Last week, I wrote a column about some of the biggest assault rifle myths perpetuated by the gun lobby. There is a lot of misinformation on both sides of the gun violence prevention debate, but from what I’ve seen, there has been plenty of attention paid to the myths of the pro-gun control argument and not enough to the myths of the gun lobby.
While I had originally planned on just writing one of these, I’ve since decided to turn it into a series. So here’s part two of my mythbusting crusade against the gun lobby.
The Second Amendment is honestly one of my favorites. It’s not just the fact that it has empowered us with a fairly unique right to bear arms; it harkens back to an age when people depended on their fellow citizens to help them through tough times.
While the Second Amendment is, at its heart, a blueprint for national defense through local volunteer militias, the idea that we are all responsible for protecting and improving the community can be applied to so many different parts of life.
There is this notion, however, that the Second Amendment is some sort of self-destruct mechanism put in place by the Founding Fathers in order to allow the people to rise up against the government in case it ever became tyrannical.
I’m baffled that this is still such a widely-held belief, considering the evidence to the contrary.
I want to start with an examination of the amendment itself – the whole thing, not the truncated NRA version.
“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.”
Notice the first part, and therefore arguably the most important part.
It is very clearly stated that any use of martial force must be “well regulated” by the government. At a time when our nation didn’t have much of a military to speak of, this amendment allowed the people to keep, in their possession, well regulated weapons in the event that a militia had to be called.
How can we possibly conclude that this gives citizens the right to violently revolt when it clearly says that the government must sanction the use of force?
Of course, it’s not uncommon for there to be debate over how the Framers would have interpreted what they wrote. In this case, however, there is a clear example of how the men who wrote the Second Amendment intended for it to be interpreted: the Whiskey Rebellion.
In 1791, almost three years after the ratification of the constitution, the federal government began taxing whiskey, sparking protests in western Pennsylvania. From 1791-1784, these protests grew more and more violent, until President Washington raised a militia and marched into Pennsylvania to put down the “rebellion” himself.
That’s right – the men who supposedly wrote a self-destruct mechanism into the Second Amendment raised an army of 13,000 men to squash a group of pioneers protesting a booze tax. In one of the first documented examples of domestic terrorism, it was the Second Amendment that saved the day.
We can spend all the time in the world arguing over what we think the Framers meant, or we can accept the fact that we know what they did. The Second Amendment certainly allows Americans to defend the union. It certainly does not allow them to fight against it.
If, in some dystopian future, the American people must rise up against a totalitarian regime, it will be justified as a last resort to defend our basic rights as human beings, and not out of some false interpretation of the Second Amendment.