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Choose to Live: The Moral Decision to Bear Arms

by  Larry Rybka
Originally published at

 "I would rather be killed by a handgun than own one."

This seemingly absurd statement was made by the substitute host of a nationally-syndicated radio talk show, during a discussion on violence and gun control.  As a value judgment, it betrays a deliberate refusal to envision the continuance of life, and morbidly prefers death over the rational possession of an object.

Why would an American birthright be painted over as a suspect assumption and a grave threat to public order? The answer is found in a proper understanding of the ideological campaign against gun ownership, which is no less than an active front in a total war on reason.


In the first nation founded on the strength of ideals, the idea of rational self-government lies dormant in our subconscious. Two centuries of hostility to the supremacy of reason has produced contempt for the moral exercise of free will. The rugged individualist of early America was transported into a mystical flux, where gurus of anti-logic conducted a feint to liberate his mind, while government lackeys fixed shackles to his body. The expanded role of the state in our daily lives stems from a growing distrust in the wisdom of each person to be the just beneficiary of his own decisions. Individual liberty has been redefined in the ethics of utilitarian collectivism. Natural rights have been supplanted by political franchise. Once derived from the nature of man's existence, rights have given way to entitlements keyed to the fluctuating preferences of groups.

"The answer is found in a proper understanding of the ideological campaign against gun ownership, which is no less than an active front in a total war on reason."

In order to destroy the concept of absolute rights, it was first necessary to make men believe in a world where absolutes did not exist. Thus, if a desired political end was out of touch with reality, reality was redefined. After all, celebrated intellectuals had already proclaimed that reality was incomprehensible, and the world of appearances, strictly a creation of the mind, is all that one could ever hope to know. In this plastic realm of uncertainty, reason is merely a tool for molding desire into substance. Furthermore, being conditioned by the ideas of other men, if our minds are part of the organic body of society, then a "right" becomes whatever society wants it to be; the right way to secure it is whatever works.

Traveling the highways of American culture, the few exits leading to freedom and well-being are poorly marked. In the all-inclusive domain of the general welfare, a wrong turn can take us to an unwanted destination. Unfortunately, directions found in the road map, the catalog of contemporary values, provide little guidance. Throughout this political landscape, any demand that a vocal group wants addressed is generally deemed to be in the "public interest." And if its widely accepted, its automatically "rational." Here, moral correctness is equated with popular appeal, while the "soundness" of a policy is only contingent on its desired results. Finally, "goodness" is determined by the net benefit for the group rather than on the negative effects for individuals. In the outcome-based quest of the greatest good for the greatest number, traditional standards are discarded as impediments to progress.


A person dedicated to preserving his freedom will not surrender his mental integrity to a bankrupt philosophy that demands that one blindly follow the opinions of others. From elementary ideas to ultimate actions, the process of integrating his natural observations will remain well guarded. This is the method of rational concept formation. It dismisses opposites, reflects the world as it is, and relies on a process of reasoning. On the other hand, an aversion to the discipline of logic will produce irrational concepts. Driven by feelings, they are incomplete, reflect a world created by the mind, and are formed by emotional reaction. A moral decision is one made by choice, in accordance with reason, by applying principles in a given context. In contrast, immorality stems from a willing embrace of senseless contradiction, and manifests itself in a passionate denial of choice. An irrational person lacks self-control but is resigned to impose control on other people, who, refusing to think for themselves, eagerly accept it.

"A person dedicated to preserving his freedom will not surrender his mental integrity to a bankrupt philosophy that demands that one blindly follow the opinions of others."

The ability to transform concepts into a personal value system is part of what defines a human being, but when skepticism takes hold, value systems themselves are placed in question. If society is also obsessed with tolerance, it will grant equal weight to any contrary argument. Therefore, one's choice of values becomes unimportant, reflected in comments such as "that may be true for you, but not for me," or "I can't prove it's true, but you can't prove it's untrue." In a culture that enshrines irrationalism, words are relative, truth becomes an abstraction, and right is unknowable. When the consequence of an act can not be defined beyond doubt, results lose significance and good intentions take on virtue. The offhand remark "you never know," commonly used to describe uncertainty, is an ever-present expression, but "never" is a long, long time. If people accept the notion that the mind is incapable of certainty, rules of behavior will replace their own moral choices, as they effectively relinquish their mantle of sovereignty.


