Human Rights versus California Politicians- which right of self-defense do we have?

By Rob Morse

Slow Facts
Slow Facts

Human Rights versus California Politicians- which right of self-defense do we have? by Greg Hopkins and Rob Morse, December 2016

Louisiana- ( Is there a human right to self-defense?  The answer might change once Republicans control the federal government.  Legislative and judicial decision will rest on who makes the rules rather than who makes the best arguments.  The argument will not be if there is a right of self-defense, but rather which particular right of self-defense is recognized. Here is what is at stake.

As a concrete and current example, California can regulate the cars that California citizens can drive. So far, you can visit California with a “non-California compliant” car.  California applies a different standard to visiting gun owners.  California does not recognize any other states’ concealed carry permits.  California also requires customized guns and ammunition, just as they require customized automobiles.  

California refuses to recognize your right to self defense.

In California, even local governments have the right to infringe on your right to self-defense.  You don’t have much of a right left if the state, county, and city can establish their own regulations.  It shouldn’t surprise you that California state politicians and the police are exempt from these same firearms regulations. 


California gun laws are stranger still. It seems that some “local control” is approved, but some local control isn’t.  Regulation only goes one way.  One government body can say “some guns are outlawed”, but a second government body can not say “everyone must be armed” because guns save lives.  Before you think a law like that is absurd, remember that there is already legal precedent for exactly such a law.  The US Supreme Court recently ruled that citizens can be forced to buy health insurance. Therefore, citizens can also be forced to buy firearms, and be fined if they don’t. “It’s only a tax.” to quote Chief Justice Roberts.  You see, rules matter after all.

Determining the rules will determine who defines the right of self-defense.

A recent ruling by the 9th Circuit leaves individual sheriffs to decide which California citizens may carry a gun in public.  That decision is based on nothing more than each sheriff’s personal prejudices.

Civilians and law enforcement look the same on the firearms training range, yet, ultimately a sheriff gets to arbitrarily decide who lives and who dies out on the streets.  It is ironic that law enforcement officials disarm honest gun owners, yet violent felons remain armed.  Criminals ignore our gun laws, including the licensing requirements that disarm private citizens.  Lives are at stake.

As I say in my book, self-defense is the difference between you getting to tell the cops what happened; and cops guessing what happened as they draw a chalk line around your body. In California, the courts and legislature are perfectly okay with the risk to your life by letting sheriffs make the rules.  This patchwork application of a fundamental right is clearly a violation of “equal protection” under the 14th Amendment.

What kind of right do we have?

Is the right of self-defense a super-right, like the right to abortion?  Judges ruled that the failure of government to provide subsidized abortion everywhere was the loss of a human right.  If the right of self-defense is treated the same way, then we should subsidize guns, ammunition, and shooting ranges for poor people in remote areas.

Is the right of self-defense granted by law, or is it merely recognized by law?  The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that we have “the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms”. In other words, the natural right of self-defense, and the necessary tools to exercise that right, do not depend on the Constitution. The Constitution merely recognized this God-given right which is inherent to every person.

In sharp contrast, California passed a law in 2015 that any person alleged to be mentally unstable or dangerous can, without a hearing, have their guns seized until a hearing is held. This tramples the 2d Amendment and also the 4th Amendment right of individuals to be secure in in their persons, houses papers and things.  In California, you’re no longer innocent until proven guilty.

Since the right of self-defense is a fundamental right, can local governments forbid it?  The Supreme Court said the right of self-defense must be preserved, but can be regulated.  For example, felons and the mentally ill may be denied the use of firearms. Guns may also be restricted in some sensitive areas like courthouses. These restrictions have been recognized for hundreds of years.

The founders allowed ordinary citizens to own cannon, yet today, California restricts the legally allowed color of guns that ordinary citizens can possess.  In addition, California dictates the smallest details of a firearm. That sure sounds like infringement to us.

