Second Amendment Necessity

In the other thread I want to talk about what infringes on this right. Here, let’s talk about the NEED for the right in today’s society.

We all know what the Framers had in mind. With the experience of Concord and other early Revolutionary War battles behind them, not to mention a good understanding of European conflicts of the 17th and 18th Centuries, they felt it necessary to have trained bodies of men-at-arms that were not beholden to the centralized government. These bodies of militia would keep the central government in check, by threatening to make it impossible for the central government to impose its will on the people if they did not consent.

Does this have any validity today? What realistic chance would any ‘militia’ in today’s society have against a determined effort by the Federal government to enforce its will, given the vast disparity in firepower, resources, etc? Is it possible that MLK, Jr., Ghandi, et alia have given us a far more potent weapon against such a government? Does the problem we face from out-of-control weapons ownership in this country outweigh the old need for a 'well regulated militia?" Or does the fact that We the People can keep and bear arms still help keep our government from being too overbearing? Thoughts?

As much as I love the idea of passive resistance, if the government were to forceably impose its will on us, we would fare no better than those at Tiennamen (sp?) Square. Remember the guy in front of the tank? He was resisting in a non-violent manner, and it’s apparently not very difficult to clean passive resistance out of a tank tread. My point is that because their arms are so much more advanced and stronger than they allow the public to have, the government would be able to force us to do their will with little chance of us fighting back. Although I agree with the second amendment, I don’t think that a hunting rifle or a shotgun would do much good against an F-15 or an M-1 tank.

“There are many sweeping generalizations that are always true” -Space Ghost

LongHorn has a very valid point about the effectiveness of passive resistance against a government/military that has little or no regard for human life; from my time in the service, I don’t think our citizen soldiers, much less our military’s officers, would order or carry out such a thing as seen in Tienneman Square.

On the other hand, as I’ve pointed out in another post, no modern army, no matter how well trained or equipped, has triumphed over an armed populace of partisan guerillas.

Witness China, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Chechnya.

With 65,000,000 gun owners in this country and an estimated 200,000,000 to 300,000,000 guns in the hands of private citizens versus a total combined military strength of approximately 1,000,000, I say no contest.

Point, set and match to the People and the Constitution.

But, speaking purely hypothetically…

If a President were to somehow declare him(her?)self Supremem Dictator For Life (and I find the chance of this somewhere below a snowball’s chance in hell), and Congress went along, and The Supreme Court as well, the El Presidente’s orders would still have to be carried out and enforced by both the Military and the various federal law enforcement agencies.

Those agencies are compsed of professional men and women, who’s Oaths of Service are not to a person, but rather to a document, an idea, called the Constitution and The Law; a Just Law, derived from the consent of the governed.

Were our new Emperor to start ordering mass arrests and ethnic cleansing, nationalizing private businesses and other such activities, I have no doubt that a combined force of local, state and federal police, backed by the Joint Chiefs and all that they bring with them, would burst into the Oval Office and the Congressional Chambers and carry our merry little tinhorns away for lengthy mental examinations and even lengthier stays at various Federal Corrections Facilities.

But the Grand Conspiracy wouldn’t allow for that; the military and the bureaucracy would already be in the President’s pocket, so to speak, and would readily carry out any order, any atrocity, at the President’s say-so.

See above statements about dedicated partisan guerillas and the number of firearms in this country.

I personally feel the greatest threat to our freedom is from those who abrogate their responsibilities as citizens, instead relying on the government to “Do Something!”; allowing politicians to create massive bureaucracies run by political appointees (rather than dedicated carreer professionals) more sensitive to the political needs and goals of their benefactor than the office they hold and represent.

Once idividual citizens again realize that no agency, administration or bureau should have absolute say over their lives, and begin to take back upon themselves the responsibilities concomitant with being a Citizen in our representative democracy, will this threat disappear.

<FONT COLOR=“BLUE”>"…'ware the drake; for doth he slumber ever with one eye open."</FONT>

Interesting thoughts. However, think on this example:

In the late 1950’s, the federal courts ordered an end to segregation of public schools in the south. In a well-remembered incident, the Governor of Arkansas at the time called out the state’s Guard to prevent the entrance of the black students in question. The President of the US then first inserted federal troops from the 101st Airborne, then later called the Guard up into federal service, and ordered them to make certain the integration went forward as ordered.

