Soon after the Denver shootings, President Obama said it was time to put stricter gun-control measures in place. With the failure of Attorney General Holder’s “Fast and Furious” ploy to void the 2nd Amendment, it seems Obama thought he might capitalize on the Denver shootings to further damage the Constitution. The negative public reaction to his words, however, sent Obama backtracking, and senior Democrats like Senator Reid and Representative Pelosi quickly made public remarks to bury the issue — for now.
Before moving on, it is worth noting that Obama said gun laws must be changed but only in a way that protected Americans’ cherished tradition of hunting. Well, hunting game is not the central concern of the 2nd Amendment. What is central is that the 2nd Amendment protects the right of Americans to be armed in case they decide there is a need, in Jefferson’s words, “to alter or to abolish [the government]” and “to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
In creating the 2nd Amendment, the Founders — through James Madison‘s pen — took their cue from the British Bill of Rights (1689) which recognized that an unarmed populace could not protect its rights, liberty, and economic welfare against a king backed by a standing army, and so it allowed for an armed populace. The Founders also recalled that when London cracked down on New England’s resistance to the Crown, one of British General Thomas Gates’ first moves was to try to seize the munitions and ordnance the colonists had stockpiled around Boston. One reason for the British Army’s ill-fated expedition to Lexington and Concord in April, 1775, for example, was to capture the colonists’ stores of cannon, muskets, and munitions.
Even before Jefferson’s declaration, therefore, what in today’s parlance is called “gun control” was seen by Americans for what it was and is, a policy instituted by an oppressive government that fears its population and therefore aims at ensuring that citizens cannot arm to resist its will. The 2nd Amendment is meant, in part, to make sure that if the federal government created by the Constitution turns oppressive, Americans will have arms with which to defend their liberties and welfare.
And this right is much more important today than it was when the 2nd Amendment was drafted because the federal government has over time deliberately and probably unconstitutionally eradicated the 2nd Amendment’s other anti-oppression provision, the one that made sure the several state governments had well-regulated — that is, well-trained — militias at their command. The state militias were of course meant to assist the U.S. government’s standing army in case of foreign attack or domestic insurrection, but they also were meant to defend the states and their populations if the federal government used its standing army to willfully violate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, or acted in a manner harmful to the peoples’ security, economic welfare, and/or their society’s social cohesion.
Except for Alexander Hamilton and a few other of the Founders, both Federalists and Anti-Federalists were very wary of — indeed, many hated — the idea of maintaining a strong standing army in time of peace, seeing it as an all-too-easy-to-use tool of would-be tyrants. The 2nd Amendment took cognizance of this historically genuine danger and established two hedges against it, an armed citizenry and effective state militias. The much stronger hedge — state militias — is long gone, and only the weaker hedge of an armed citizenry remains. And there seems nothing outrageous about the idea that, as the 2nd Amendment allowed citizens to be ready to resist federal-government oppression by matching it musket-for-musket in the 1790s, today’s citizens ought to be free to face the same potential threat of tyranny assault rifle-for-assault rifle.
Now, in response to the foregoing, I am sure President Obama and other recent presidents, their administrations, and their media shills would argue there is no chance of the federal government ever acting in a manner so oppressive to the liberty and welfare of Americans that the latter would decide to take up arms against it. And they may well be right. I hope they are.
But just for the sake of argument, let us imagine a future circumstance — far off and wildly unlikely though it may be — in which the federal government did violate the Constitution, threaten the destruction of the U.S. economy, tore the fabric of American society, and made the American political system a cesspool of financial corruption. And to add to the unreality of our scenario, let us further imagine that these actions are much more substantively threatening than those which motivated the Founding Fathers to rebel against Britain and those that led to the creation of the Confederate States of America and a civil war.
Just imagine, for example,
–1.) That a single unelected federal bureaucrat issues a mandate that clearly violates the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom for more than 70 million American Catholics, Jews, and Muslims.
–2.) That multiple U.S. presidents take the United States to war without the formal declaration of war irrefutably demanded by the U.S. Constitution, and then intentionally fail to win the wars they start and so kill thousands of America‘s solider-children for nothing.
–3.) That the federal government each year reaches into its citizens’ pockets and takes between $40 and $50 billion dollars and then gives it to foreigners, even in times when 25-percent of America’s youngsters are malnourished, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed, and the country’s critical infrastructure is crumbling.
–4.) That senior elected officials in both parties, as well as senior federal bureaucrats constantly leak highly classified intelligence information to advance their partisan interests and thereby knowingly undermine U.S. national security.
–5.) That presidents and attorney generals from both parties pick and choose what laws they will enforce, in direct and flagrant violation of the oath to execute all laws that the Constitution mandates they swear on taking office.
–6.) That a long list of presidential administrations under both parties refuse to enforce laws designed to control U.S. borders, thereby knowingly compromising U.S. security and causing several U.S. states to have their economies damaged and social fabric weakened. In addition, imagine that those federal administrations also take legal action to prevent state governors from defending their populations.
–7.) That the Congress and the Senate regularly and knowingly act to bankrupt and destroy such essential national institutions as the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Post Office by siphoning off their funds for other pet or less-important projects.
–8.) That cabinet members and would-be cabinet members who do not file income tax returns, leak classified intelligence information, mislead Congress, and knowingly hire illegal aliens are never prosecuted.
–9.) That the federal government so overspends the public treasury that the national debt can never be repaid, and that in funding the debt it also compromises U.S. independence and citizens’ economic well-being via massive borrowing from malign foreign powers and by exacting half-a-year’s wages from each American taxpayer.
–10.) That the unaccountable U.S. Supreme Court interprets the Constitution in a way that makes the nation’s political system a cesspool of financial corruption, endorses the murder of more than 50 million-plus unborn U.S. citizens, and empowers the federal government to wage unrelenting war on religion, especially on Christianity.
–11.) That the federal government’s executive and legislative branches permit multiple lobbies to act as agents of foreign powers to corrupt our political system; to influence our foreign policy in a manner destructive of U.S. security and leading to war; and then protects them by not making them register as agents of foreign powers and by passing “hate-speech laws” — the latter a clear violation of the 1st Amendment.
12.) That the federal education department ensures the school curriculum taught to U.S. children negatively distorts U.S. history, denigrates the Founding Fathers, and keeps students ignorant of the meaning and purposes of the country’s founding documents — such as the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
While it is hard, nay, nearly impossible to imagine that even one — let alone all — of these severely oppressive and destructive actions could be deliberately perpetrated by the federal government, we each learn over the course of a lifetime never to say never. And if the sorry day ever dawns when one or more of the above depredations occur, I would suggest Americans might well think about taking recourse to the arms guaranteed them by the 2nd Amendment, arms with which to defend their liberty, economic welfare, national independence, and their Constitution’s viability.
And who knows what the future will bring, some of the foregoing hard-to-imagine actions may not be all so far fetched. If one or more came to pass, I suppose the 2nd Amendment would be the last, best resort for Americans after, as Jefferson recommended, a patient and prolonged effort to peacefully undo the oppressive measures imposed on them. “Prudence, indeed,” Jefferson wrote, “will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
At day’s end, then, the 2nd Amendment exists to permit American citizens to perform the “duty” Jefferson describes by resisting and defeating with arms a federal government that knowingly produces a “train of abuses and usurpations” that is designed “to reduce them under absolute Despotism.” The 2nd Amendment should not be altered or diluted a whit, but should stand, as the Founders intended, as a stark reminder to all elected federal officials and their bureaucrats that, in extremis, the 2nd Amendment ensures that Americans have the right and the means with which to hunt down and remove those who use the federal government to oppress them.