The day before yesterday I made the following comment, are there “limits to minority rights?” I have bad news for those who wish easy answers. There are no easy answers to the subject of minority rights. In fact this has been a struggle, not only in the USA, but also throughout the world. The Declaration’s introductory page explains:
Every country has national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities within its borders. Persons belonging to minorities aspire to participate in the public, social, economic, cultural and religious life of the societies in which they live, on an equal footing with the rest of the population.
That is perhaps the best definition of the purpose of minority rights. That is, any minority within a particular country should have the opportunity of full participation in the public, social, economic, cultural, and religious life of their country. Thus, when laws—or judicial decisions—are made, their purpose should be to accomplish the goal listed above.
This brings up the conundrum that is so overused by conservatives. In almost every case throughout the world, if there is an oppressed minority, any solution that is proposed will inevitably impact the dominant majority in a negative way. For instance, if minorities start being hired much more often, then inevitably this means that the majority will be hired less often. In particular, when the law begins to “force” employers to hire previously ignored minorities, it is all too easy to make the charge that is so common among conservatives, that now they are being discriminated against. When you break it down, it really means that they wished the system would still be in place that allowed the dominant majority to grab all the good jobs. The secondary argument that the person hired is not as qualified is often a massive version of sour grapes.
Having said that, there is definitely such a thing as “playing the race card.” Because human beings are sinful, there are inevitably sinful folk who play the victim every bit as well as those in the dominant majority who try to play the victim when a minority is hired ahead of them.
Which brings me full circle. There is no easy answer as to what are the limits on minority rights. That is why there is a balance between federal and state powers. That is why states are allowed to have differing laws on various subjects. That is why the courts may rule in one direction only to slightly reverse direction several decades later. It is not a lack of “faithfulness” to the Constitution or to the Founding Fathers, it is that even the Founding Fathers were not able to easily define minority rights. Differences are allowed. Variety is allowed, but provided minorities can fully participate in the life of this country.
What about gun rights? Well, when gun rights advocates try to cite minority rights, they are fairly far from proving that their views on guns put them at a disadvantage from the rest of society. They can always make the Second Amendment argument, as is their right. And, frankly, given the way the Second Amendment is written, they can make some fairly strong and successful arguments. But to claim that somehow they fall under the idea of minority rights is to skew fairly strongly the definition and idea of what are minority rights. Gun owners are not discriminated against in any reasonable definition of the term.
Having said that, conservatives are fully correct. We are a Republic. This means that minorities ought to be protected against the tyranny of the majority. But, this is defined as full participation in the life of the country, not merely as having the ability to do anything they wish to do. A Republic and a Libertarian country are two different matters.