Sunday, December 23, 2012

Five Myths about Gun Control

Washington Post - myth number 5.
 5. The Second Amendment was intended to protect the right of Americans to rise up against a tyrannical government.
This canard is repeated with disturbing frequency. The Constitution, in Article I, allows armed citizens in militias to “suppress Insurrections,” not cause them. The Constitution defines treason as “levying War” against the government in Article III, and the states can ask the federal government for assistance “against domestic Violence” under Article IV.

Our system provides peaceful means for citizens to air grievances and change policy, from the ballot box to the jury box to the right to peaceably assemble. If violence against an oppressive government were somehow countenanced in the Second Amendment, then Timothy McVeigh and Lee Harvey Oswald would have been vindicated for their heinous actions. But as constitutional scholar Roscoe Pound noted, a “legal right of the citizen to wage war on the government is something that cannot be admitted” because it would “defeat the whole Bill of Rights” — including the Second Amendment.


  1. Treason against a legitimate government is wrong. Treason against tyranny is a duty. In America, we're unlikely to face that duty because we have a citizenry that values its freedoms and puts a limit on the powers that the government has.

    Did you notice the point that the author made about school shootings? The odds of a child being shot in school are one in a million. Not exactly something to pass a bunch of new laws over.

    1. Greg,

      Why do you insist that the mere person has a "right" to disagree with a legitimate government, which bears the collective interest? If one where to do so, it would serve to undermine the right of all subjects to be governed. Only anarchy would ensue.

    2. So does a person have the right to resist an illegitimate government?

      What happens when a "legitimate" government defines a minority group and declares the government's intention to confiscate the minority groups' property, liberty, or lives?

    3. E.N., no government is legitimate without the consent of the people. There is no right to be governed. People accept government for its benefits, but legitimate government depends on the people.

    4. Talk of illegitimate government is stupid. It's like the talk of school-yard adolescents trying to sound tough.

    5. The Founders of this country talked about it. The people in Syria today are talking about it. The idea is a basic prinicple--what makes a legitimate society? You're unprincipled, so you attack anything that doesn't agree with your whims.

    6. not thinking government can be illegitimate is stupid. you sould like a coward who needs mommy to protect him, I can take care of myself and make my own mind. typical liberal idea of wanting governmet to tell you whats right and wrong, you can't drink raw milk but alcohol is ok because it can be taxed

    7. In the 21st century, talking about the US government becoming so illegitimate that you need to use your little pistols and AR-15s to overthrow it is about as stupid as you can get.

      Keep feeding that fantasy, it's fun pretending you're that powerful.

    8. You mean the same government whose military got bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan because insurrectionists in those countries fought back? You mean the military whose personnel in large numbers would refuse an order to attack Americans?

      Does the fantasy about enlightened surrender make you feel noble?

  2. Greg Camp is right, there is a big difference between insurrection and a tyrannical (ILLEGAL) government. Have you noticed that groups like the Second Amendment Foundatin, NRA, Gun Owners of America, Pink Pistols, Blue Steel Democrats, CalGuns, etc.. etc.. are all armed Citizens who use the power of the BALLOT, not the BULLET?

    1. Those organizations are also using the courts. So an armed uprising is the last resort when all other measures have failed.

      I also want to point out the possibility of smaller scale problems. Imagine a rural small town setting where the local police are corrupt and attack a citizen. In that situation the citizen has the right to defend themselves. Such an action against the state is not treason nor war against the state.

    2. An armed uprising is not even on the list of possible resorts. Are you that out of touch with reality?


      It happened once in Tennessee. The FBI was doing nothing about corruption even though people had been begging for years. The year this happened, the cops had been breaking election laws, shot a black guy who was just trying to vote, and then stole the ballot boxes and took them to the jail to stuff them with extra votes.

      Is it best to resolve a situation like this peacefully? Yes. When the options run out though, there are few options other than simply enduring the corruption. As is, if you do some extra research on this incident, you'll find that people were very restrained even in this "Armed uprising."

  3. I refer you to Sanford Levinson's article.

  4. Mike,

    The focus of the Second Amendment was on the rights of individuals to own arms because they would need them for their service in the militia as we have discussed before. The reason given for this is that the militia is needed for the security of "a free state." This could legitimately be considered to mean the security of each state, of the federal government, or both.