Being his own moral agent by nature, each individual is both the cause of action and the beneficiary of its results within his personal space, the area and property under his control. It is therefore a contradiction for individuals to live under voluntary association by means of plunder, or by appointing agents to invade the moral space of one another. However, this stubborn fact is incongruous with the dynamic of expediency that has dominated politics for the last century. As a result, the notion of collective or "group" rights has evolved to justify a social architecture proceeding from the assumption that human nature should not determine human rights. At the outset, it should be noted that a group does not exist as an entity. It is incapable of forming abstract concepts, and has no life apart from that of its individual members; therefore it possesses no rights. The fallacy of "group rights" was perpetrated to encourage loyalty to men rather than to principles, and to preface each individual act with a sense of obligation to others.

Bizarre interpretations of the concept of justice have also taken shape, imparting legitimacy to government paternalism. Involuntary servitude administered under coercive threat (of surveillance, entrapment, asset seizure, fine, arrest, or incarceration) is now seen as not only acceptable but desirable in the attempt to procure balanced shares of freedom and well-being for all citizens. The door has been opened to social policy in which proactive force becomes the lifeline to the "common good."

"Sanctioning the government's initiation of force toward the innocent, even as a coercive threat, is a method of human behavioral control which violates the dignity of man: the exercise of reason expressed in his free will."

Yet in the arena of liberty, force can only be of moral value if used to defend an individual's rights. Toward his peaceful neighbors, each individual delegates to government no greater authority than he possesses as an individual, that force be used only in a defensive manner. Toward criminal aggressors, government is allowed to apply sufficient retaliatory force to preserve its citizens' rights and freedom. However, sanctioning the government's initiation of force toward the innocent, even as a coercive threat, is a method of human behavioral control which violates the dignity of man: the exercise of reason expressed in his free will.

You can not change a person's mind without his permission. He must voluntarily consent, then make the choice himself. Obedience extracted under threat has no moral value. Value requires volition. Force, in attempting to detach and transfer value without choice, destroys it. Good can not result from such an attempted transfer, because the element of force deprives the intended beneficiary of the rewards of sound judgment. If one can force good, it must be separable from human consciousness. Just as a contract signed under duress is unenforceable, so obedience to law that is contrary to your conviction is unenforceable on your conscience. Performance is forced, since you have not consented in your mind. You obey, but the act itself has no moral value.

Traditionally, natural law has recognized man's identity as a rational being capable of self-government. But critics of natural law have argued that human dignity is not rooted in freedom of choice, but in a sense of belonging. In the reigning philosophy of the previous century, reason was not understood as the pursuit of truth, but as the pursuit of agreement. When rational objectivity is redefined as consensus, morality is not located in human nature, but in the overlap of emotions floating in the group. The new purpose of government is not to protect man's natural rights, but to create policy (entitled rights) that satisfies the perceived needs of the group, and then to constrain personal behavior in accordance with public policy enforcement.


Judging from the preceding survey of the state of our collective psyche, it seems more likely than not, when hoplophobia (fear of weapons) reaches a threshold level the stage will be set to craft a national "right" to be free from the fear of firearm violence. A recent article regarding firearms and fear in Epidemiology, the journal of public health professionals, uses the issue of community fear to promote the idea that fewer guns in society will make people feel more secure. Not a new concept, "freedom from fear" was designated by President Franklin Roosevelt as the fourth essential human freedom.

Federal Gun Free School Zones are the direct result of this kind of mass delusion, sprung from the minds of fear-mongering psycho-terrorists, and based on the belief that violent behavior is an essential byproduct of firearm possession. Even though the Supreme court rejected the illogical basis of this unconstitutional fabrication, Congress circumvented the court and stealthily reenacted the same basic law. The "assault weapons" ban in the 1994 Federal Crime Bill was another back door opportunity for pragmatism (end justifies means) to infect the national consciousness. Senator Feinstein justified her gun ban because "it's the rights of many to feel safe" which were being violated by firearm owners.

However, there is a world of difference between a natural right to secure oneself against potential harm, and the legal fiction of a right to feel secure. But in establishing the fictitious right to feel secure, pragmatic (subjective) collectivists would be endorsing the logic of a natural right by modeling its method of advocacy. Since a natural right is contingent on inherent possession, they would have to demonstrate that crime victims would have naturally felt, and would have actually remained secure, if only their assailants had not used a firearm in the assault. Thus criminals were merely acting as an agent of the firearm itself in violating their victim's sense of, and therefore their actual security.

