Privilege VS. Right

Anyone who follows the NMA NEWS knows there is a running debate on whether or not driving is a right or a privilege. It's never been settled and probably never will be.

Various court decisions have come down on both sides of the issue. More recently the courts, regulatory bodies and legislators have favored the "privilege" status. This is no accident.

For several decades, motor vehicle and enforcement agencies have recognized that privileges are more easily controlled and regulated than rights. Furthermore, if they are the dispenser of a privilege, their powers and influence are enhanced.

Consequently, these public and private entities have spent several decades describing and referring to driving as a "privilege." Through repetition, usage and public policy, what was not necessarily so, has more or less become accepted fact. The purpose of this discussion is not to argue that driving is a right or privilege. It's to discuss how individual freedoms evolve from potentially being rights to privileges subject to government dispensation. A recent news item exemplified this process in action.

A local person confronted two auto thieves who were in the process of trying to steal his car for the second time in one week. He shot one of them.

The local District Attorney in discussing whether or not to bring charges against the car owner, explained that there were certain criteria that had to be met before a citizen could exercise the privilege of self-defense. Now self-defense is a privilege! Defending one's property or person is a privilege!

If pressed, the D.A. would probably say that what he meant was that using lethal force is a privilege.

Of course, if you can't use lethal force, your options for self-defence are pretty limited. Just as if you can't drive, your personal mobility is pretty limited.

The D.A.'s objective, and that of a sizable proportion of officialdom is to have the ownership, possession and use of lethal force (primarily firearms) classified as a "privilege."

Privileges can be tightly regulated and, with little justification, taken away "Rights" present greater obstacles to confiscation.

The moral of the story is: If you have an activity, hobby, possession or lifestyle that the government types and the media start describing as a "privilege", you better man the ramparts!

Source: January/February 1992 NMA News

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