Sorry, gun nuts, you’re on the wrong side of our Founding Fathers.
For example, in a tirade against CNN’s Piers Morgan, Alex Jones argued, “The Second Amendment isn’t there for duck hunting. It’s there to protect us from tyrannical government.”
It’s an argument that’s often echoed by gun nuts – as though their fully-loaded AR-15 with 100-bullet drum will keep them safe from Predator drones and cruise missiles. If indeed this is the true intent of the 2nd Amendment, protection from the government, then here’s the newsflash: you guys are woefully outgunned. And the 2nd Amendment would have allowed you to own a cannon and a warship, so America today would look more like Somalia today with well-armed warlords running their own little fiefdoms in defiance of the federal government.
But luckily, this was never the intent of the 2nd Amendment. Our Founding Fathers never imagined a well-armed citizenry to keep the American government itself in check. It was all about protecting the American government from both foreign and domestic threats.
The James Madison resolution on the issue clearly stated that the right to bear arms “shall not be infringed” since a “well-regulated militia” is the “best security of a free country.”
Virginia’s support of a right to bear arms was based on the same rationale: “A well regulated Militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free State”
Ultimately, as we know the agreed upon 2nd Amendment reads: “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.”
That reads like a conditional statement. If we as a fledgling new nation are committed to our own security, then it’s best we have a regulated militia. And to maintain this defensive militia, we must allow Americans to keep and bear arms.
The other defensive option would have been a standing army.
But at the time, our Founding Fathers believed a militia was the one best defense for the nation since a standing army was, to quote Jefferson, “an engine of oppression.”
Our Founding Fathers were scared senseless of standing armies. It was well-accepted among the Members of Congress during that first gun debate that “standing armies in a time of peace are dangerous to liberty.” Those were the exact words used in the state of New York’s amendment to the gun debate.
Later, in an 1814 letter
to Thomas Cooper, Jefferson wrote of standing armies: “The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army. Their system was to make every man a soldier and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so.”
Had the early framers of the Constitution embraced a standing army during times of peace, then there would be no need for a regulated militia, and thus no need for the 2nd Amendment.
Instead, they openly opposed a standing army during times of peace. Want proof? In the entire Constitution, there are no time limits on the power of Congress to raise money and pay for anything – except an Army. We can have a Navy forever. We can have roads or bridges or post offices or pretty much anything else that supports the “general welfare” without limit and in perpetuity. But an Army? That had to be re-evaluated every two years, when all spending for the past two years of army was zeroed out. It’s right there in Article 1, Section 8, line twelve reads that Congress has the power: “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years.”
The Founders knew, from watching the history of Europe, that military coups by a standing army were a greater threat to a nation that most other nations. So they required us to re-evaluate our army every two years.
But without an army, how would we defend ourselves?
With a locally-based, well-regulated – under the control of local authorities, who answer to national authority – militia. Today, we call this the National Guard.
Article 1, Section 8, line 16 of the Constitution doesn’t put that two-year limit on the National Guard militia. Instead, it says, Congress has the right to: “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.”
And make no mistake about it – that militia was to be used to protect our “we the people” government both from foreign armies and from Americans who want to overthrow the government of the United States. Again, line 15 says Congress has the power to: “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” Nothing in there about taking down the US government.
As a member of a National Guard militia, the 2nd Amendment is more of a civic duty than a personal right.
Again, it was all about defense of the state – not defense against the state.
In fact, during that first gun debate, the state of New Hampshire introduced an amendment that gave the government permission to confiscate guns when citizens “are or have been in Actual Rebellion.” To those early legislators in New Hampshire, the right to bear arms stops as soon as those arms are taken up against our “we the people” government.
Just ask the ancestors of those who participated in the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1794, armed Americans took up guns against what they viewed as a tyrannical George Washington administration imposing taxes on whiskey. President Washington called up 13,000 militia men, and personally led the troops to squash the rebellion of armed citizens in Bedford, Pennsylvania. No Army. No right to have guns to overthrow the oppressive US government.
But, more than 200 years later, gun nuts like Alex Jones somehow believe the 2nd Amendment was created for, not against, those American who committed treason and took part in the Whiskey Rebellion. And they’re threatening another rebellion should the government ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
As a red-faced Alex Jones yelled at Piers Morgan, “Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Chavez took the guns. And I’m here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!”
Besides being factually inaccurate – Hitler actually encouraged the ownership of guns, for example – this is the dangerous line of attack used by the gun nuts today.
The biggest similarity between America today and colonial American prior to the revolutionary war is the transnational corporate stranglehold on our economy. Back then it was the British East India Company. Today its transnational behemoths like Goldman Sachs, GE, Wal-Mart, and BP.
But violent revolution is never the answer. Even the Boston Tea Party revolt against the East India Company wasn’t violent.
Peaceful resistance is the most powerful response to tyranny. Just ask those Egyptians who peacefully huddled together in Tahrir Square until their kleptocratic ruler, Hosni Mubarak, eventually gave into the pressure and stepped down. Had these idealistic young men and women whipped out the NRA’s assault weapons, there would have been a massacre instead of a revolution.
History tells us the power of peaceful revolution, from Jesus to Gandhi to MLK, but very few stories of successful violent revolution. Even the French Revolution, an imitation of ours, failed – as you can see in the movie Les Miserables, which takes place after the kings have come back to power.
Nothing is more effective, and nothing frightens the powers that be more, than large-scale peaceful resistance: young people, old people, mothers with strollers, the rich, the poor, people of all religions and races, joined together in common and peaceful cause. A million unarmed people will do more to bring about revolution than 300 million guns in America.
So let’s be sure to not fall into that hysterical argument being pushed by Alex Jones and other gun nuts that our nation’s salvation depends on each of us being armed to the teeth and ready to take on our own government. That was never the intention of the 2nd Amendment.
You say you want a revolution? Join a grassroots peaceful movement.