A recent article in the National Review made the point that a person’s right to bear arms predates the Second Amendment. This seems obvious, but as the author goes on to point out, many on the left seem to have a fundamental cognitive dissonance when it comes to reconciling reality and theory; however, that’s a rant for another day. Moving on: I’ll agree with the author to a point, that point being that I would say he doesn’t go far enough. In my view, the right to self-defense predates not only its codification in the laws of civilization, but humanity itself.
The right to exist, and by extension to defend one’s right to exist, is intrinsic to existence itself; indeed, one could argue it is as much a biological imperative as reproduction. (Not as much fun, but hey.) Concurrent with the development of life forms that ate one another (by whatever mechanism you prefer to believe in, whether evolutionary processes or divine guidance), we see the development of defensive countermeasures. Shells, armor, and horns; camouflage; explosive speed; even simple herding behaviors, are all adaptations with the sole purpose of defending the lives of either the individual or the collective. Some are purely passive and defensive in nature; others, like the speed, heft, and horns of a charging rhinoceros, have an active, offensive utility as well. Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense, and grinding your tormentor into mush seems as good a course of action as any.
Homo sapiens are fairly unique in that we do not have a innate physical defensive capability; rather, it is our use of intellect, and development of tools and strategies guided by that intellect, that allow us to defend ourselves. And as our societies have evolved into ever more complex permutations, our tools and strategies have evolved as well. We now can conflate defense of self with defense of the collective because technology and society have advanced to the point where in many ways they are one and the same. Likewise, the tools have evolved in complexity (and deadliness), but they are just that: tools. Whether I defend myself with a rock, or a rocket, or a Rock River 1911A1 * is immaterial in the larger context of me protecting my presence on this planet.
What has not evolved is this simple, basic truth: I have the right to exist; therefore, I have the right to defend my existence. This not a right that can be granted by any government. It is mine, immutable and irrevocable, and it is my obligation as a living entity to defend it as I see fit, with one caveat: I must not take away (“infringe”) that right of any other person, except in defense of myself.
Where does this all tie in to the Second Amendment? The 2nd is, at its core, about self-defense. Ensuring “the Security of a Free State” is simply defending the rights of a people to exist, and defense of any collective is ultimately done at the individual level. (The best rebuttal of John Paul Stevens’ notion of the Second as a collective right; or, as Patton put it, “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”) Because this is an innate right to all living things, it can’t be repealed. Government is free to change or even remove the wording in their codification of it, but the right remains. I can, and I must, defend myself; and government is powerless to take that away from me.
*Author’s note: I don’t actually own a RRA 1911, nor am I endorsing them**; I have a Springfield MilSpec***. But that wouldn’t have flowed as well in the prose.
** Unless RRA wants to send me a check.
***Ditto Springfield. Hit me up, guys!