Does government hold the right to deny or disparage liberty?

The Supreme Court announced it will hear a challenge to Chicago’s gun ban.

It seems to me that the right to pursue and protect health and property is one retained by the people.

Does government hold the right to construe law to deny or disparage liberty?
Are governments instituted to secure these inalienable rights for all?


power is not the same as right

Yes, the government does.

I’m not sure if Captain Amazing is being sarcastic or not, but rwjefferson is sort of begging the question.

To take the OP’s question at face value, it depends on what political philosophy you adhere to. The answer would be “yes” if you go by the classic treatise Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes, in which Hobbes argued that all government by necessity infringes on each individual’s “right” to limitlessly pursue their self-interest, which would lead to a “war of all against all”. In Hobbes view, the basic social contract is to surrender one’s freedom to the state in exchange for protection from violent death at the hands of the lawless.

The answer would be “no” according to the natural rights view espoused by the Enlightenment-era political philosophers who inspired the Founding Fathers and which largely underlies the Constitutions (state and federal) of the USA.

In any case, the city of Chicago and/or the state of Illinois will argue that handgun bans aren’t “denying liberty”, but a reasonable and necessary measure to maintain public safety. Of course no government up to and including the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia ever thinks it’s doing wrong.

Outside of liberties that are guaranteed you by law, all other liberties are subject to being appropriated by the government.

In any event, the Chicago case is significant because it will almost certainly raise the issue of the incorporation of the Second Amendment. That is, it will determine if it applies to state governments rather than just the federal government. I personally believe that it does, but legally it’s not a slam-dunk. Remember, before the practice was specifically banned by the Thirteenth Amendment, it was held to be within a state government’s purview to respect and uphold the institution of chattel slavery(!) The argument could be made that state governments retain a “state’s right” to regulate the bearing of arms to the point of effectively banning them. I personally believe that that would violate the spirit of the Second Amendment, but the Supreme Court (not necessarily this one) has a long history of picking what outcome they consider desirable and then finding the justification afterwards. We’ll have to see.

ETA: Sage Rat, that may be effectively how things work out in practice but it pretty much is contradicted by the letter of the Constitution. At bottom the whole question is a struggle between libertarian and authoritarian views of government, which is why cases endlessly come up before the Supreme Court.

And a lovely addendum to that is that even the most basic liberties proclaimed in the Bill of Rights can be voted away.

When they were writing the Constitution that may have been the intent. But at the end of the day the whole rest of the country went, “Nuh uh, you want us to sign that in, you’d better lay out some specific liberties that are guaranteed, because we don’t trust that shit.” So I’d say that in the debate between theory and reality, reality already won it the second that the Bill of Rights was drawn up.

But one of the “specific liberties” was to explicitly say that all authority not granted the Federal government was retained by the states or the people. Granted that given such tortuous sophistries as the modern interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause, it’s a good thing a Bill of Rights was insisted upon, but it shouldn’t have had to be that way.

Literally everything the government does denies liberty to some degree. That’s what it means to have a group of people who get together and make decisions about your life. It varies in degree from a bagel breakfast among congressmen paid for by your tax dollars all the way to arresting people for the chemical they decide to put in their bodies. Unless you deny government altogether, the question is just where to draw the line.

Is self-defense so essential a liberty as to be untouchable? Clearly not. There are plenty of things that could be done in the name of self-defense that people of goodwill of all political stripes find unacceptable. Is having a gun in the home for self-defense untouchable? Maybe it is. In a big, complex society, we have to draw difficult lines. And not just on this issue. We do it with drug laws, abortion laws, roving wiretaps, campaign finance, death penalty, tax rates, consumer regulation, environmental law, etc. Self-defense is one of the hundreds of important liberties in our lives that must be carefully balanced against everything else.

And we would do that careful balancing more effectively, in my opinion, if we didn’t frame every issue as tyranny vs. liberty. Tyranny vs. liberty is an appropriate framework for discussions of things like whether or not we should have universal suffrage, an independent judiciary, or slavery. It is not the appropriate framework for discussing whether someone should be able to smoke pot for their cancer, get a third trimester abortion, carry a .45, or donate thousands to a political candidate. Not that bodily autonomy, self-defense, and free speech aren’t important - they are extremely important and worth fighting for - but the line between tyranny and liberty is not, I’m quite sure, somewhere between Alabama and California. It’s somewhere between Alabama and Iran (or California and Iran, depending on your perspective). And I think if we remember that, and discuss these issues by acknowledging the complexity involved and without shrouding ourselves in the Declaration of Independence every time someone disagrees, we would be better off.