Demonization of firearms and encouragement of nonresistance shifts focus to the weapon, while benignly accepting the aggressor as a given ingredient. To pass outcome-based scrutiny, a policy of forced disarmament would only have to propose better conditions for those affected by its outcome than would exist in the absence of such a policy.  Sufficient research posing this theorem already exists, while an ostensive display of the victims of violence would imply its proof. Next, the assertion that disarming would make far more people better off before it made a significant number worse off is easy to argue, since relatively few people are armed in any given area, despite concealed carry reform. Unintended consequences befalling any individual would be irrelevant in satisfying the public demand to feel secure.

While natural rights theory states that human nature is understandable, pragmatism counters that human nature is not a valid concern. A pragmatist does not care that disarmed people are defenseless. The natural rights advocate invokes fundamental truth, while the pragmatist responds that truth is unknowable in advance, and can only be ascertained after existence conforms to a desired point on his sliding scale of arbitrary standards.

This is why the act of disarming takes on such political significance. First, disarming provides the symbolic renunciation of our right of self-preservation. By tearing down our personal boundary, we grant leave to be used by anyone, for any purpose, and we exist solely by the permission of others. Next, disarming produces the psychological effect known as "sanction of the victim." We're expected to embrace our exploiters, and pay their ransom with our lives. Government can then fill the void by substituting a right to seek compensation after our right to personal security is nullified. Finally, through personal disarmament we emerge "civilized," as human solidarity replaces the unity of objective truth in the ongoing pursuit of servitude for its own sake.

Antigun extremists should be seen for what they represent: worship of the state.  For them, the state is god. The religion of statism holds personal disarmament to be a sacramental rite. Thus, armed citizens are infidels, and gun ownership is idolatry. It supports the heresies of self-reliance and independence; the opposite of altruism, which is the "state of grace" in which enlightened citizens worship their deity, the state. They would rather die at the hands of an armed criminal than defend themselves with a gun, first, because it would be unholy to put one in their hands, and ultimately, because their deaths would be martyrdom, the highest form of sacrifice to their god. The reason that only police or military should touch weapons is, they believe, as fascism teaches, that no personal act can possibly have meaning or value if performed outside the reach of the state. In the face of facts showing that guns save lives, they will still demand disarmament because it would be a transgression against the almighty state if individuals continue to own guns. If something is thought to be wrong in itself, then personal utility is no defense. Utility is morally correct only when it can benefit the state.

The anti-self defense movement, in the guise of the antigun lobby, is in its second generation. Its leaders are well versed in the ways of the irrational republic. The aforementioned fictitious right to be free from one's fears already exists in the irrational minds of tens of millions. With countless more unwilling to bite the hand that feeds them, many will not openly disagree with a policy which forces disarmament, even if indirectly achieved through the coercive threat of litigation and burdensome legislation. The average person has been conditioned to accept irrationalism as a way of life. The man in the street, unable to deal with his own self-doubt, is not equipped to withstand verbal intimidation such as "you can't possibly approve of settling your differences with guns," or "handguns are only meant for killing people," or "we can't allow people to roam the streets armed to the teeth." Statements such as these are designed to trigger emotions, while diverting from the specific and well-defined context of defense of life. Since fundamental contempt for the absolute right to life is left unchallenged, the intimidator remains on the offense.

"The only logically consistent defense of the right to bear arms, which is firmly anchored in reality, is based on the right to life, and nothing more."

Along the same lines, arguments in support of right-to-carry, which rely on body count statistics, cite lack of police protection, or correlate decreased crime with the presence of armed citizens, all place the moral foundation of the right to bear arms on the turbulent, outcome-based grounds of expediency. Any change in the variables, whether actual or perceived, and the "need" to carry will be questioned. The only logically consistent defense of the right to bear arms, which is firmly anchored in reality, is based on the right to life, and nothing more.


The most fundamental of rights is the right to life. It is a "self-evident" truth, the evidence being contained within the truth of life itself: awareness of existence as a self-sustaining process. The only "duty" which can not be shirked is that of self-preservation, which entails the acceptance of existence. Our founding fathers believed that all man's rights were branches of this basic truth. A precondition to the exercise of other rights, life is the ultimate value. As the only "end in itself," it must be self-perpetuating. Thus, life encompasses both the process that supports it (the means), and the value sought strictly for its own sake (as an end). To separate the means from the end is to deny existence. The right to life is unalienable; it can not be forcibly denied, infringed upon, transferred, or renounced.

