When enlightenment philosopher John Locke wrote his great exposition on Natural Law in “Two Treatises of Government,” he made these points clearly:
The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order.
And of those who violate the laws of nature and act criminally toward their fellow man:
In transgressing the law of nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity, which is that measure God has set to the actions of men, for their mutual security; and so he becomes dangerous to mankind.
Locke went on to explain that nature teaches us that once a man is proven dangerous to us, we are justified in using force, including lethal force, to remove the danger and protect our lives. He even contended that someone who commits a lesser violation of those laws — for instance, theft — may justly face lethal force even if he means me no physical harm, for he is attempting “to get me into his power,” and having done that, he may go further.
This is how Locke put it:
This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than by the use of force, so to get him in his power as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right to get me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason to suppose that he who would take away my liberty would not, when he had me in his power, take away everything else.
The bottom line: The gift of life is inalienable, coming to us from God through nature. And the right to defend that life is also inalienable because it comes to us from God through nature as well.
AWR Hawkins is a conservative columnist who has written extensively on political issues for HumanEvents.com, Pajamas Media, Townhall.com, and Andrew Breitbart’s BigPeace.com, BigHollywood.com, BigGovernment.com, and BigJournalism.com. He holds a Ph.D. in U.S. military history from Texas Tech University, and was a visiting fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in the summer of 2010. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.