Guns in America (part 2)
Before getting into the precise subject that I want to discuss today (and before continuing with this series), it’s probably important to include the actual text of the Second Amendment, given that it’s at the core of many of the issues that I have discussed and plan to continue discussing.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
I’ve written before about the first clause (the “militia” clause) and I’m sure that I’ll come back to it again. Just remember, for the time being when thinking about these issues, that the militia clause exists and it was obviously included for a reason.
Anyway, what I wanted to talk about today was a bit of the why behind some people’s affinity for the Second Amendment. And I’m not talking about the desire of some to hunt or to engage in personal or home defense. Those are each discussions for another day. No, what I want to discuss today goes more to the issue of why people think that the Second Amendment gives them a right to assault rifles and armor piercing bullets and high capacity magazines and so forth. If you read gun rights blogs or listen to gun proponents talk about the issues, you will see one recurring broad sentiment, though often it is at least slightly camouflaged: The fear of tyranny. The fear of our government. The fear of the United Nations. In other words, the belief that those guns will be needed to fight off, not a burglar, but the invader who who wants to change our way of life or the government who wants to impose … something … that the gun owner fears.
By way of simple example, please watch this clip of an interview of Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, by Chris Matthews on MSBNC on Monday:
Later in the interview, Pratt suggests that an appropriate time to use guns “to take on the government” is when “elections are stolen”.
Or, take a look at some of these images from Tea Party rallies that I’ve posted over the past few years:
To help explain just when these Second Amendment remedies might be needed, I offer the following:
There is a segment of our population — I don’t know how large — that appears to honestly believe that they need their guns in order to defend themselves against the government and/or to take on the government if it … um … does something they don’t like?
So ask two questions: First, who gets to decide when to take up arms against the government? If a majority of us elect candidate X but an armed minority think candidate X is a tyrant, do they have the right to take up arms against the lawfully elected government? What if there is a dispute as to whether a candidate was lawfully elected? Did Democrats have a right to take up arms against the government following the election of George W. Bush?
And does this right to take up arms against the government include a right to use force to curtail legislation that a minority opposes? If you don’t believe in universal health care, do you have the right to resort to Second Amendment remedies and take up arms against the government? If tax rates are increased for the portion of income above $250,000, do those in that income bracket have a right to take up arms? If we pass a law banning assault rifles, do owners of those assault rifles have a right to take up arms? And just who would the fighting be against? Against the government itself? Against elected officials that did something unpopular (or perhaps even popular, just not to the armed minority)? Against fellow citizens who do approve of a politician or policy?
Now add to all of this the so-called “sovereign citizen” movement or the various militias (many of which are white supremacist groups). Do they have the right to use the force of arms against the government that they perceive as a sort of tyranny? Why not?
If the police come to arrest you for doing something that you think you should be allowed to do — whether something simple like smoking pot or something more … um … wrong … like watching child porn — do you have the right to use your gun to stop the government’s “overreaching”? Again, why not?
I mean, it’s not like we have a system of courts or impartial justice to help resolve conflicts. Courts are probably all corrupt, too, right? So of course we need guns to protect us… Or at least I think that’s how the reasoning goes. And why shouldn’t you be able to take your assault rifle into the courtroom?
Also, and I realize that this is a bit of a dangerous step to take, but note how it seems that virtually all of those who talk about their “Second Amendment” rights in the context of protecting themselves from the government or from “tyranny” are white. We don’t see groups of African-Americans in the poorest parts of the country where gang violence is terrible talking about taking up arms to force the government to protect them or to redistribute more wealth to them. We don’t see Latinos talking about taking up arms to stop enforcement of racial profiling laws or what they may perceive of as an unjust immigration system or for the use of Spanish in official government acts and publications. You don’t see groups of armed Jews threatening to tear down Christmas trees and nativity scenes on public property. But you do hear groups of mostly white (mostly men?) people worrying about their liberty being trampled. Oh, and can you imagine how those white men would react if there were a group of Muslim men armed to the teeth with assault rifles and body armor?
And what liberty do they express concern for? Often it’s the right to bear arms. In other words, these fine folks need guns to protect themselves from the government that might want to keep them from protecting themselves against the government because the government is evil. Or something. I think. Seriously, though, what liberty are these folks really worried about losing and to whom?
Oh, and the UN. They’re worried about black helicopters and the UN takeover of the United States as some sort of “New World Order” plot. And they need their guns to defend against that, too. Don’t believe me? Just look at the UN treaty on people with disabilities that was defeated earlier this month because of fears of a loss of sovereignty to the UN and the imposition, again by the UN, of forced abortions or restrictions on home schooling. Seriously.
Think about this for a minute: The reason that we have assault rifles being used in our theaters, shopping malls, and schools is because some of our fellow citizens are afraid of our government. In response, ask yourself who you fear more: The government or these armed citizens who are afraid of the government? For me the answer is easy. Here’s a hint: I’m not afraid of our government.
Another thing to think about: How many times, since the Revolutionary War (when we fought against the British…) have people taken up arms to fight against government tyranny. Offhand, I can think of one big example and a group of smaller examples: The Civil War and the Ruby Ridge/Branch Davidian-type militia or cult groups. One of the things that has made our country exceptional, is the fact that we’ve managed to retain a peaceful system for the transition of power and a government and society based strongly on the rule of law. We resolve our differences at the ballot box and in the courtroom, not on the battlefield.
One more thing that’s at least worth mentioning in this discussion: If it really came down to a fight between folks who fear “tyranny” or the “overreach” of the government versus the government itself, how do you think the gun rights folks would fare. Yes, they’d have access to assault rifles (probably fully automatic thanks to kits that they’ve bought at gun shows) with expanded magazines holding armor piercing bullets while clad in body armor. But they’d be up against this:
And who would be supported by this:
Oh, and this:
Taking off from this:
Protected by this:
With an assist from this:
Very little of which would be needed because of this:
And yet these people, in their minds, are willing to trade the safety of our children for their fantasy of a tyrannical government being defeated by “patriots and warriors” armed with some assault rifles. It seems that in their minds, these “patriots” still think that they’d be fighting this:
And because of their paranoia and delusions, our kids have to die.