Since man is morally compelled to seek life, rejecting an action that would sustain it can not be considered good behavior. For example, arming oneself in the face of unprovoked homicidal assault, as a means of resisting life-threatening aggressive force, would be a virtuous act, while disarming oneself in the same situation would be a contradiction: seeking life (an end) while simultaneously not seeking it (rejecting the means).  Also, since the practical consequence of personal disarmament is a denial of individual choice in accessing an indispensable means of self-preservation at the precise moment it is most needed, it becomes an immoral policy. It is most appropriate to viewing life not as an end in itself, but as the means to some other end. In this case, one's martyrdom, expropriated under the guise of heroic altruism, infuses strength into the embodiment of evil, and empowers it to achieve another victory.

When civilized man delegates a general right of public defense to government, he still retains his unalienable right to life. In his moral space each man remains sovereign, in complete control of his own destiny. There is no liability on the part of government for not defending any individual's life. It has no obligation to do so. An innocent person has a lawful right to stop any unprovoked attack on himself, by using a force equal to what he perceives is brought to bear against him. Laws that disarm effectively redefine the common law doctrine of equal force, to require that the innocent party use an inferior level. They also place the individual under a form of prior restraint by preventing his moral exercise of free will: that of choosing whether or not he will allow himself to be senselessly slaughtered. Disarmament forces him to live out his life in default of his nature, subject to the mindlessness of barbarians and the capricious whim of bureaucrats. Reasonable men will disagree, but one ought not hide behind reasonableness in order to evade reason, by which one is aware of the difference between self-esteem and self-sacrifice.

"Laws that disarm effectively redefine the common law doctrine of equal force, to require that the innocent party use an inferior level."


I can not disavow my right to effective self-defense, without forswearing my right to life. To do so is to consciously deny my nature. It would mean that somehow, I have reversed my scale of values from one that holds "good" to be the pursuit of individual excellence, to one that believes that being good is acting in a way that facilitates my own destruction. By refusing to answer life's ultimate demand, I deny my existence as a rational being.

To those who counter that it can never be "good" to take a life, your decision is not to take life, but to face reality. Your own life is held in such esteem, that when there is no escape from a savage assault, the attack must be stopped at all costs. To live is the only concern. You must use whatever force is needed to stop the attack, even if it results in the death of the aggressor. Repudiation of the use of weapons in the defense of life is not a sign of human dignity, but of human frailty. Not only is it an illogical rejection of man's technology designed to protect life, it is a manifestation of one's inability to reconcile facts with feelings, and by retreating into a world where self-reliance becomes self-delusion, evading the possibility that some day one may have to choose to live.

To pronounce that an absolute right to life exists only in a "state of nature," a time before men established governments to protect their rights, is to agree that reality will likely place some of us in the "modern state of nature," where brute force still rules, the weak and defenseless succumb, and government is nowhere to be found. To reply that it is absurd to suggest that everyone go armed at all times is to distort the real issue. The only absurdity is an outright refusal to ever allow the choice of arming, in any given situation. The real crime is not in carrying a weapon to defend your life if the need arises, but in forcing the guiltless between the rock of government and the hard place of merciless depredation. Surrendering the last outpost of individual defense is an act of homage by which lowly vassals declare fealty to the lord of "reasonableness," and eagerly take on the yoke of societal tyranny. The ultimate result of this misguided attempt to shield every citizen from folly is to fill the nation with fools.


If one recognizes that possessing an object may help sustain his life, he will not separate the potential for life sustenance from the actual possession of the object, which will then acquire value. This is quite rational. Now, consider anti-firearm legislation.  It presumes an evil personality in an object, rooted in its supposedly dichotomous nature, in which case society can not be put at risk of it's evil side emerging uncontrollably to wreak havoc on civilized order. This is mindless nonsense. It is a mockery of civilized order to compel the innocent to fall prey to predators and parasites, and, by the very sweat of the brow of those devoured, allow a disinterested oligarchy to sustain the evildoers in further laying waste to law and order.

A citizen's firearm is a tool of personal defense, but if it appears sinister, menacing, or has military features of a cosmetic nature, it's personality somehow changes to that of an "assault weapon." Attempting to remove a man's free will and mysteriously transplant it onto an object is irrational, and forcing the man to obey irrational edicts at the cost of his personal safety is immoral.  As well as a self-determined refusal to be enslaved at the hands of rapists and murderers, human dignity equally demands resistance to the forcible deprivation of liberty at the hands of one's political exploiters. Those who resort to predatory violence must be resisted and overcome, but not at a cost which involves government becoming partners with the lawless in a two step "shakedown" of peaceful citizens.

