Self-Defense Is a Human Right

It deserves bipartisan protection at every level of government.

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Your right to defend your life and the lives of your loved ones when faced with a deadly threat is not bestowed on you by government. Indeed, self-defense is the most fundamental of all human rights, and it’s the duty of our elected officials to preserve it.

That is why the 5 million men and women of the National Rifle Association will not allow self-defense to be used as a scapegoat so that President Obama and his administration can continue to exploit tragedies to push their political agenda. We will continue to defend the right of every law-abiding American – regardless of race, color and creed – to defend themselves and one another.

[Read Benjamin Todd Jealous: The Law of the Wild West]

Attorney General Eric Holder shockingly claimed that pro-self-defense laws "sow conflict." Last week, President Obama demonstrated that he, too, does not recognize that your right to save your own life is a fundamental human right.

"Stand your ground" or "no duty to retreat" laws, recognize that a person who is attacked in any place where that person has a right to be, may use defensive force without first being required to retreat.

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This is important, because determining whether a safe retreat is available may require a split-second calculation that could end up being a losing gamble for the innocent person who is under attack. Criminals don’t always back off when their victims retreat. Some chase them down. They corner them. They gain a significant, and deadly, advantage once a victim turns his or her back.

Fundamental justice does not demand that law-abiding people endanger themselves, or their families, in such a manner, and neither should our laws.

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Despite the Obama administration’s assertion that "stand your ground" laws are a new concept in self-defense, they are in fact founded in common sense, natural law, and are well enshrined in American jurisprudence.

As pointed out by numerous constitutional law scholars, the right to stand your ground against a threat can be found in common law at least as far back as the 1895 case of Beard v. United States. Here, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a victim "was not obliged to retreat, nor to consider whether he could safely retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground, and meet any attack upon him with a deadly weapon, in such a way and with such force as, under all the circumstances, he, at the moment, honestly believed, and had reasonable grounds to believe, were necessary to save his own life, or to protect himself from great bodily injury."

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Gun control supporters falsely claim that "stand your ground" laws cause an increase in crime. To the contrary, the national violent crime rate has decreased in 18 of the last 20 years, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Furthermore, the murder rate dropped significantly between 2005 and 2009, the same time frame in which approximately 25 states passed stronger self-defense laws.

The right to self-defense is a fundamental human right that deserves bipartisan protection at every level of government. No parent should ever be denied the right to defend his or her children. No woman should ever be denied the right to defend herself against a violent, sexual predator. Very simply, no one should be denied the right to defend themselves in the face of grave danger. And despite the views of the president and his attorney general, this is a point on which most Americans agree.

Chris W. Cox is the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of National Rifle Association.