Is the right of self-defense a fundamental right?  We can easily make this case:
-An armed populace is critical to the government interest of public safety. (Remember that the cops are not there to protect you.)
-Acknowledging the right to be armed imposes the fewest restrictions on the general public compared to the broad regulation necessary to provide the same level of public safety.
-Armed civilians offer the greatest scope of private action compared to the oppressive police state required to achieve the same degree of public safety.

Is regulating the right of self-defense in the interest of the general public, or are politicians regulating for their narrow benefit? Politicians usually take the political positions which get them the largest campaign contributions.  Are the gun laws that restrict your rights motivated by statistical research into public safety, or are they motivated by campaign donations.  Sadly, we can follow the money to determine which legislators will deny your right to self-defense.

Politicians are lured by more than money.  Some politicians love to exercise power over others.  Like Hollywood celebrities, these politicians will have armed security with them for the rest of their lives.  They travel and are protected at taxpayer expense, while at the same time these politicians deny you the right to protect your family in public.  Many politicians would deny you the right to own guns altogether if they could.

Do legislators only have to offer up a good sounding justification for regulation, or do legal restrictions actually have to make us safer?  Politicians and their hired consultants will provide mountains of excuses why they had to restrict our rights in the name of the public good.  Politicians will claim that private gun ownership interferes with the police powers of the state.  History shows us the bloody results when governments are armed and citizens are left defenseless. (and here, and here)

Politicians will tell us the science is settled, but a politician’s opinion isn’t historical fact.  There is no real data that conclusively shows the benefits of gun control in reducing the rate of homicide.  In contrast, we’ve seen the rate of gun ownership double in the last few decades.  Homicide rates declined by half over the same time period.

Those are the nature of the arguments that will be made, both for and against the right of self-defense.  Unfortunately, politicians and regulators will continue to accept campaign donations and violate our rights until they are prosecuted in court for doing so.

Is the right of self-defense merely a matter of politics?  Elected officials may resort to brute politics to get their way.  Federal officials may say to the states, “Do what I say, or no highway and school funding for you.”  We’ve seen that done before. As we stated, the right of self-defense is a fundamental, inherently human, and preexisting right affirmed and enshrined by the 2d Amendment.  It is the “life” part of the “self-evident” truths of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  Without the right to life, and the right to defend it, then liberty and the pursuit of happiness are moot points.

Fundamental rights should not be subject to politics except to make them inviolable by courts or legislatures. It is up to citizens like us to hold our legislatures to their true purpose of protecting our rights.

Rob Morse: Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob is an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.

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Jim M

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241
Conspiracy Against Rights This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same). It further makes it unlawful for two or more persons to go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another with the intent to prevent or hinder his/her free exercise or enjoyment… Read more »


Existing law being what it is, assuming it is quoted correctly, how come the U.S. Dept. of Justice is nowhere to be seen?


We need to draft and pass the Second Amendment Clarification Act, in which we make all state and local gun registries illegal and insure that all the information already being held in existing registries is completely and permanently destroyed. I also think the Act should dissolve the BATFE, and nullify the NFA of 1934, the FFA of 1938, the GCA of 1968 and the Hughes Amendment of 1986. The text of the Act should include the following from The Second Amendment Primer by Les Adams, page 112: A well-regulated militia [that is, well functioning, and well trained in the use… Read more »


Well said sir. Now how do you propose getting say 100,000,000 citizens to start climbing up and down on their “elected reps” regarding enacting such a proposal, for I very much suspect that that is what it would take, and even that might prove insufficient. By the way, a single letter, email or phone call would obviously not suffice. Their offices would need to be overwhelmed with the volume of constituent input, and the input would have to be ongoing, via all available mediums. The following is from my personal experience. At one of the regular general membership meetings of… Read more »

Gary Brennan

I think when Trump builds his wall, it should cover the border between Mexico and the USA and then cut north between Arizona, Nevada and Idaho cutting off California, Oregon and Washington. If the last two want to stay, it would save us a lot of money when we cut west between Oregon and California.

