by Bob Barr
Among the bleak, often harrowing images coming to us from Ukraine as it suffers a vicious invasion by Russia, there are images of hope and strength. Pictures of civilians lining-up to receive firearms or forming makeshift assembly lines to assemble Molotov Cocktails, are examples of something that many Liberals simply fail to grasp as a moving force of human nature – acts of self-preservation against those who would take away individual liberty.
“The first and strongest desire God planted in men, and wrought into the very principles of their nature, [is] that of self-preservation,” John Locke wrote in 1689. The response of Ukraine citizens (who just days before might have been planning vacations or running errands) to arm and fight against Russian invaders, is perhaps one of the best examples in modern history of what Locke meant.
Survival is an instinct of humanity, and self-preservation is its natural mechanism. Government, as our Founders clearly understood (and they knew Locke’s writings well), is – should be – instituted in order to preserve freedom and human life, not limit, or restrain it, whether by force or decree.
This is a principle the Left seems never to understand or accept about the Second Amendment.
Although liberals want to pretend the scope of the Second Amendment is a collective right only applicable to militias, or hunting at the most as an individual right, such a position is wholly at odds with the Amendment’s philosophical and historical foundation.
The Second Amendment was, and continues to this day to be, a codification of the natural right to self-preservation, and self-defense.
Regardless of whether a nation codifies that right in its laws and founding documents, and as we see on display in Ukraine today, preserving and defending oneself and family against a violent aggressor with the one instrument most suitable for such endeavor, remains today as in 1791 (the year the Second Amendment was ratified) an immutable fact of human nature.
As Americans, we are fortunate not to have fought a war against a foreign army on our soil for more than two centuries. Still, in times of violent domestic unrest, whether 1992 Los Angeles or 2020 in cities across the country, the Second Amendment’s guarantee for defense of one’s life and property remains as important today as in every previous era. Israel, which faces constant dangers to its citizens and its national existence, understands this; and the people of Ukraine clearly understand it today.
True law enforcement officers — that is those in police departments not controlled by namby-pamby, “woke” political appointees – understand this maxim. In one such instance in 2020, New York resident Scott Kaufman called police to report a “dangerous standoff” between his neighbor and protestors. “Sir, the city is under attack,” he says the police told him. “Do what you have to do.” Nobody was coming to “de-escalate” the situation or protect Kaufman if it spiraled out of control. In that moment, he alone was responsible for his survival, as were millions of Americans across the nation during those turbulent months. The institutions Democrats have told us for decades supplanted the need for the Second Amendment failed, as they have before, and certainly will again.
Democrats live in a fiction, where safety and peace are achieved through social control via laws and forced behavior. In their fantasy world, should those controls fail, government is fully equipped to step in and save the day. The rest of us know this is simply not true. Riots. Natural disasters. Pandemics. Terrorism. War. These are all unpredictable and often unstoppable forces that disrupt the social order and force citizens to self-reliance.
In such situations, the philosophical arguments about what citizens “need” to defend themselves collide with an unavoidable reality that laws cannot instantly change to meet the situation. In states and cities governed according to oppressive gun-control measures, that decision would already have been made. As a violent mob marches towards the doorstep, there would be no magic AR-15s that suddenly appear in one’s closet, nor would police appear in a flash.
Whether war, or riots, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time – taking ownership for one’s safety in the best manner one can is the exclusive, natural right of citizens. 21st Century Ukrainians understand this, and Russian invaders are finding it out.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.