Ayn Rand and Gun Rights

The one person who clearly delineated the concept of “individual rights” as I think I made rather clear in my two previous posts-more clearly than anyone else-was Ayn Rand. You can study her theory of rights more fully in several places, but three I would recommend (in proper reading order) are Craig Biddle’s book, Loving Life; Ayn Rand’s book, The Virtue of Selfishness; and then Tara Smith’s fantastic work, Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics.

Ms Rand appears to have said very little, and wrote even less, on the specific topic of gun control and gun rights vis-a-vis the individual citizen. One somewhat singular exception to this was in an interview where she stated:

“I have given it no thought at all and, off-hand, I would say, no, the government shouldn’t control guns except in very marginal forms. I don’t think it’s very important because I don’t think it is in physical terms that the decisions and the fate of this country will be determined. If this country falls apart altogether, if the government collapses bankrupt, your having a handgun in your pocket isn’t going to save your life. What you would need is ideas and other people who share those ideas and fighting towards a proper civilized government, not handguns for personal protection.”

In addition, in the book Ayn Rand Answers a Q&A was cited as follows:

I do not know enough about it to have an opinion, except to say that it’s not of primary importance. Forbidding guns or registering them is not going to stop criminals from having them; nor is it a great threat to the private, noncriminal citizen if he has to register the fact that he has a gun. It’s not an important issue, unless you’re ready to begin a private uprising right now, which isn’t very practical.

It’s a complex, technical issue in the philosophy of law. Handguns are instruments for killing people — they are not carried for hunting animals — and you have no right to kill people. You do have the right to self-defense, however. I don’t know how the issue is to be resolved to protect you without giving you the privilege to kill people at whim.

My take on this is that to Ms Rand it was ideas that mattered, and to the extent people grasp and understood her foundational concepts regarding the initiation of physical force coupled with the unique status of police and the military gun rights, per se, were clearly a subordinated right to the overriding fundamental right to an individuals own life. I plan on revisiting this one in the future as I contemplate it further.

Posted in Book Referral, Liberty, Philosophy. Comments Off on Ayn Rand and Gun Rights
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