“It Can’t Happen Here”

“It Can’t Happen Here:”

In Defense of the Second Amendment

 

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “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.” Over the years, this oddly constructed phrase has taken different meanings. At various times, the Supreme Court has ruled both for the personal possession of arms and against the personal possession of arms. However, the Supreme Court’s most recent decisions regarding the Second Amendment are supportive of the right to keep and bear arms. The case of District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 ruled that owning handguns for personal defense was permissible; the D.C. Circuit court case of Parker v. District of Columbia in 2007, which “precipitated the Supreme Court’s decision,” ruled the same; and the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010 upholds the citizens’ right to own firearms for personal defense.[1] Currently, there exists a faction of United States politics that advocates for “Common Sense Gun Laws,” which limits an individual’s right to bear arms. Part of this legislation is based on fear, which is expressed through scary-sounding terms that have been obfuscated to the point of meaninglessness. Included in Barrack Obama’s “Common Sense” policy is that “gun retailers … [should refrain] from selling semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines.”[2] A semi-automatic weapon is a weapon that fires once when the trigger is squeezed. This is most guns, but is expressed as if the definition addresses a small minority of firearms.[3] This restriction on guns limits an individual’s ability to protect themselves and their property from anyone who is willing to take it—be it common thief or government. It is a basic element of liberty to be the agent responsible for declaring one’s own independence at all times; this duty cannot be moved to any other actor without curtailing some of one’s own independence. If the same form were followed concerning the First Amendment, a person would allow others to dictate what they are allowed to say. This relegation of the right to bear arms to another is untenable, and incompatible with American Republicanism, which is commonly known to be an ideology that stresses independence and responsibility in daily life and as part of the larger American nation. The most important right in these United States is the right to keep and bear arms. Obama said that “Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well.”[4] This is misleading. From the Second Amendment, all other rights flow.[5] Without it all other rights are merely temporary privileges. Certainly it is also important that the wording of the Second Amendment is well-defined; therefore it will be defined henceforth as assuming the restriction of the ability of criminals and insane persons to acquire firearms, but without denying stable persons that right. It is vital to the survival of this republic that all legislation that contravenes the Second Amendment is struck down, including the recent “Common Sense Gun Legislation” supported by Obama.

The defense of the Second Amendment does not rely on support for or rejection of various laws that might or might not reduce gun violence; these arguments are separate. Arguing for the right to bear arms is not the same as arguing for unrestricted access to firearms, or reasoning that background checks are unconstitutional. The reason for bearing arms is separate from the consequences of irresponsible gun ownership, which is usually presented as a red herring against the pro-Second Amendment side of the argument. Obama says that gun ownership must be restricted for safety.[6] Given that there is more gun violence in states with laxer gun laws[7], it does not follow that the Second Amendment is indefensible. Presented as an argument for the Second Amendment is the usefulness of guns in hunting or sport. The right wing in America should back off from this argument as it is easily defeated. Actually, the left—those who generally support increased gun control—are right to win the arguments against hunting and sport. This is because the right wing, in the addressing of sport or hunting, has ceased to argue for the fundamental rights they wish to defend. It is trivial to argue in support of a subset of rights when that subset is only a small part of the general right being debated. These arguments are unimportant and just as beside-the-point as the rate of gun crime. Though gun crime is an important thing to debate, it does not address the main issue—it is only a battle in the war, and it can be won or lost without affecting the war. The only reasons for defending the Second Amendment are for self-defense and resistance to tyranny because they represent the resistance to violence. The latter is the more important, but the first should not be ignored.

The failure with having only an armed state is not just in the potential for tyranny within the state, but also for the delay in the time between the committing of a crime and the police response should a citizen be unarmed. Between the time that a violent or property crime starts to be committed and the arrival of police, there is a gap. It is hard to measure the average response time of police because of differing methods in calculation, but figures can range anywhere from an hour in the countryside[8] to a few minutes in more urban areas. Regardless of the figures of police response time, this delay does exist and might prove fatal. If a citizen were able to destroy their attacker, the police response time would be unimportant. The police would serve to investigate and uphold the law, rather than act as the only method of crime prevention. Each citizen should be that method of crime prevention, or at least have the right to be that method used within a predefined manner (note: each citizen should not be the vigilante, only the instant and necessary reaction to criminal force). This idea seems to have taken hold in some parts of the country: “[some] states have passed laws allowing teachers to have firearms in school since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012.”[9] It must be conceded, though, that a time when the police response time is near-instantaneous can be imagined. With technological advancement comes speed, including the speed of crime prevention. That time is not yet at hand.