    Yes, it is true that this emphasis on security is primarily looking at countering the threat of invasion or insurrection. And yes, it is true that the whole point of the Constitution was to institute a government that could be reined in by speech, voting, protest, etc.; and protected by a militia system backed up by a permanent navy and an army that was only funded on a short term basis.

    However, given the founders' history, it would be foolish to think that they did not intend themselves or their posterity to utilize these protected arms to resist any tyranny that might arise in spite of their best efforts.

    They had felt tyranny growing over them and had protested, petitioned, passed resolutions, sent emissaries, and done everything they could to try to stop it. Eventually, once they felt, as laid out in the Declaration of Independence, that they had done all that they could and that no peaceful solution remained, they took up arms.

    After all of this, they ensured that the Constitution protected the rights of people to speech, assembly, etc. so that they could petition the government for redress of their grievances, and they set up a government that would be more responsive to the citizenry than the British Parliamentary system. The hope, as the Preamble states, was that this would secure the blessings of liberty for them and their posterity.

    By and far, this system has served us well. The greatest losses of liberty, thus far, can be blamed on the acceptance of, nay demand for various measures by the citizenry--TSA patdowns in violation of the 4th Amendment; police departments funding their budgets by "civil forfeiture;" etc. Many of us on the pro gun rights side are opposing these abridgments of our rights, and of those of others. We are doing it by peaceful protest, writing letters, activism. We are not pulling out our guns at the first sign of government overreach.


    1. This is how the founding fathers would have wanted us to behave, and how we want to behave. However, if, at some time, the government ceases to be responsive to the people and begins crossing into true tyranny, there is nothing immoral about the idea of resistance to it.

      You may think such a situation is supremely unlikely or impossible. I hope that you are right--I pray every day that it never happens. But if it does, I hope that the people of this nation, whoever they are at that time, do resist and set things right because there are few prospects, either for the people of this nation or of the world, than a despotic government with the power and resources of the US.

      In closing, Yes, the 2nd Amendment does not mention the use of these arms to defend against tyranny. It also does not mention their use in Hunting or self-defense. These two uses, however, were assumed to be too obvious to mention. Frankly, given their recent history with England, the defense of insurrection against tyranny given in the Declaration of Independence, and the many statements of several of the founders regarding the propriety of resistance of tyranny, they would have considered that mentioning such a right to resist would have been similarly obvious. After all, if such a right did not exist, the founding of the US would have been illegal, immoral, and illegitimate, and the nation should have been reabsorbed by England.

      Because each of these uses of guns that is not mentioned in the 2nd Amendment--hunting, self defense, and resistance to tyranny--is dependent upon people having the right to keep and bear arms in the first place, they are relevant uses of arms to be brought up in a discussion about gun control. To state that these rights do not exist solely because they are not mentioned in the Constitution is to stray into Robert Bork (*spit* *spit*) territory.

    2. One problem is, who decides when it becomes "true tyranny?" You know there are some who think we're already there. There are others that think it could never happen. Who decides?

      I hear in your long comments what sounds like founding father adoration. Am I right? You weren't coming around here when we discussed this several times. I think this is a big mistake. To put those guys on a pedestal is wrong. The truth is most of them were slave owners, misogynists and the same kind of greedy, self-serving characters we have in Washington today. Looking at selected writings which make the heart proud through the lens of exaggerated US jingoism leaves us with a distorted and fantastic idea of who they really were.

    3. Mike,

      I will grant that properly deciding where that line lies is the trickiest part of the whole equation. One place that I would hope we could all agree would be if the government began rounding up political dissidents--something where the targets have a right of self defense. Short of this, I would say that at the point that all forms of political protest, up to and including civil disobedience, are completely ignored, and even met with overbearing force, the line has been crossed.

      As for those who believe we're under tyranny now--let them make their argument, and others can argue against them, and hopefully persuade them that we are not there. We can still protest and vote without fear of a SWAT team kicking in the door. If they aren't persuaded, and if they start something on their own, their insurrection will be put down like Shay's Rebellion or the Whiskey Rebellion, which is the proper response.

      As to your comments about what you termed "founding father adoration." I was not around here for the discussions you speak of, but I can imagine what was discussed. Ben Franklin was a dirty old man. Jefferson could be a petty, conniving dick. John Adams was on the power hungry side. On and on it goes.

      Yes, they were men, and men are hypocritical, sinful beasts. Do I admire these men (some more than others)? Yes. Do I have an unrealistic idea that they are demigods or perfect men? No.

