The gun control debate is perhaps one of the best examples of the total disconnect between right and left. The two sides of this debate aren’t speaking the same language at all. Lefties don’t understand the cultural and historical significance of gun ownership to some Americans and righties usually don’t understand the terror of urban gun violence and arbitrary, preventable mass shootings. This debate also suffers from its emotional nature to all stakeholders. This piece will hopefully help contextualize the debate so that supporters and opponents of gun control can have meaningful discourse.
If you’re like most people, you haven’t read the Second Amendment. I’ve never seen a more vigorous or ubiquitous debate about something that the participants haven’t actually seen. Without further ado, here’s the text of the Second Amendment:
“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.”
There you have it. So what’s the second amendment really about, anyways? Why do we have it? Clearly the founders set up what they believed to be a free state and they wanted measures in place to protect it. The Revolutionary War was fought by militia — essentially regular people who used their own weapons to fight alongside other regular people using their own weapons to protect their property. In light of the Revolutionary War, the founders largely saw two reasons that people should be able to to have their own guns.
- Should the United States be attacked by a foreign nation, people should be empowered to defend their country and join a militia.
- Should the people wish to stage a revolution, they would need to be armed to do so. A government that prevents its people from being armed prevents an uprising. Protecting the people’s right to be armed protects their right to a revolution.
Reason #1 is obsolete. The US has a standing army of professional soldiers. The days of the citizen-soldier are gone and have been since WWII. As a result, reason #2 becomes simultaneously the most important and least talked about issue in the gun control debate. Our government cannot infringe upon our right to rebel against it.
Certainly, it’s still important to be able to rise up against your government. Recent events in Oregon show just how effective the mere threat of violence can be in an uprising if you wish to start a national conversation. Additionally, it’s clear that the founders valued this type of insurrection. Thomas Jefferson looked approvingly on Shays’s Rebellion, a 1700’s equivalent of the Bundy standoff, commenting, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. Let them take arms.”
Even without believing in an originalist reading of The Constitution, believing instead that the intent of the founders is irrelevant to constitutional debate, it is indisputable that governments have proven themselves to be humanity’s greatest oppressor. Stripping a population of the tools to fight tyranny and oppression is certainly worse than living in a world where those in power understand that they can be overthrown.
A true gun control debate should be about what tools a populace does and doesn’t need to protect its right to a revolution. This is the highest burden of proof that gun control advocates will need to overcome. If you can rebel against your government, then surely you have enough weaponry at your disposal to defend yourself from criminals and take any sporting interest in gun ownership.
This debate provides a coherent framework to discuss issues currently on the table. A waiting period helps insure that people will use their guns in a responsible manner consistent with securing revolutionary aims. Perhaps those with mental disabilities aren’t qualified to arbitrate revolutionary aims. Within the framework of this debate, we can disqualify any argument that can’t be construed to protect our right to revolution while still recognizing the legitimate cases in which gun ownership is necessary for the preservation of a free society, as the founders intended.
The gun control debate is hopelessly lost in emotion and cultural disconnect rendering it unproductive and divisive. The following are the questions that the gun control debate should answer: What does the right to a revolution look like in the 21st century, and how do we defend that right?