Change & the rate of change, Government & Law

Individual vs. Collective Rights

March 12, 2018

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution establish and guarantee all citizens equality and basic rights and freedoms.  They also create a government charged with protecting the collective citizenry, the Nation, our democracy.  We have discussed before the requirement for strong ‘community’, from family, to local, to national, for the health of the democracy – citizens who share values and challenges and support each other.  Individual rights and freedoms are not absolute and unconstrained.  Likewise government rules and regulations cannot be so burdensome as to squelch individual rights.  The balance needs to be defined via a democratic process and needs to be revisited periodically as the nation and its place in the world community evolve.

‘Freedom of speech’ is a good case in point.  We all can express ourselves as we see fit, but there are limits.  We cannot, for example, yell ‘fire’ in a theater.  This would clearly cause chaos, uncertainty and possible personal injury – clear threat to the welfare of local community.  There are also liable laws.  We cannot deliberately impugn the name of another or of an organization.

Second amendment gun rights should be viewed in a similar light.  Right to regulate is not the issue.  We have had and continue to have laws and regulations pertaining to firearms.  The issue is whether the balance between individual rights and society’s collective rights is correct.  In particular, do semi-automatic weapons pose an unacceptable risk to public gatherings?  Likewise are there public gathering venues that by their nature would be at risk in the presence of concealed or semi-automatic weapons; such as schools, churches, or legislative chambers, for example.

Our world continues to evolve.  Weapons, security systems, and the public attitudes are evolving and increasingly at a faster pace.  Yesterday’s balance between individual and collective rights may not be appropriate for today or tomorrow.  Debate needs to being ongoing.

Photo by Mr.TinDC

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