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There Are No "Second Amendment Remedies"

Posted by on Jan 31 2013
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By: Sean Cribben

The aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre has been marked by a seemingly endless torrent of heated arguments and bitter recriminations between supporters of gun-control and gun rights advocates. Questions pertaining to the Constitution and public safety have, of course, been at the fore, with the NRA and its acolytes typically claiming that gun ownership is intrinsic to the well-being of both. That their paltry statistical evidence, tortured reasoning, and deliberate obfuscation have been all too successful in swaying countless Americans into believing such nonsense does nothing to diminish the utter mendaciousness of their claims.

But perhaps the gun rights crowd's most pernicious and dangerous assertion is that concerning the Second Amendment and its alleged sanction of armed insurrection as a means of redress. From Sharron Angle to a legion of anonymous online commenters, the argument has been made time and again that widespread gun ownership is the only bulwark against government “tyranny,” and that any encroachment upon said right will inevitably deprive “the people” of their ability to defend themselves against state-sanctioned thuggery.

Over the years a number distinguished historians and journalists, including Jill Lepore, Garry Wills, and Andrew Rosenthal, have taken this claim to task by exposing the various logical fallacies and historical inaccuracies that serve as its intellectual foundations. Perhaps the most important piece of evidence, however, and one which the insurrectionist crowd conveniently ignores at all costs, is the Constitution itself. Here is the full text of the Second Amendment (the emphases are, of course, mine): "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."

Now here is Article 1, Section 8 of the same document (again, emphases are mine): "The Congress shall have power to . . . provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States . . ."

Only the most rabid and desperate gun rights advocate could possibly interpret the Second Amendment as a license to revolt after reading that part of the Constitution which directly assigns the "well-regulated militia" the role of "suppress(ing) insurrections."                           

What's more, the notion that men of great wealth and property like the Founding Fathers would have drafted a constitutional provision permitting any yahoo with a (perceived) grievance to violently usurp the state and its representatives is beyond absurd. For despite occasional paeans to rebellion, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and their ilk were devoted to the Union and the Constitution through which it had been forged. They did not look kindly upon armed revolt or mob rule, as can be evinced by their reactions to the Shays' and Whiskey Rebellions, as well as by legislation like the Militia Acts of 1792, 1793, and 1795, and the Insurrection Act of 1807. They did not, in other words, believe that the Constitution contained within itself a self-destruct button.  

Perhaps, ultimately, the rhetoric regarding armed insurrection and the Second Amendment is merely a by-product of Democratic rule; the years of the Clinton Administration were, after all, marked by much right-wing blabbering about the Constitution and government "tyranny," blabbering that dissipated as soon as the Bush Administration assumed office and, ironically, oversaw one of the greatest expansions of government power in American history. One can only hope in the meantime that the right's violent rhetoric is merely the barking of a toothless dog.

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Comments

WceNXbLsHjgNpLw By Unknown on Feb 11 2013 at 11:29 PM
Craig,Wow.. just wow. I was enamored with this years ago and then it got lost in the crowd. It wasn't until relnctey it was brought back up on another forum and I just had to reread the whole thing. I loved it back in the day and frankly now, in a different time and place, I am inspired by the whole epic nature of the tale. Kudos man.. kudos.
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By Unknown on Feb 18 2013 at 11:07 PM
"Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used and that definite rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible."
- Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, MN,
By Unknown on Feb 18 2013 at 11:12 PM
The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.

James Madison, Federalist #46
By Unknown on Feb 18 2013 at 11:19 PM
"The Constitution shall never be construed....to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms" Samuel Adams, Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 86-87
By Unknown on Feb 18 2013 at 11:20 PM
"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike especially when young, how to use them." (Richard Henry Lee, 1788, Initiator of the Declaration of Independence, and member of the first Senate, which passed the Bill of Rights, Walter Bennett, ed., Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republican, at 21,22,124
Catch my drift By Unknown on Feb 18 2013 at 11:23 PM
"What country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms." (Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Dec. 20, 1787, in Papers of Jefferson, ed. Boyd et al.

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