Arguments to disarm often equate self-defense with vigilantism, by cleverly mixing the specific context of personal defensive force with the larger public context of retaliatory force, the exclusive domain of the police. But as criminal aggressors have no claim to self-defense, citizen defenders abstain from the retaliatory use of force. An armed citizen is not waiting for someone to make his day. However, a police officer as an agent of the public has no greater right, nor greater need, to effectively defend his own life than does a citizen under attack. As an pursuing agent, he may choose to retreat. But once under criminal invasion he has no choice, and is fighting for his life. The life of a citizen in defense is as valuable to himself as that of the agent's is respectively, and, as a corollary of the right to life, the moral soundness of the right of self-defense can not be contingent on the frequency of its need. Allowing weapons of individual defense to be removed from the hands of citizens, and placed exclusively into the hands of a select group, certifies that citizens are expendable commodities, intended to become the fodder of a police state.

Firearms have been in use for the major part of the last millennium, and will continue indefinitely, despite the ill will of the antigun crowd. As personal property, their rightful ownership is grounded in the value of individual labor. The zealots of disarmament wish to ignore this economic reality. Scarcity-inducing legislation, designed to raise the cost of firearms in an attempt to deter their possession, overlooks the fact that those who value firearms have an inelastic demand for them. The feel-good policy of seizing and melting down firearms to be cast into art, as if to appease the gods of vengeance with a sacrificial offering, is merely a remnant of a primitive mentality which attempts to punish objects for their wrongdoing. The notion that feelings create facts is also responsible for the proclamation that firearms are a pathogen infecting the organic body of society. Since this line of thought considers all resources to be part of a common societal pool, it is as normal for diseased cells (disarmed people) to be sacrificed for the health of the body, as it is normal for government to confiscate your earnings and use the funds to propagandize the idea that defending your life is somehow contributing to the "epidemic" of violence.


Our Constitution was not intended to become a replacement for natural law. The founders believed that charters only declared rights that already existed. They could not write a constitution, and declare it fundamental law, unless they had appealed to a higher form of unwritten law to justify their action. Positive law can never become a substitute for moral truth. Defining liberty through law, as a means to virtue, will redefine virtue as an end in itself. Then man will exist in servility for the sake of others. If obedience becomes warranted, then it will be proper to compel it. The higher the level of force required to bend a recalcitrant will, the greater the imperative for its application.  Totalitarianism waits at the end of this road, paved with good intentions, and the bodies of its victims. There is no right to bear arms in such a society, only a duty to sacrifice yourself for the "common good."

That is not the American way. Here, the road to freedom is paved out of personal integrity. A conscious loyalty to principle requires knowing the difference between right and wrong, and deciding that right must always supersede expediency. Virtue remains a choice, for a man can not know good unless he can freely choose it. In America, virtue is not an end in itself, but only a means to liberty. In our system, the individual does not exist to serve society. On the contrary, society exists as the forum where an individual can be the best he can possibly be, fully capable of serving himself, and only then truly able to help others.

The war on reason has not led to utopia, but is leading to a state of ideological anarchy, where the right to life is relative, conditional, and only valid if desired. Under a guise of "common sense," the distortion of mutually agreeable prejudice (political correctness) has entered the arena of public debate. Appeals to "reasonableness" are frequently made to support further restrictions on effective self-defense. Appeasement can no longer be allowed. Altruistic collectivism cloaked in a facade of popular freedom has permeated our culture, and is totally incompatible with the concepts of individual rights and private property. Embracing the moral cowardliness of personal disarmament proclaims that our life, and also our way of life, is not worth keeping.

There is one fundamental right: the right to life. It is solely the pursuit of life's requirements that make the entire concept of "rights" possible. Refusal to accept the absolute nature of this reality is a consequence of turning away from reason as the primary path to knowledge, and replacing ordered consciousness with a mystic transcendence. However, facts and events are logically connected. One mind can not manipulate reality to cause changes in existence any less than a million minds can do so. One can not compromise moral principles, concede rights, ignore the demands of existence, and still expect to exist. But this is what the disciples of disarmament want you to believe, as they implore you to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

The choice is still yours to make.

Also by Larry Rybka

A Judicial Straight Jacket


Printer Version

When you sit down to negotiate on what you already have, you lose. REP. MARIE PARENTE

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