The Natural Right to Self-Defense

By Judge Andrew P. Napolitano

October 8, 2015 6 min read

While the FBI continued to analyze the emails Hillary Clinton thought she deleted and her advisers pressed her to hire a Republican criminal defense attorney in Washington, a madman used a lawfully purchased handgun to kill a professor and eight students at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. Looking to change the subject away from her emails, Clinton was quick to pounce.

She who has ripped into Republicans for seeking political gain from the four American deaths in Benghazi, Libya, now seeks her own political gain from the dozens of murdered children and young adults in Newtown, Connecticut, and Roseburg. On the heels of the latter and referring to both tragedies, she launched an emotional attack early this week on the two most recent Supreme Court decisions upholding the personal right to keep and bear arms. She offered to "fix" them should she be elected president.

Her so-called fix consists of a dead-on-arrival legislative proposal making gun manufacturers financially liable for the misuse of their products and an executive order determining the meaning of certain words used in federal statutes.

The liability-shifting proposal is akin to punishing General Motors whenever a drunken driver misuses his Chevy and injures someone. The courts would surely reject that.

The executive order proposal assaults the Constitution. Those in the gun sale business must conduct background checks via computer services offered by the FBI. The background checks look for reports of crimes of violence, domestic violence and mental illness. Private people who occasionally sell their hardware or give guns as gifts are exempt from conducting background checks. Clinton would create a presidentially written and mandated definition of occasional sales and gifts so as to require background checks for all gun transfers — a requirement Congress rejected.

We are 13 months from Election Day 2016, and Clinton has already promised that she would rule by pen and phone rather than govern by consensus.

As a lawyer, Clinton should know that only the federal courts — not the president — can decide what statutory language means. Moreover, if she knew anything about FBI background checks, she would know that they are only as good as the database on which they rely. If a madman hides his mental illness, no database will reveal it.

Her attacks on the Supreme Court decisions were direct. She rejects their characterization of the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right — meaning that it is akin to thought, speech, press, association, worship, travel, etc.

Yet if she were to become president, she would take an oath to uphold the Constitution; that means the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. The presidential oath of office would require that she execute her duties "faithfully" — whether she agrees with the law or constitutional provision or not. She apparently has no intention of fulfilling the presidential oath of office.

We are 13 months from Election Day 2016, and Clinton has already promised that she would not enforce Supreme Court decisions with which she disagrees.

What did both the Newtown and the Roseburg tragedies have in common? Both murderers were madmen. Yet neither had a record of mental illness, so the background checks the anti-self-defense lobby loves would not have prevented either of these killers from buying a gun and using it to murder indiscriminately. If killers are prepared to murder innocent children, does Clinton really think they would obey the laws regulating gun ownership?

Both mass murders occurred in no-gun zones. A no-gun zone is the most dangerous place on the planet when a madman intent on killing enters. No-gun zones are arbitrarily designated on public property by local authorities, stripping law-abiding folks of their lawfully owned guns — their natural right to self-defense — and exposing them to terror and death.

The Constitution does not permit public no-gun zones any more than it does public no-free-speech zones. If the right to keep and bear arms is truly fundamental, the government cannot interfere with it based on geography. If the Army veteran/college student who stopped seven bullets with his body last week and saved the lives of his classmates (and survived!) had been permitted to carry a gun into the school building, the madman who murdered nine innocents would have been stopped long before police arrived — long before he completed his killings.

The right to keep and bear arms has more than just the Second Amendment to protect it. By characterizing the right as fundamental and pre-political, the high court accepted the truism that this right is merely a modern extension of the ancient right to self-defense. And the right to defend oneself does not come from the government; it comes from our humanity. It is a natural right.

Who among us, when confronted with the terror of nearly certain annihilation, would concern himself with the niceties of the law? Life itself is at stake. The right to self-defense is a manifestation of the natural instinct for survival, borne in the hearts of all rational people.

But Hillary Clinton rejects that instinct because she prefers we become dependent upon the government — as long as she is running it.

