It is an interesting question you have posed here. What is a right? For legal purposes, we have to look to the Constitution which enumerates several in the Bill of Rights, but we really need to start with the Declaration of Independence and then move to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, collectively known as “The Charters of Freedom” and then other 17 Amendments to the Constitution.
The Declaration starts by addressing “certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It goes on to say, “that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” It is obvious, that the Declaration was not an enumeration of all of our rights (“among these”) and that those rights are not necessarily easy to define, i.e. “the pursuit of happiness.”
If we then move to the Constitution, its stated purpose is “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Something that needs to be recognized with the purpose of both of these documents, is that there is a tension created between them. For example, insuring justice often leads to the loss of liberty. Promoting the general welfare will usually mean that another’s rights are subjected to some limits. And providing a common defense will always lead to some peoples loss of freedom by inscription into the military with its requirements of obedience and the likely loss of life in defending the Union.
Moving to the Bill of Rights, while it is true that these are rights that are guaranteed and the document prohibits the government from violating these rights. It is always a good idea to look at the Preamble to the Bill of Rights to see its purpose as well.
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
Also, keep in mind that the Bill of Rights, when adopted, only applied to the federal government. The state was considered the protector of the people and the fed needed it’s power restricted. It wasn’t until the Civil war and the 14th Amendment was ratified, that the states were put under some restrictions by the Constitution. Before the 14th Amendment, many states did restrict the right to bear arms and concealed carry was restricted in many states. And, even after the 14th Amendment, it has been up to the Supreme Court to determine which pieces of the Bill of Rights are incorporated into the 14th Amendment and therefore, applicable to the states. Until recently, the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th have been incorporated in their entirety. It wasn’t until DC v Heller and Chicago v. McDonald, less than 10 years ago. that the 2nd amendment was incorporated into the 14th.
But again, all of these rights live in tension with the law. Freedom of speech, religion and the press are not absolute. There will always be limits.