      I know that they had personal flaws. I know I wouldn't have voted for some of them had I been around at the time (I'm lookin' at you Hamilton). I know that for all of the great things they did for liberty, it was all tarnished by the fact that they did not apply it to all men, but instead kept men in bondage.

      What I admire and hold up as examples are the areas where they got things right--their republicanism (little "r"), their statements about liberty and freedom (that they did not live up to, but that we can seek to), and the structure of the government they left us.

      As for your comment about jingoism, have you not read my posts on the previous discussions of the meaning behind the second amendment? I cannot remember off the top of my head which one it was, but in one of them I was pointing out that the militia system was historically a restraint on military adventurism, and that its return might reign in our foreign policy.

      I like our system of government best, so I choose to stay here rather than emigrate. I do not, however, think that my opinion that we have the best system means that we get to force it on others.

  5. In addition to my megapost above (sorry for length), I have one final thing to say about Mr. Spitzer--the author of the linked post.

    He begins debunking his fourth myth by telling us how wonderfully American gun control is. First, he cites a law forbidding the sale of arms to Native Americans. This can be viewed in two way. On the one hand, as a legitimate arms export control as the natives were their own independent nation. On the other hand, we can see it as a calculated move to keep a technological advantage over the native tribes so that they could be subjugated as, unfortunately, happened repeatedly.

    The second example given are laws banning the transfer of arms to slaves. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this one. The goal is tragically obvious.

    Frankly, I find Mr. Spitzer's use of these laws incredibly offensive. The only comparison I can come up with that is fittingly perverse would be if someone on the gun rights side were to move to California and demand to keep his assault weapons based upon some property rights ruling in the Dread Scott case.

    Mr. Spitzer should be ashamed of himself for basing an argument for restricting people's rights, even in part, on laws that were designed to keep human beings in bondage.

    These laws were not an acceptance of gun control. They were symptoms of hypocrisy and oppression that set some men's rights and worth below that of others. They should, therefore, be consigned to the dustbin of history along with the presumptions that allowed for and necessitated them.

    If Mr. Spitzer wanted to make his point for that section, he could have simply cited the old West laws and other similar statutes, and we could have had a debate regarding the proper conclusions to draw from their history. However, these were not early enough to make him comfortable in his argument, so he went back further and grabbed precedent from SLAVERY.

    Frankly, I find this mode of argument on his part absolutely and inexcusably disgusting.

    1. I find your objections a bit off in light of what I just wrote about your founding father adoration.

    2. Mike,

      I just finished responding to your "founding father adoration" comment, so I won't bother reiterating that I know these were just men and talking about their flaws.

      Instead, I will note that THIS Post should have showed you that I do not have a fanciful and flawed view of the founders. Hell, in the third paragraph up, I stated, "These laws . . . were symptoms of hypocrisy and oppression that set some men's rights and worth below that of others."

      Did you not think I was aiming that hypocrisy accusation straight at the founding fathers?

      Frankly, Mike, it's pretty damn insulting to be told that you are rejecting a statement of mine out of hand simply because you assign a certain skewed view of history to me--especially when the rejected statement shows that I do not hold such a skewed view.

    3. Mikeb, as I've said to you many times before, the Founders weren't perfect, but they did extraordinary things for their time, and their ideas were even better than they were. We're still trying to realize the full implications of what they created. The fact that you can't give them credit for the good that they did shows what a small-minded, opportunistic cretin you are.

    4. T., I didn't reject anything out of hand. If I was wrong about your estimation of the founders, I apologize. The good thing about these discussion threads are all becomes very clear after a while. Greg and I, for example, have a pretty clear picture of each other's positions. Am I right, Greg.

    5. Perhaps. You don't understand my motives, and you're far too willing to attribute my gun ownership to something that Freud would explain. It's possible that I've misjudged your ultimate goal, and why this subject matters so much to you is a mystery. I'd say we have a good grasp of each other's positions.

  6. Mike,

    Perhaps I misunderstood you, but your comment that you found my objections "a bit off" in light of your assumption about how I viewed the founders seemed like a dismissal along the lines of, "You seem to think the founding fathers were perfect, in spite of them owning slaves. Therefore, I doubt you really mean what your are saying here; you just seem to be attacking someone on my side for the hell of it."

    It seems that perhaps this was the wrong interpretation of your comment. Moving forward, there probably isn't that much to discuss about my post in question (about Spitzer's use of pro-slavory laws to justify gun control). It was just something I had to get off my chest because the guy pissed me off so badly.