Governments are instituted to secure the inalienable right of liberty equally for all.

I draw the line at peaceful and well regulated pursuit of happiness.
Carefully balanced is not the same as prohibition.
Carefully balance means the same as well regulated.
I draw the line at innocent until proven guilty.

power is not the same as right


everything is a question of tyranny vs well regulated right

Ouch. I guess Chicago loves the Naked Gun movies.

In any case if possessions of guns is allowed, “gun ban” is a loaded term. (Nevermind describing gun regulations as ‘denying or disparaging liberty!’) If we’re going to have an actual discussion of Chicago gun laws, it would be great if somebody could provide those laws. What are the laws in Chicago, rwjefferson?

You have to remember a few things

First of all rights are never absolute. The best example is you have a right to free speech but no right to yell fire in a crowded theatre.

Through the years most of the rights and responsibilites of the federal government have been applied to the states through the 14th Amendment’s “due process clause.”

The 2nd Amendement is one that has not. In additon due to the wording of the 21st Amendment certain additional rules apply to alcohol which would normally not have been covered.

Now the Supreme Court recognizes that sometimes parts of the US Constitution conflict and when that happens it is the court that decides which right has priority.

One of the posters mentioned the 10th Amendment

Now that seems to be straightforward, but is it? For instance the Constitution delgates to the Federal system the right to regulate interstate commerce. That is a HUGE deal. What doens’t move interstate now-a-days? Pretty much everything does?

The Supreme Court is basically a living Constitutional Convention in that it decides based on current thought what is correct. For istance at one time they tried to pass an amendment to regulate child labor. This didn’t pass, but it’s unthinkable today an amendmenmt would be needed for the feds to regulate child labor

I don’t own a gun and (hopefully) never will. The Second Amendment is so jaw-droppingly clear that I’m at a loss at how people can be confused. It’s like someone reciting “Little Miss Muffet” and having a 400 year debate on whether curds and whey are legal for consumption. Guns should be legal without restriction. You all will think I’m crazy but I’m still unclear why its illegal to purchase a weaponized flamethrower and accelerant or a tommy gun - are these weapons an arm or not? The way we classify what is an “arm” is entirely arbitrary. Either come up with a definition of an “arm” or relax it to encompass all armaments.

The same people who have a conservative reading of the Second Amendment likely have a frank interpretation of Fourteenth Amendment. What scares me is that while we’re willing to gut the 2nd, what happens when the 13th or 14th goes up to the chopping block? It’s a dangerous precedent.

  • Honesty

No, they aren’t. Governments are instituted to give one entity a monopoly on force in order to eliminate the State of Nature and allow most individuals to live an ordered existence.

Maybe you don’t accept that, but unless you want to be pigheaded and/or disingenuous, you must accept that your political philosophy is not inherently superior to my political philosophy. Ergo, these bald statements by fiat don’t serve your case. They offer no support to those who already agree, and no persuasive force to those who do not.


Actually, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” can easily be interpreted to mean that only National Guard members have the right to own arms. The courts haven’t chosen to see it that way, but yes it can be read more than one way.

As for why flamethrowers and such aren’t included; it’s part the practical matter of how much damage such weapons would do. And, I expect it’s the fact that actually allowing private ownership of everything labeled an “arm” would be the death knell of the gun rights movement; a new Amendment greatly restricting weapon ownership would be passed quite quickly, written by the light of our burning cities.

The Second Amendment unfortunately is nowhere near gutted. And getting rid of it might focus some attention of the rights that actually matter; in modern America the main function of the Second Amendment is to distract people while they are screwed over. Many people are too busy clutching useless guns to worry about the other Amendments.

I stand corrected.

Just governments are instituted to secure the inalienable rights of liberty and justice for all.
All are innocent until proven guilty.
Power is not the same as right.

Tyranny of law or majority is not necessarily the same as liberty and justice for all.


Some quick 'n dirty info from Wikipedia:

. Apparently that’s possession, as in even within your private residence, not just public carry.

That would be only fitting, inasmuch as that is how they were established in the first place. Where did you think the Bill of Rights came from, Mount Sinai?

Yes, but all that means is that anything which isn’t yet covered by law is assumed to be legal. It doesn’t and hasn’t ever removed the right for the government to create a law which controlled that aspect of human behavior.

Unless the United States does things differently, removing the “right” for the government to create laws outside of those permitted is the whole point of having a Constitution.