But sadly, it’s something that is still tricky in the current mad world.
Luckily, I don’t think it has to be. But we do need to get the definitions right before we chat more about it.
We should theoretically have a difference between what is a “human right” and what is a “universal human right”.
International law is tricky. I’m not trying to say that the international law definition of human right is incorrect. I just believe it’s flawed and biased.
A human right is defined as:
a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person.
Keyword: believed. As long as the majority believe in it, it is technically a human right.
Theoretically, we could all (majority) believe that everyone deserves a tennis racket in the interest of fitness (justifiable) and then voila, we all have a human right to tennis rackets.
So what would a universal human right then be?
Well, it would be a human right that is automatically granted to every single person regardless of the majorities opinion, regardless of justification, and regardless of belief.
Take, for example, freedom of thought. It is impossible to restrict thought, as a government could restrict speech.
Freedom of thought will always be an inalienable universal human right.
I believe self defense is, too.
The Universal Human Right of Self Defense
The United Nations set the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. This is a document which defines human rights in their belief. It’s a flawed document, as are most things from the UN.
My idea of a universal human right is something that cannot be taken away by force. It’s an impenetrable idea and ability. So by the UN’s standards, it’s not a human right.
For example, they say:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.United Nations, Article 1
Which is clearly a “human right”. Not a universal one. There are still huge amounts of people born into slavery. It clearly cannot be a universal human right if it is false.
Additionally, the UN says:
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.United Nations, Article 17(2)
Tell that to the communist Khmer. Sadly, that depends largely on the majority opinion. Not a universal right.
If we follow my definitions, we can’t necessarily say that there is a human right to self defense. Majority opinion can change this as we see in places like China. Or the majority could neuter and confiscate your ability to defend yourself in other ways. But we can still say there is a universal human right to self defense. Even if the technical “right” is confined.
Regardless of a majority opinion, of government action, or anyone’s thoughts – we can always fight back. We can always defend ourselves. With or without a gun. We can throw rocks at tanks. It’s not effective, but it would technically still be self defense.
Every human is imposed with this right from the second they are able bodied and willing. Pacifists, you too. Every single able-bodied person on this planet can fight back against an assailant, an aggressor, or anyone in the interest of their own livelihood.
So, instinctively, we have the right to self defense regardless of what anyone says. They could confiscate all firearms, and yet, that right is still there. We could still get guns, illegally, and defend ourselves. It makes no difference. It is a right that is forever instilled in the human spirit and capabilities.
Does a woman have a right to resist rape? Of course she does. And always will. Regardless of political sway or position. Any able bodied woman could try to defend herself in such a situation. She has a much better chance if she is able to have the tools necessary to do just that.
Do we have a human right to resist imprisonment and slavery by our government? Sure. Millions have fought this throughout history. Millions more will as it continues to happen. No one can stop this, it is a truly inalienable right.
Yet, the United Nations council said no. These two things are not rights. International law has no right to self defense. Yet, we have the “right” to:
life, liberty and security of person.United Nations, Article 3
While the UN recognizes the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, they don’t recognize the right to the tools that are essential to doing just those things.
You can’t have security of your person from a tyrannical government when you’re throwing rocks at tanks. You can’t have the right to life when you are physically weaker and unable to have the tools to level the playing field. And you clearly can’t have liberty when the UN gets to arbitrarily define what “liberty” is.
International elements seek to limit the right of self-defense and utilize the UN’s rulings to do so.
The United Nation’s had a program called the “Arms Trade Treaty” which effectively was an international gun control agenda from the top down. Luckily, Trump withdrew us from it. But the lingering after-effects remain.
It did irreparable damage on the world stage of recognizing the universal human right to self defense. It defined gun trades to American citizens as a human rights violation because American law allows us to use them in self defense. So stopping a murderer is a human rights violations, according to the UN.
Because even the murderer has the right to “life, liberty, and security of person” even while they are killing you, apparently.
Which stems from the flawed concepts of human rights as defined in international law. Is self defense a human right according to international law? No.
Is it a universal human right regardless of what the law wishes to enforce? Yes.
The Universal Human Right to Arms
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean a right to self defense is a right to arms, correct? Because one could simply remove the firearms, and a person would lose the universal right to arms. But much the same as the right to freedom of thought, we could find ways to generate arms to satisfy the universal human right itself.
So while we may not have a universal right to arms, we do have the ability to acquire arms as a means of satisfying the universal human right of self defense.
This 136-page masterpiece explains this concept beautifully on page 129:
A common-sense principle is embodied in the legal maxims “[w]hen the law grants anything to any one, all incidents are tacitly granted” and “[w]hen the law gives a man anything, it gives him that also without which the thing itself cannot exist.”David Kopel, The Human Right of Self-Defense
So if people have a right to the free exercise of religion, then they must necessarily have the right to possess, buy, and sell the scriptures of their religion, and related religious writings.
If people have a right to freedom of the press, then the people must have a right to possess, buy, and sell newspapers and magazines. And since the right to publish newspapers is an incident of the right to freedom of the press, the publication of newspapers must not be hindered by, for example, a heavy tax imposed solely on newspaper ink.
Likewise the freedom of the press and of religion both imply that people have a right to learn how to read.
To recognize a right while forbidding the means to exercise it would make the right a nullity.
If there is a right of self-defense, there must necessarily be a right to possess some defensive arms—for otherwise the right would be a practical nullity.
How can a 110 pound woman defend herself against a pair of 250 pound rapists if she cannot use arms?
How can a frail 85-year-old man protect himself against three young men who are intent on robbing and killing him?
It is true that some people can successfully defend themselves, in some circumstances, through martial arts, or similar techniques of unarmed combat. But, typically, it takes very extensive practice for a person to obtain proficiency.
Self defense is a universal right and always will be. It cannot be changed with changing times or political views. Even if the right to arms is taken away by force, it will still exist as a right exactly the same that the right of free speech is still present in North Korea, it is just punishable by death. The right exists, the government just domineers and overpowers its use.
Let’s end this with a few good quotes from people who actually wrote international law in the past. Maybe the UN should look for some historical insights in them. Who knows, they might end up making better policies if they did.
Every nation, as well as every man, has, therefore, a right … to preserve herself from all injuries: and this right is a perfect one, since it is given to satisfy a natural and indispensable obligation … It is this right to preserve herself from all injury that is called the right to security.Emerich de Vattel (The Law of Nations):
Self-defense is “the greatest of rights,” encompassing individual protection against criminals, as well as community self-defense against tyrants.Francisco Suárez (De Legibus ac Deo Legislatore)