The police cannot stop mass killings, because they cannot be everywhere all the time. And madmen willing to kill do not fear being lawbreakers. Guns in the hands of the people give not only tyrants second thoughts but also madmen.

Even madmen fear an early death.

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A Papacy of Novelty

A Papacy of Novelty

By Judge Andrew P. Napolitano
What if things are not always as they seem? What if the enormously popular Pope Francis is popular precisely because he is less Catholic than his two immediate predecessors? What if his theory of his stewardship of Catholicism is to broaden the base of the Church by weakening her doctrine so as to attract more people by making it temporally easier to be Catholic? What if the pope really believes that rather than resist modernism — with its here today and gone tomorrow fancies — the Church should give in to it and even become a part of it so as to appear to be relevant? What if this is the very opposite of his responsibilities as the Vicar of Christ? What if he rejects his role as the personification of the preservation of Truth and believes he can ignore some truths? What if the pope thinks, like the big government types in the federal government, that he can change any rule, alter any custom and embrace any heresy in order to advance his novel version of Catholicism? What if he has done so? What if his radical revision of the process for nullifying Catholic marriages amounts to no more than granting Catholic divorces? What if his making easier reconciliation with the sacraments after participating in an abortion actually diminishes the gravity of killing babies in the womb and encourages more killing? What if he permits Catholics who have remarried outside the Church while still validly married to their original spouse to receive the sacraments? What if the concept of liberation theology, condemned by Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, mixes Marxism and Catholicism — which are essentially opposites — and produces a weird result that mocks the Mass, rejects traditional teachings, distributes the Blessed Sacrament to non-believers, rejects the need for oracular confession and holds that all world history is but the continued exploitation of the poor by the rich? What if, before he publicly toured America, he privately welcomed at the Vatican the founder of this perversion of Christianity? What if he embraced and celebrated him? What if one of the reasons his trip to America was so well received is because so many in the media embraced him? What if the media embrace him precisely because his version of Catholicism is not consistent with tradition? What if those in the media who embraced him are not Catholics? What if he seemed more concerned last week with the way we treat the Earth than with the way we treat each other? What if his passion for the cause of the uber-environmentalists finds no place in Catholic dogma? What if a bishop friend of mine reviewed all the pope's public talks last week — at masses and elsewhere — and found that the references to care for the Earth were full-throated, dramatic and clear? What if the same bishop found that the pope's references to abortion were muted, ambiguous and never even used the word? What if the capitalism that informed the pope as a young man, the "business" he told Congress he favored, is really the fascism of Argentina in the 1950s and 1960s? What if that fascism — private ownership and government control of economic activities — is akin to the corporatism of today so favored by both American political parties? What if that corporatism is really a two-way street? What if the corporations that are burdened by the government also benefit from it? What if the same government that grants welfare to the poor and tax breaks to the middle class also grants bailouts to select corporations? What if the pope understands this and embraces it and is attempting to further it by using the moral force of the papacy to support it? What if, when the pope emphasized the Golden Rule when he addressed Congress, he was not talking about the moral obligation of individuals, but the duty of the government? What if the pope's muted message that we are our brothers' keepers was not addressed to us in the Judeo-Christian individualist sense, but to the government in an authoritarian sense? What if the pope was arguing that the government has a moral obligation to be charitable with taxpayer dollars and dollars borrowed in the taxpayers' names? What if charity comes from the heart, not from the government? What if it is impossible to be charitable with other people's money? What if you can get to Heaven by giving of your wealth to the poor? What if there is no personal merit when the government takes your wealth and gives it away in your name? What if the papacy of John Paul II, which helped liberate millions from the yoke of Communism, and the papacy of Benedict XVI, which produced personal piety and fidelity to traditional teachings amongst many now studying for the priesthood, have been rejected by Pope Francis in favor of novel experiments intended to attract those who reject traditional teachings? What if this papacy of novelty is as unsuccessful as Vatican II and churches soon empty because the Church changes with the wind, embraces the cult of personality and is disinterested in the Truth? What if Truth is immutable? What if novelty is the opposite of Truth? Keep reading