On Nov 8th, 2022 Oregon’s voters, by a very narrow margin, passed ballot measure no.114 which seeks to limit guns magazines capacity to 10 rounds and requires obtaining a permit, for which a safety class must be taken and an additional background check must be passed, to purchase firearms.
The purpose of this article is not to discuss the legality of this measure or its justification, whether realistic or not, but to understand the principles that underlie this passage.
Natural Rights Law
It means that our rights are natural, and derived from our humanity. Religious people often replace humanity as the source of our rights with God as we read in the declaration of independence
“ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness “
Such an understanding of natural rights is not an invention of the American civilization nor the Western culture, but it is an understanding that humanity constantly expresses throughout history.
Since humans are equal in humanity, our rights are also equal stem from our sovereignty. We are sovereign and we are at liberty to express our sovereignty, defend it, and act upon it as long it doesn’t interfere with or violate others’ sovereignty. The formation of society, the organization of government, and the adaptation of a social culture do not add to these natural rights more strength and legitimacy; for these rights as discussed are derived from our humanity and not from any other structure.
The natural rights law is one that protects these rights from government and peer violations. Moreover, it is the law that acknowledges the preexistence of our natural rights before the formation of governments or authorities. Accordingly, natural rights cannot be taken by a government, legislation, or a majority vote. It simply cannot be removed or restricted by any authority since their humanity, the source of these rights, preexist any authority unless the individual relinquishes them to authority or by violating others’ rights.
The right to life, dignity, privacy, faith, knowledge, free speech, peaceful assembly, redress grievances, to withdraw consent to be governed, and to defend ourselves are natural rights that are expressed and acknowledged in our Constitution.
Our natural rights have been under attack for so long to the point that many people do not realize that we have rights that are being violated on regular basis. Notoriously, our privacy and freedom of commerce and movement with the Patriot Act by Bush, the suspension of habeas corpus by Obama, and the freedom of movement and commerce by Trump and Biden. Our natural rights are being violated by legislations and executive orders.
Democracy and Natural Rights
Nevertheless, recently, we saw something different. We saw that the slim majority of the voters in Oregon were willing to authorize the government to violate the right of almost the other half of the population. This is unusual and speaks to a dangerous lack of understanding the natural rights.
We established that our natural rights cannot be taken away from us by any authority, legislation or vote, with an exception for these that we relinquish ourselves either by a contract or violation.
It seems that we are coexisting with people who think that democracy is the ultimate authority, and a majority vote could establish rights or remove them. In their minds, removing others’ rights by a vote is acceptable, moral, and humane. This understanding, I argue, is not only immoral for the possibility of violating natural rights but outright dangerous; for there will be no limits to what they can violate under just any excuse.
I think that you can see the significance of what just happened in Oregon. This discussion is not just about restricting our natural rights as a collective punishment for actions we have not taken or condoned but about their ability to do so simply by a majority vote.
Democracy as a system in itself is neutral, it could be a source of evil when it’s used to do evil and it could be good when used for good. Having no guidance on what is good and what is bad before utilizing the democratic system is risky and possibly dangerous. Worse, is replacing higher laws as the guidance for our utilization of the democratic system by the very democratic system itself. The popular opinion in such cases will be the new definition of good.
What are the limits? How far the majority vote should go? If natural rights are not being protected, and the majority vote can make it legally permissible to violate others’ rights, then what prevents society from violating others’ rights? What would prevent people with the mentioned mentality from imprisoning you or ending your life if the popular vote deemed you unworthy of living, or for your insistence on practicing your natural rights?
This a dire time. And it seems that the social engineers are at work, redefining our principles and shaping our opinions. I have not witnessed or heard of any other time in our history as humans in which society is confused and the basic understanding of humanity itself is being altered.
We have to revisit our values and rationally spread them. And remember that you are sovereign and you are the authority, just say NO.