The Problem With Outdated “Rights”: 2 Teens in Georgia Shoot and Kill Infant

How and why do certain understandings of what is a human right come to gain authority? Who is authorized to declare what is and what is not a ‘right’, and whose voices are marginalized in the process? More specifically, how is it that in America it is considered an inalienable right to own a gun, while health care, education, and water are not considered fundamental human rights? Since the “right to bear arms” was initially created to ensure that Americans could overthrow the government should it become oppressive, why on earth would it remain intact today when there is no possible way that mere handgun fire could match the might of the American military?
Sadly, the answer –like most everything in America– comes down to the powerfully linked triad of capital-state-culture. American neoliberal “Raeganomics”, violently defended by the wealthy financiers and the mindless drone media networks they fund (i.e. Fox News), is predicated upon a republic of private property. Private property regimes allow capitalist accumulation to flow up, up, up, and –despite what the ideal suggests– little, if any whatsoever, ‘trickles back down’. Gun ownership protects Americans’ rights to protect their private property, cementing a very individualist, Right Wing vision of capitalist economics with the force of violence. However, most Americans won’t mention private property or neoliberal ideology when giving their reasons for needing guns, because the idea of gun ownership has been historically socially produced to mean something very important in American popular culture. Gun culture in America has eclipsed any sort of rational reasoning for gun ownership vs. gun control laws.
2365537_GHowever, when devastating events like the shooting that occurred this past Thursday, April 22nd, occur, it becomes harder and harder to defend the right to carry around a lethal weapon to run your day to day errands. Two teenagers shot and killed a 13-month old infant in Georgia while his Mother was taking him out for a stroll in his carriage. Sherry West was walking her son, Antonio, along a historic tree-lined street when two boys approached her and demanded money. When she said she didn’t have any, they threatened to kill her baby.
This news piece reports:

Authorities said one of the teens fired four shots, grazing West’s ear and striking her in the leg, before he walked around to the stroller and shot the baby in the face.

Seventeen-year-old De’Marquis Elkins is charged as an adult with first-degree murder, along with a 14-year-old who was not identified because he is a juvenile, Police Chief Tobe Green said.

This horrific event is not the first and will certainly not be the last tragedy that befalls America due to criminally outdated rights legislation. When children are shooting babies, something fundamental about the culture of guns needs to change, and along with it the ideology that is is ‘every man/woman for themselves’. Until we can unite, treat our fellow citizens non-violently, view ourselves as a collective rather than individuals, and replace hate with love, violence, competition, greed, inequality and individualism will wreak havoc. It’s time for a shift in the way we view the world, and consequently how we act in it.


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3 Comments on “The Problem With Outdated “Rights”: 2 Teens in Georgia Shoot and Kill Infant”

  1. lwk2431 March 23, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    You wrote:

    “…how is it that in America it is considered an inalienable right to own a gun, while health care, education, and water are not considered a fundamental human right…”

    Health care, education, water, etc are not inalienable human rights. If you want health care, for example, that means you want someone else to provide you with a service. You can get that person to provide that service to you in one of two possible ways. You can enter into a voluntary transaction with that person where the free will and rights of neither party is violated. Or you can use force (through the government ususally) to make that person serve you. By definition a person who is forced to serve another is a slave.

    In modern terminolgy true rights are “negative rights,” that is, the right to not be subjected to force against your will. Any claim to a “right” that requires the government to force someone to provide whatever it you claim to want or need must end in a violation of the right of another’s free will, a violation of their true rights.

    The right to possess a firearm is the right to self defense, the right to self defense against criminals and criminal governments.

    Self defense is an inalienable right. Health care is, or at least should be, contingent of the free will of all parties, those who need care, and those who will provide health care.

    There is an important principle here. Modern lingo talks of “negative” and “positive” rights. In fact there are only rights, and true rights are prohibitions against the violation of free will – nothing else. If you seek to enforce “positive” rights (health care, etc.) then you must destroy all concepts of real rights, what many today call “negative” rights. You cannot have both, just like you can’t have both good health and cancer at the same time.


    • andhastings March 23, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

      “The right to possess a firearm is the right to self defense, the right to self defense against criminals and criminal governments.”

      Simply untrue.

      The right to self defense can exist without the right to possess a firearm. I don’t know why you link those two things.

      Anyway, this whole event is a terrible tragedy, one in a string of many, many, violent gun crimes in the US as of late.

      I find it depressingly ironic that Americans are so protective of their “freedoms”, yet they’re enslaved by corporate lobbyists, buried in crushing debt (both personal and federal), and have the highest incarceration rate of their citizens of any country in the world.

    • utopiandreaming March 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

      Rights are what are considered necessary for governments to ensure for all citizens, through law and through provision programs. Rights have nothing to do with ‘using force to make someone serve you’. As andhastings mentions, the right to self defense does not automatically translate into the right to possess a gun. As well, all rights discourse is socially produced, so what is and what is not a ‘right’ that citizens expect the government to ensure is contested. Arguably, health and clean water are things that people deserve (which are more fundamental needs for human life than a gun for self defense), and so a government who is responsible to the people should strive to ensure these things are provided to all, not allow corporations to select who deserves these things through who is capable of *paying* for them and who is not capable of doing so. This has nothing to do with “violating free will”.

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