Lance Hardwood

I agree with the wall idea, except to stop it in the middle of the state and go west to the bottom of the bay area, up around SF. There is a big difference between NorCal & SoCal. NorCal has great hunting and fishing. Also home to the States Republicans. SoCal and SF peninsula have all the liberal, pavement loving, plant eating, job killing, tree hugging, morons. I read it a lot, but please stop lumping northern and southern California together. But in everyone’s defense, SoCal people are moving up here to get away from their violent, criminal filled, traffic… Read more »


Re the fact that the antics of California law makers would appear to be clearly in violation of The Second Amendment, possibly the Fourteenth too, I wonder, perhaps foolishly, how come The U.S. Supreme Court has had virtually nothing to say in regard to the California legislatures ongoing transgressions?



Good question. My guess is no one has tried. The Ninth Circuit court would certainly side with them.

Wild Bill

@Albbac2 there must be a case in controversy. The case must work its way through the lower federal courts and that is really expensive. The S. Ct., over the many years, has developed a complex series of spider web rules, of their own, to keep cases off their desks: ripeness, mootness, case in controversy, and many others. The most difficult class that I ever took concerned these rules.


Maybe We The People should start making citizens arrest on law makers that want to take our rights away from law abiding citizens. I’m just saying.


You may have read in the article that police and politicians are exempt from these unconstitutional laws.


Lee, I believe the courts have ruled that lawmakers are immune from prosecution. So it’s OK for them to violate their oath in the eyes of the court. Maybe we should start by hanging the judges for treason. I’ll settle for impeachment.


I knew kalifornia was screwed up with all their liberal laws and legislation, but the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. I really feel sorry for people who are forced to live under these punitive and socialist laws. I understand the need to have a job and that would be the only reason I would even consider staying in kali. I’d be looking to get out ASAP at retirement or be looking for another job.


Yup! I’be been thinking about retiring out of California for several years know. However, for the moment, I believe we can pause and give Trump a chance. We’ll see what comes down from Washington DC.

General Petraeus and Mayor Rudy Giuliani are not to be seen in the Trump administration. Coincidence …. I think NOT. Both were anti Second Amendment. So it’s very likely that Trump is listening to us and remembers who put him in office.


The second amendment is why the Japanese never attacked the lower us states. They tried in Alaska unsuccessfully.

One of their generals said “if we attack the united states there will be a man with a rifle behind every blade of grass”


I’m glad someone know their history.

Wild Bill

@John Dunlap, Admiral Yamamoto.


Thanks, I can never remember the name.


“Is the right of self-defense a super-right, like the right to abortion? Judges ruled that the failure of government to provide subsidized abortion everywhere was the loss of a human right. If the right of self-defense is treated the same way, then we should subsidize guns, ammunition, and shooting ranges for poor people in remote areas.” According to the 2nd Amendment, it is. When the Constitution was written, the militia was all the people. In Article I, section 8, it states: “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term… Read more »

Steve H.

Great article. There is no personal freedom in a police state. Better to live and go to jail than have someone hurt my family. I am elderly, and no longer the imposing figure I used to be. Guns equalize age and numbers with criminals that want to prey on the weak. California politicians are so selfish and quite frankly want to control everyone. It’s not gun control, it’s people control. Guns are a necessary tool that should be used when needed. If you cannot carry one, you cannot use it when you need to.


This problem will be moot when California withdraws from the US as they keep threatening. Their state has no legal authority to regulate the second amendment. That rests with the federal government in shall not be infringed.


Several states tried withdrawing from the union a while back, an action that led to some serious social intercourse problems. Think that California’s attempt to leave, if such action were actually taken would stand?


in the case of California they may make an exception. It would eliminate Pelosi, and Feinstein.
That in itself would be worthwhile.


I believe both Feinstein and Boxer are on their respective ways out.