Now I am NOT saying this was wrong. I AM noting that this was a classic example of the centralized federal government imposing upon the people of the state of Arkansas the will of the central government. First, the ‘militia’ (the Guard) proved ineffective. Then, the ‘militia’ were simply federalized to make sure they couldn’t continue to affect the outcome.

DSYoungEsq wrote:

Actually … that’s NOT what the Framers had in mind.

At the time the Bill of Rights was written, every state had an institution of compulsory militia service. That is to say, all able-bodied men capable of shouldering arms, who weren’t already members of an elite volunteer militia organization (such as the Minutemen or the Green Mountain Boys), were required to show up for state Militia musters a few times a year and drill. They were also required to bring their own weapons with them, as the state governments didn’t have nearly enough resources to arm every militia member.

The Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights – without much argument as to its wording or its necessity – to prevent the new Federal government from passing laws that would diminish any State’s ability to defend itself against foreign (outside-the-U.S.) invaders.

By the middle of the 1840s, compulsory militia service had all but vanished. I found out about the history of the militia in the early U.S. primarily from .

None of this should be construed to indicate that the Second Amendment doesn’t mean exactly what it says. It does. The Federal government is still prevented by the 2nd amendment from infringing on the right of the people to keep militia-style arms, and the right of the people to bear militia-style arms. But the idea that the 2nd Amendment was ratified primarily as a bulwark against tyrrany from their own governments is hogwash. The Framers MAY have made arguments of this nature in various letters and treatises, but these would have been ancilliary reasons for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, not the central argument.

I’m not flying fast, just orbiting low.

“These bodies of militia would keep the central government in check, by threatening to make it impossible for the central government to impose its will on the people if they did not consent.”

Honestly I think the last thing that citizens should be worrying about is the Government imposing its will on the people. The federal government is so internally antagonistic that rarely is anything agreed on (except for accepting large campaign contributions from lobbyists). The first thing we should be worrying about is the people imposing its will on the people. As long as you believe in the premise that the Government was constructed in such a way so as to allow citizens active participation in changing the government via elected representatives, then you’re safe. If you don’t feel safe in the current context, then it’s the people’s fault, not some conspiring government office.

My personal take is that people feel they need guns to protect themselves because of a base human fear–fear of the unknown. Most people don’t know much about their community or its people, and that causes fear and anxiety. From what I’ve been seeing, the context of the NRA and its supporters’ praise of the 2nd amendment has more to do with self-protection from crime and conspiracy than from tyranny or outside attack. Since there’s little chance of either of these the 2nd amendment is rather worthless.

Of course I would love to join a militia if I could drive a tank home once in a while.

What an extraordinary debate tactic. Make a completely inaccurate statement with no foundation whatsoever, and then cut off debate by claiming that evidence to the contrary is secondary.

As it happens, protecting the several States from the possible tyranny of the federal government is the exact reason the Second Amendment found its way into the Constitution. From Federalist 28

(emphasis added) The same paper makes the point that one of the advantages of a federal government is to provide the citizenry with a way to check tyranny by a State.

Federalist 46also speaks to the importance State militias would have in opposing a (theoretically) tyrannical federal government. To the OP, in 46 Madison goes to great lengths to ridicule the notion that the federal government’s forces could ever become powerful enough to overcome the several States.

I wonder what he’d say today?

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

I like DSYoung’s point about King and Gandhi. They have shown us a path of resisting our government which is far more sophisticated, and often more effective, than gunfire. Partly because bullets bounce off tanks, but also partly because world and national opinion is profoundly affected by non-violence.

The point has been made, and must be made again, that if the civil rights movement had been fought with guns, it would have been destroyed by guns. John Louis led the famous march from Selma (to Birmingham or Montgomery, can’t remember which; see “Eyes on the Prize”) with a whole bunch of completely unarmed demonstrators. And a bunch of unarmed cops beat the hell out of them for no reason other than bigotry and brutishness.

I’m afraid that, without the entire historical context in memory, way too many pro-gun types would take this as a perfect example of how an armed state can trample an unarmed populace. But the marchers won. Many civil rights workers were beaten up, some were even lynched. Compare that to a civil war.

