David Kairys

Document Type



The importance and universality of self-defense rights are beyond dispute. Self-defense emerged as a major social and constitutional issue in the second half of the twentieth century focused on minorities and women before it provided the primary basis for expansive Second Amendment rights. Supporters of broad Second Amendment rights base them on an individual and collective right to self-defense against attacks by others, but they differ about the source of the danger—the others who are attacking. Professor Nicholas Johnson emphasizes that law-abiding blacks are most at risk and most need guns to defend themselves because of black-on-black violence and the government’s failure to provide safety. He opposes gun regulation, which he considers “disarmament,” and favors armed selfdefense. The import of the common arguments of opponents of gun regulation is that their absolutist understanding of their rights to selfdefense and freedom, their dire perceptions of the perils of government, and their fantasies of the necessity and efficacy of armed resistance to the federal government require the rest of us to live with the open gun market, with its very real and immediate toll of over 30,000 people shot dead a year, and with the usually unspoken normalcy of widespread murder and fear that undermines the quality and tenor of daily life. But there are regulations that would significantly reduce the easy availability of guns to criminals, youth, and mass murderers without interfering with self-defense. Blacks and whites, and everybody else, do not need that open gun market for self-defense. Self-defense and gun regulation can coexist.