The possibility of a time in America when the citizenry will need weapons to defend itself from the government does exist. This is not to say that it is likely, or that it is fast-approaching, because those two variables cannot accurately be predicted—indeed, they are unlikely. It is possible that as the government grows ever-larger, one of its functions may become undesirable by present standards. History shows this repeatedly[10], but any affirmation of this value is seen as ridiculous by those who do not support the Second Amendment. In a television appearance, Obama criticized the idea that he was turning into a dictator that would confiscate everyone’s guns.[11] This is a fair rejection of an unlikely idea, but also reveals an attitude that a government turning tyrannical is unheard of. Similarly, when in a live CNN interview, Ben Shapiro stated that the reason for defending the Second Amendment is because of a possible tyrannical takeover of the government, Piers Morgan responded, “Do you understand how absurd you sound when you say that?” When asked again, Shapiro repeated his answer. Morgan ended the conversation with “You’ve made your position clear. People aren’t stupid, they can make up their own minds.”[12] Morgan’s response insinuates that to even hold the notion of a government turning tyrannical is to be somehow intellectually inferior. What Morgan said and what Obama has stated on his becoming a dictator are not arguments, they are ad hominem slurs, the implication behind them being that either you agree with Morgan and Obama, or you are delusional.[13] This is a problem that directly addresses the 18% of Democrats, 44% of Republicans, and 27% of Independents who believed, in 2013, that an armed revolution might be necessary “in the next few years.”[14] It should be noted that because these figures specifically deal with the opinion of the emergence of a tyrannical government in the short term, the percentages would likely be higher given a larger date range. This is not to say that an armed revolution is likely, but a certain percentage of the population does not cast the idea aside. It should also be recognized how this idea is non-partisan. Resistance to tyranny is fundamentally American: “The ‘right of revolution,’ Justice [William] Douglas explained, ‘is a part of the fabric of our institutions.’”[15] Besides the fact that a total of 29% of all Americans believe that the government might become tyrannical, there is historical precedent for this.[16] One need only look to Europe in the 20th century to see the results of a disarmed population and a government that became tyrannical. Examples of governments that became dictatorial in the early to mid-20th century include Germany, Italy, and Spain. The mindset that “it can’t happen here” (actually the name of a novel by Sinclair Lewis about a fascist United States) is dangerously naïve, though optimistic.

The history of the United States reveals that tyrannical-like actions have been taken; it should be understood that they can happen again. For instance, Woodrow Wilson unconstitutionally nationalized the railroads during the First World War, between the years of 1917 to 1920. To rephrase that in terms that explain more accurately the seriousness of Wilson’s actions: The government seized an entire sector of the economy for its own purposes. Wilson, on other occasions, also acted and said things that are more in line with actual fascism than with American Republicanism, such as expression of his disdain for the constitutional inalienable rights.[17] What Wilson’s actions proved is that the United States government has the power and can have the motive to act outside the bounds of the constitution. This type of authoritarian action can also be seen in more recent years with the George Bush and Obama administrations collection of private information from American citizens without their consent. Thus, the government in the United States does continually grow, and with it understandably comes the fear of usurpation by a fascistic or otherwise authoritarian movement.

Now that the defense for arming a citizenry so as to resist potential tyranny has been made, a debate can be had concerning with what the citizenry should be armed, how the arms should be obtained, if character is an element that must be examined, and how to reduce the deaths of innocents in every situation. “Every law is enforced at point of gun,”[18] says Ben Shapiro, and he is right. The government is not wrong for doing this, because the republic would not operate if its citizenry dissented to every tax or any other decision. However, there must be a balance, and this balance can only be obtained through force, or the promise of force. If the option to use force is removed from the citizenry, the only thing left is the government’s word that they will protect a republic and allow them freedoms. This is a key point. The government of the United States will probably not turn despotic, but to ensure this, the citizens must be armed. In order to preserve the republic in these United States, the citizenry must understand from where its freedoms come—it is not the government, it is themselves. The people must act in accordance with this and act as watchdog to the government of which they are the masters by electing officials who respect the founding documents, and by acting in their government on a more regular basis. Obama’s “Common Sense Gun Laws,” and policies like it, contravene this most basic principle of American Republicanism. In order to secure one’s rights, it is necessary to have a basis from which they may be secured—a government that respects them. It is also necessary to have a failsafe in place should the securement of rights through peaceful means fail—force. Since it has been established that the former may fail—and, given a long enough time period, will fail—acceptance of the latter is only a matter of deciding if the rights and the republic are worth defending or not. Surely a duty of the citizenry of the republic is to uphold the republic itself, otherwise there would be no citizenry. In short, a liberal must defend liberal values or he will be overtaken by one who is not a liberal. If independence and sovereignty are not declared by an individual, then they have relegated it to another, or a group, and have none themselves. This is not to say that one will have tyranny if they do not declare independence, but on the scale that tips between the two, it is not balanced towards liberty. Though the Supreme Court currently has judged that the Second Amendment is indispensable to American Republicanism, this is not necessarily permanent. A small change in the political ratio of the Supreme Court can tip the balance towards rejection of the Second Amendment. To abandon the absolute method of declaring one’s independence by force and the threat of force is to let one’s rights subsist on promise alone, and promises can be broken.

