The right of self-defense is inherent in the people

DBy David M. Gross Despite his concerns that another writer made a mistake in referring to a specific provision of the U.S. Constitution as providing a right of self-defense, Jordan K. Kolar in his July 14 online opinions piece, “States and the University have the constitutional right to ban guns,” only perpetuates, and expands on, the interpretation error.

By looking for a specific provision in the U.S. Constitution that grants a right, Mr. Kolar commits a fundamental error. The Bill of Rights to the Constitution guarantees existing rights against government curtailment or infringement. The right of self-defense is inherent in the people, and government is prohibited from infringements on the means of exercising that right in the Second Amendment. The Legislature passed the Minnesota Citizens’ Personal Protection Act of 2003 in furtherance of the constitutional rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment, finding the right to keep and bear arms to be personal and fundamental.

However, no rights are absolute and free of limits, especially when they come into substantial conflict with arguably equal and countervailing rights of others in a real and immediate fashion. So in Minnesota, for example, the Legislature and the judiciary have crafted statutes and laws found to be compelling and necessary: supported by the facts, narrowly tailored to the facts and as respectful of the basic right as possible.

Minnesota’s laws of self-defense do not grant the right of self-defense. Those laws set, or define, the outside limits of the circumstances, nature and extent of the use of force. They act as a necessary limitation on the exercise of the right of the individual to use force for personal protection, for “self-defense.” Only when the individual exceeds the limits and crosses the boundary does the individual become possibly liable for the commission of a wrongful act. The boundary varies with the sum total of the circumstances and perceptions deemed reasonable: a gray area if there ever was one. As long as the individual stays within those outside limits, the actor is well within his rights to act.

People who think like Kolar, who approach their freedoms, choices and concomitant responsibilities from the perspective of seeking definite limits, are looking for a certainty that does not exist in the real world. They think their rights derive from the grace of the government: that the “system provides.” They seek an elusive security in following the rules and demanding that everyone think as they think – afraid to act unless given permission. They forget the U.S. system of government is one of limited, delegated authority and power, and a citizenry possessed of the vastly greater residue of power and authority. There have been wars fought over the difference. We celebrate and enjoy the legacy of those struggles for freedom, self-determination and individual power over one’s life.

And still, people like Kolar, in approaching it from the back door, would lose control of their government and give it all away.

David M. Gross lives in St. Louis Park.

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