“Any law, international or municipal, which prohibits recourse to force, is necessarily limited by the right of self-defense.”4
Is there a human right to defend oneself against a violent attacker? Is there an individual right to arms under international law? Conversely, are governments guilty of human rights violations if they do not enact strict gun control laws?
The United Nations and some non-governmental organizations have declared that there is no human right to self-defense or to the possession of defensive arms.5 The UN and allied NGOs further declare that insufficiently restrictive firearms laws are themselves a human rights violation, so all governments must sharply restrict citiz en firearms possession.6
This Article investigates the legal status of self-defense by examining a broad variety of sources of international law. Based on those sources, the Article suggests that personal self-defense is a well-established human right under international law and is an important foundation of international law itself.
SNIP [quite a few well reasoned pages]
To examine the evidence is to discover what the Special Rapporteur so artfully concealed—the overwhelming consensus among the sources of international law, from ancient times to the present, among diverse legal systems, religions, and nations: self-defense is a fundamental human right.
This Article does not claim that the evidence produced thus far proves the existence of a universal international human right to possess and carry firearms in all circumstances. It does suggest that the evidence of an international human right to self-defense is clear. The existence of a right of personal defense undoubtedly must imply some right to defensive training, and to the possession of some type of defensive arms. However, this Article has only attempted to suggest some possible lines of exploration for subsequent scholarly analysis of the derivative rights to defensive arms and defensive training. It does seem apparent that it would be a violation of human rights law for a government to forbid self-defense, to forbid defensive training, or to forbid the possession of reasonably necessary defensive arms. No government has the legitimate authority to forbid a person from exercising her human right to defend herself against a violent attack or to forbid her from taking the steps and acquiring the tools necessary to exercise that right.