 

Bibliography of Works Consulted

 

Acosta, Luis. “United States: Gun Ownership and the Supreme Court.” Library of Congress. July

  1. Accessed March 1, 2016. http://www.loc.gov.ezproxy.umw.edu/law/help/second-

amendment.php. Updated on 06/26/2015

 

“Armed Teachers.” American Police Beat. November 1, 2014.

 

Bialik, Carl. “Giving No Time to Misleading Police Stats.” Wall Street Journal. August 2, 2013.

 

Cassino, Dan, and Krista Jenkins. “Beliefs about Sandy Hook Cover-Up, Coming Revolution

Underlie Divide on Gun Control.” Fairleigh Dickinson Public Mind Poll, May 1, 2013.

 

Dunlap, Charles, Colonel. “Revolt of the Masses: Armed Civilians and the Insurrectionary

Theory of the Second Amendment.” Tennessee Law Review 62.

 

Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy. Collins, 1986.

 

Kilgore, Samantha. “Study Shows ‘More Guns, More Crime’: States With Lax Gun Laws Have

More Gun Violence.” Inquisitr. February 1, 2015.

 

Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Erik. “Democracy’s Road to Tyranny.” Foundation for Economic Education.

May 1, 1988.

 

Listi, Tony. “Woodrow Wilson: America’s Worst and First Fascist President.” Conservative

Colloquium. May 29, 2008.

 

“Obama in 2008: “I Am Not Going To Take Your Guns Away”” Real Clear Politics. December

27, 2012.

 

“Piers Morgan Live.” In Guns in America. CNN. Accessed March 1, 2016.

youtube.com/watch?v=BHIQtxLCgrM.

 

“Remarks by the President on Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform.” White House. January 6,

 

Shapiro, Ben. “Obama: Government Tyranny Impossible Because ‘Government Is Us’”

Breitbart. April 2, 2013.

 

———“The Feds Just Shot an Oregon Protester. Here’s the Big Lesson.” The Daily Wire.

January 27, 2016.

 

[1] Luis Acosta, “United States: Gun Ownership and the Supreme Court.” Library of Congress.

[2] “Remarks by the President on Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform.” White House.

[3] This example is furthered by the well-documented cases of mass shootings done with scary-looking firearms; Obama and his administration often bring up the mass deaths caused by maniacs using semi-automatic weapons. The truth is, Obama’s statements can be honestly rephrased to have the same meaning as ‘A criminal killed a lot of people with a gun.’ The term semi-automatic does nothing but instill fear, perhaps for the purpose of enacting legislation.

[4] “Remarks by the President on Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform.” White House.

[5] Defense of the Second Amendment does not rest on any other rights. In a natural state, might makes right. This is not pleasant, but it is the case. If a man can kill you, he is, in some sense, your master. What stops a man from killing you who wishes to? It is force from other powers, either an individual or the state, which prevents the destruction of one unwilling by one willing. But the relegation of that power to the state presents the same problem, hence needing to be the sole source of your independence. If there is no Second Amendment, the other rights that are so enjoyed in these United States become revocable at the will of the government, or whatever has the power to kill. As such, a monopoly over force is detrimental to those who are not the monopoly.

[6] “Obama in 2008: “I Am Not Going To Take Your Guns Away”” Real Clear Politics. December

27, 2012.

[7] Samantha Kilgore, “Study Shows ‘More Guns, More Crime’…” Inquisitr.

[8]Carl Bialik. “Giving No Time to Misleading Police Stats.” Wall Street Journal.

[9] “Armed Teachers.” American Police Beat.

[10] Every government that has ever existed has either been defeated by another state or has, itself, become despotic. It is an inevitability of state-systems.

[11] “Obama in 2008: “I Am Not Going To Take Your Guns Away”” Real Clear Politics. December

27, 2012.

[12] “Piers Morgan Live.” In Guns in America. CNN.

[13]Shapiro, Ben. The Feds Just Shot an Oregon Protester. Here’s the Big Lesson.” The Daily Wire.

January 27, 2016.

[14] Dan Cassino et al. “Beliefs about Sandy Hook…” Fairleigh Dickinson Public Mind Poll.

[15] Charles Dunlap, Colonel. “Revolt of the Masses…” Tennessee Law Review 62.

[16] Dan Cassino et al. “Beliefs about Sandy Hook…” Fairleigh Dickinson Public Mind Poll.

[17] Listi, Tony. “Woodrow Wilson: America’s Worst and First Fascist President.” Conservative

Colloquium. May 29, 2008.

[18] Ben Shaprio. “The Feds Just Shot…” The Daily Wire.