A Heavily Armed Citizenry Is A Virtue
It is time the critics of the Second Amendment put up and repeal it, or shut up about violating it. Their efforts to disarm and short-arm Americans violate the U.S. Constitution in Merriam Webster’s first sense of the term—to “disregard” it.
Hard cases make bad law, which is why they are reserved for the Constitution, not left to the caprice of legislatures, the sophistry and casuistry of judges or the despotic rule making of the chief executive and his bureaucracy. And make no mistake, guns pose one of the hardest cases a free people confronts in the 21st century, a test of whether that people cherishes liberty above tyranny, values individual sovereignty above dependency on the state, and whether they dare any longer to live free.
A people cannot simultaneously live free and be bound to any human master or man-made institution, especially to politicians, judges, bureaucrats and faceless government agencies. The Second Amendment along with the other nine amendments of the Bill of Rights was designed to prevent individuals’ enslavement to government, not just to guarantee people the right to hunt squirrels or sport shoot at targets, nor was it included in the Bill of Rights just to guarantee individuals the right to defend themselves against robbers, rapers and lunatics, or to make sure the states could raise a militia quick, on the cheap to defend against a foreign invader or domestic unrest.
The Second Amendment was designed to ensure that individuals retained the right and means to defend themselves against any illegitimate attempt to do them harm, be it an attempt by a private outlaw or government agents violating their trust under the color of law. The Second Amendment was meant to guarantee individuals the right to protect themselves against government as much as against private bad guys and gangs.
That is why the gun grabbers’ assault on firearms is not only, not even primarily an attack merely on the means of self-defense but more fundamentally, the gun grabbers are engaged in a blatant attack on the very legitimacy of self-defense itself. It’s not really about the guns; it is about the government’s ability to demand submission of the people. Gun control is part and parcel of the ongoing collectivist effort to eviscerate individual sovereignty and replace it with dependence upon and allegiance to the state.
Americans provisionally delegated a limited amount of power over themselves to government, retaining their individual sovereignty in every respect and reserving to themselves the power not delegated to government, most importantly the right and power to abolish or replace any government that becomes destructive of the ends for which it was created. The Bill of Rights, especially the Second and Ninth Amendments, can only be properly understood and rightly interpreted in this context.
Politicians who insist on despoiling the Constitution just a little bit for some greater good (gun control for “collective security”) are like a blackguard who lies to an innocent that she can yield to his advances, retain her virtue and risk getting only just a little bit pregnant—a seducer’s lie. The people either have the right to own and bear arms, or they don’t, and to the extent legislators, judges and bureaucrats disparage that right, they are violating the U.S. Constitution as it was originally conceived, and as it is currently amended. To those who would pretend the Second Amendment doesn’t exist or insist it doesn’t mean what it says, there is only one legitimate response: “If you don’t like the Second Amendment, you may try to repeal it but short of that you may not disparage and usurp it, even a little bit, as long as it remains a part of the Constitution, no exceptions, no conniving revisions, no fabricated judicial balancing acts.”
Gun control advocates attempt to avoid the real issue of gun rights—why the Founders felt so strongly about gun rights that they singled them out for special protection in the Bill of Rights—by demanding that individual rights be balanced against a counterfeit collective right to “security” from things that go bump in the night. But, the Bill of Rights was not a Bill of Entitlements that people had a right to demand from government; it was a Bill of Protections against the government itself. The Founders understood that the right to own and bear laws is as fundamental and as essential to maintaining liberty as are the rights of free speech, a free press, freedom of religion and the other protections against government encroachments on liberty delineated in the Bill of Rights.
That is why the most egregious of the fallacious arguments used to justify gun control are designed to short-arm the citizenry (e.g., banning so-called “assault rifles”) by restricting the application of the Second Amendment to apply only to arms that do not pose a threat to the government’s self-proclaimed monopoly on the use of force. To that end, the gun grabbers first must bamboozle people into believing the Second Amendment does not really protect an individual’s right to own and bear firearms.
They do that by insisting on a tortured construction of the Second Amendment that converts individual rights into states rights. The short-arm artists assert that the Second Amendment’s reference to the necessity of a “well-regulated militia” proves the amendment is all about state’s rights, not individuals rights; it was written into the Bill of Rights simply to guarantee that state governments could assemble a fighting force quick, on the cheap to defend against foreign invasion and domestic disturbance. Consequently, Second-Amendment revisionists would have us believe the Second Amendment does little more than guarantee the right of states to maintain militias; and, since the state militias were replaced by the National Guard in the early twentieth century, the Second Amendment has virtually no contemporary significance. Gun controllers would, in effect, do to the Second Amendment what earlier collectivizers and centralizers did to the Tenth Amendment, namely render it a dead letter.
The truth is, the Founders understood a “well regulated” militia to mean a militia “functioning/operating properly,” not a militia “controlled or managed by the government.” This is clearly evidenced by Alexander Hamilton’s discussion of militias in Federalist #29 and by one of the Oxford Dictionary’s archaic definitions of “regulate;” “(b) Of troops: Properly disciplined.”
The Founders intended that a well-regulated militia was to be the first, not the last line of defense against a foreign invader or social unrest. But, they also intended militias to be the last, not the first line of defense against tyrannical government. In other words, the Second Amendment was meant to be the constitutional protection for a person’s musket behind the door, later the shotgun behind the door and today the M4 behind the door—a constitutional guarantee of the right of individuals to defend themselves against any and all miscreants, private or government, seeking to do them harm.
The unfettered right to own and bear arms consecrates individual sovereignty and ordains the right of self-defense. The Second Amendment symbolizes and proclaims individuals’ right to defend themselves personally against any and all threatened deprivations of life, liberty or property, including attempted deprivations by the government. The symbolism of a heavily armed citizenry says loudly and unequivocally to the government, “Don’t Tread On Me.”
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence said, “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”
Both Jefferson and James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, also knew that their government would never fear a people without guns, and they understood as well that the greatest threat to liberty was not foreign invasion or domestic unrest but rather a standing army and a militarized police force without fear of the people and capable of inflicting tyranny upon the people.
That is what prompted Madison to contrast the new national government he had helped create to the kingdoms of Europe, which he characterized as “afraid to trust the people with arms.” Madison assured his fellow Americans that under the new Constitution as amended by the Bill of Rights, they need never fear their government because of “the advantage of being armed.”
But, Noah Webster said it most succinctly and most eloquently:
“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.”
That is why the Founders looked to local militias as much to provide a check—in modern parlance, a “deterrent”—against government tyranny as against an invading foreign power. Guns are individuals’ own personal nuclear deterrent against their own government gone rogue. Therefore, a heavily armed citizenry is the ultimate deterrent against tyranny.
A heavily armed citizenry is not about armed revolt; it is about defending oneself against armed government oppression. A heavily armed citizenry is not about overthrowing the government; it is about preventing the government from overthrowing liberty. A people stripped of their right of self defense is defenseless against their own government.