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by Michael Mitchell

April 8, 2002

“The extremists at the NRA are determined not to see the Brady Bill passed...”

“The gun-ban extremists at the Brady Campaign (formerly Handgun Control, Inc.)...”

Both sides in the gun debate hurl the label of “extremist” at their opposition. And, each side goes to great lengths to convince the general public that they are not extremist. The implication, of course, is that being an extremist is necessarily wrong. But is it?

To be extreme is to be consistent. Always to choose one particular side of a given issue is to be extreme. The basic error in assuming that “extremist” equals “wrong” is the failure to ask the question: Extreme about what? Extreme in support of or opposition to what principle? Equating “extreme” with “incorrect” is a logical fallacy, an attempted shortcut past the necessary evaluation of right or wrong.

The question of right versus wrong is a question of values. What we value, we hold as good. What we don’t, is wrong. The gun rights lobby holds individual freedom and the right to keep and bear arms as the good. The gun control (crime facilitation) lobby holds unregulated private possession of weapons as wrong. However, to evaluate the true value of a position, you must ask: Of value to whom and for what? Let us examine, for a moment, the logical trail that demonstrates that the right to keep and bear arms is essential to existence.

The most basic human right is the right to life. It’s enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. Without the right to life, all the other rights are irrelevant. The other rights merely support the right to life, to a life proper to a human being - which is to say, a life that furthers itself without sacrificing the rights of others.

The right to life is based in existence; that is, in the fact that we are alive. You have, therefore, a choice: To value life, or to value its opposite, death. (If you value death, there are abundant methods for relieving yourself of your burden of life.)

Let us assume, then, that you choose to value life. That becomes your standard of right and wrong. That which furthers your life, is the good. That which threatens it, is the bad. Taking medication to cure illness, is good. Overeating, and thereby increasing your risk of heart disease through obesity, is bad.

Sometimes, threats to our lives come from outside our own actions. Therefore, the right to life necessarily demands that the individual be empowered to preserve it when threatened - which is the right of self defense. The right to defend one’s life when attacked becomes fundamental, as rigidly ‘right’ as the right to life itself. For, if you have no right to preserve your life, then you have no right to life, for it can be removed by any random assailant.

In order for the right to self-defense to be valid, the right to obtain the means of self-defense must be guaranteed. It is a contradiction to suggest that a man has a right to defend himself if attacked, but then to deny him access to the means of doing so. Denial of the means is denial of the right - which, by our previously established standard, is in support of the antithesis of life - or death. Therefore, the right to keep and bear arms is a necessary corollary to the right to life.

Now, we can see, at its core, the fundamental position of each side in the gun debate. Those who support the right to keep and bear arms support life, and the individual’s right to it. Those who oppose private weapons ownership oppose life.

What has all of this do to with extremism? If you are ‘extreme’ in your support of your standard of value - life - then where is the wrong in that? Any concession towards life’s opposite, which is death, represents a compromise between good and evil, between food and poison, and it is abundantly clear which side gains in that exchange, and which side loses.

One’s standard of value determines right and wrong. Being extreme in support of your own life simply means that you refuse to make concessions to death. So, the next time someone accuses you of being a ‘gun nut extremist’, you can reply, “What’s wrong with consistently defending life?”

(Credit to the works of Ayn Rand, with much appreciation.)

Copyright 2002 Michael A. Mitchell. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article in its entirety, including this copyright notice. Mike writes for; read some of his other work at You can contact Mike at


Printer Version

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. — Alexis de Tocqueville

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