Take the response of the white majority, which had hitherto been next to useless in the civil rights struggle (“the silence and indifference of the good people” -MLK). Suddenly all these gadfly black preachers started to remind the lily-white affluent society of everything held up as good and peaceful and loving - Jesus for the Christians, Gandhi for the Hindus and British history buffs, Chief Joseph, El Cid, whoever you want. Had the marchers been armed, there would have been shooting, the civil rights people would have leapt into an ethical snakepit with the reactionary state.

John Louis became a Congressman, Eldridge Cleaver became an inmate.

Sure, these tactics don’t work against the most brutish regimes. They’ll gun down peaceful marchers as soon as they’ll eat their lunch. We don’t have one of those regimes. We still have the ability to be shocked by civil war. This is why I get so upset when some goofy talk show prima donna compares the Fed to jackbooted thugs. This ignores the historical success of nonviolence and the historical failure of armed insurrrection.

To sum up my examples …
Successful non-violent reform movements under imperfect constitutional regimes: SCLC and the civil rights movement, USA, 1960s; Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, India, 1940s; anti-nuclear politics in Europe in the 1980s; peaceful protests against the Vietnam war, USA, 1960s and '70s.

Unsuccessful rebellions under imperfect constitutional regimes:
Shay’s rebellion, USA, 18th Century; Puerto Rican separatism, USA, 1950s - 1980s; the Confederate States of America, 1860s (it was going just fine until somebody fired at Fort Sumter); various armed slave revolts, USA, early 19th Century.

Sure there are counter-examples (the Irish war of independance was three-fourths successful in the early 1920s). I just wish people would think of the above list when they choose between holding hands and marching, or stockpiling guns and holing up in a makeshift fort.

Woops. I meant, when somebody compares the Feds to jackbooted thugs, not the Fed. Never heard anybody say Greenspan went around with a SWAT team trampling on Second Amendment rights…

And apologies to John Lewis for my misspelling his name all those times.

manhattan wrote:

Oh, and of course all the Framers of the Constitution were all in complete agreement with The Federalist Papers. They couldn’t possibly have been a disparare group of state delegates with vastly differing agendas who were hoping to forge a compromise. Naw…

I’m not flying fast, just orbiting low.

Hmmmm, tracer, do you have any contemporary evidence for your proposition that the purpose of the Second Amendment was NOT to prevent the Federal government from dismantling (intentionally or not) a shield against federal tyranny? The Federalist has been offered as proof to the contrary; where is YOUR proof?

And thank you, manhattan, for your post with the quotes. I fear that tracer isn’t reading, but others are, never fear. :slight_smile:

Thanks, counselor.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Here is a reason for the Second Amendment that has nothing to do with the use of force against people.
I live 'way out in the country and usually raise a garden (have not had a lot of success this year). It is nice to have a gun to shoot varmints that try to eat my vegetables (although I hve to admit pissing around the garden has kept the damned deer away).
As an aside, my neighbor down the road owns a llama. Two years ago, during a cold and snowing winter, I heard a noise outside. I looked out and the llama was eating the nylon out of some window screens my landlord had left leaning against the building. I fed the llama an orange and a carrot as I intended to take it home after finishing my dinner. It left early, though, and I found out then that it had eaten three-quarters of a large sage plant in my front yard as well as some pine seedlings in the yard of another neighbor.
I wouldn’t want to shoot the llama – I try to get along with my neighbors and I kind of like the stupid creature – but I like the idea of firing a shotgun into the air to frighten the creature.
Furthermore, I would point out many people like to hunt.
LongHorn99, you are right that weapons like my shotgun and rifle would be useless against tanks and planes; however, they would be damn effective as tools of assassination.
To BorisB: I suspect one reason the SCLC succeeded in the 1960s was because they gave the white power structure a more acceptable alternative than Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael et. al.
To counterbalance the unsuccesful slave revolts in the US, I would mention the successful slave revolt in Haiti (though I must confess I am not sure how well armed the Haitians were).
Have to go now, may post more on this tomorrow if anyone interested

DSYoungEsq wrote:


I DON’T!!!

So there! :wink: