Letter: Wrong read on rights

Published: 06-13-2024 3:12 PM

L. Philips Runyon’s recent Viewpoint (“Personal freedom and the common good,” May 16) incorrectly states that the Bill of Rights pertains to collective, not individual, rights. The drafters incorporated a libertarian philosophy predicated upon individualism. The document is a limitation on government power, not a restriction on individual rights.

“[A]ll men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” “Inalienable” means absolute, undeniable, non-transferable. The word “rights” is used instead of “privileges.”

The idea of “common good” above individual rights is dangerous, as it places a societal cost-benefit analysis over each person. Taken to extremes, it supports the dystopian concept of “Logan’s Run,” where population control is through the ceremonial execution of citizens on their 30th birthday, or China’s harsh treatment of substance misusers instead of rehabilitation.

Runyon distorts the Second Amendment as a “collective” concept. The drafters’ purposefully worded the “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” broadly. It is a rejection of the 1689 English Bill of Rights that had Runyon’s desired ownership restrictions – “Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.” What appears before the comma (“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, ...”) is irrelevant to a natural, indisputable right to defend oneself.

The intent of the Second Amendment has always been to protect a person’s right to self-defense or, more fundamentally, to survive. The Bill of Rights makes it clear that a person can use weapon and ammunition, whether it is a slingshot and rocks or an AR-15 and 5.56 bullets, to protect life and liberty against foreign or domestic bad actors.

Cole Mills 


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