When are "Second Amendment Solutions" justified?

Many proponents of the Second Amendment believe that’s it purpose was to allow the civilian population to rise up and overthrow the government if it gets too tyrannical. Let’s assume for the purpose of discussion that interpretation is true, and that civilian militias could successfully stage a coup d’etat if need be, and not crushed by overwhelming force.

What criteria do you use to justify taking such an extraordinary act? What would it take for you to feel justified in picking up an AR-15 and shooting at government officials? How do you differentiate “tyranny” from “government policy that I disagree with”?

They aren’t. “Second Amendment solutions” is a euphemism for “treason”.

The American Revolution was treasonous. Was it justified in your opinion?

In response to the OP, this is an interesting and multi-faceted question.

At an individual level, I would have no qualms with using lethal force to protect my children from being abducted by the state.

At a societal level, I would tend to NOT get behind a full-scale overthrow of the government. Often the revolutionaries are just as bad or worse than the government itself.

From what I’ve read it mostly wasn’t, but it’s a bit late to worry about it now.

As for myself, you will never get me to pick up an AR-15 for any reason, but if I were the type that was inclined to cheerfully murder people then I’d say that a second amendment solution would be certainly justified if elections were canceled, regardless of the given reason.

This is not to imply that that would be the only justified triggering event, but it would be one possible one. And it’s not to imply that the government we got afterward would be any better - it almost certainly wouldn’t be. But a forcible removal would still be justified at that point.

If the government exceeds it’s mandate and the constitution. Say, hypothetically, that Trump declares himself king and god emperor for life, disbands the congress and takes full control. Not a very likely hypothetical, but I’d say that if that happened then the citizens would be fully justified in rising up against the government.

I don’t think that it would be nearly so cut and dried wrt it being crushed like a bug that folks on this board seem to think. In the case above, presumably Trump et al would have control of the military and police…but I seriously doubt they would fully control either, or that all of the folks in those or other similar organizations would be in lockstep. By the same token, I doubt all of the citizens would be in lock step opposing this either. So, realistically, you are going to have various factions, including government ones that would be fighting it out. I think folks here envision crazy gun nuts rising up and being stepped on like bugs by the government and most citizens who are all in lock step about opposing those (few, scattered) crazy gun nut types, but real life isn’t like that.

If the government cancelled elections, I’d consider it illegitimate and use force to remove them from any position of power they may be holding. I’d try mass non-violent protest first, though.

I’ll be honest and admit that I used to buy into this line or reasoning. Then I grew up and came to the realization that if it ever really applied it has long been a defunct notion insofar as a group of partisans with small arms stands about as much chance of facing off with even foot infantry, much less mechanized infantry, air cavalry, combined arms, or air assault as an does in deflecting a boot. There are other justifications for recognizing and allowing for an armed citizenry (albeit not without rational oversight and restriction as to the type of weapons and ammunition available to the general public) but figing off tyranny is not one that could be realistically put into practice.

The purpose and benefit of a working democracy isn’t that you get the best governance, or eradicate inequality, or whatever, but that when the majority of people feel that they have participation in and accountability over the government, they are far less likely to act out in revolt because even if they don’t get everything they want they have far more to lose in pulling the temple down upon their heads. When people are being systematically disenfranchised, e.g. poll taxes and competency tests prior to the Voting Rights Act, and partisan gerrymandering and prohibitive voter i.d. laws post-Shelby County v Holder, it makes them less inclined to accept the status quo and more willing to act out destructively toward a system they may legitimately feel is not responsive to their needs or operated in their interests. That doesn’t make such action justified, and it is rare that an internal armed revolt results in anything but instability, corruption, and chaos.


The argument was that all men are created equal and thus the leaders should be selected from the body of the people by the people and for the people. Minus that and the government has no foundation for why they are the rulers, beyond physical might, which is not a justifiable foundation.

Note that the founders did not cross the Atlantic and murder King George. They simply issued a letter of notice that they did not consider the government to have any valid justification for its own existence, and then they defended themselves when the British military came for them.

In the modern day US, where all leaders are elected, fairly, by the people as their acceptable and favored leaders, there is no real justification (under the humanistic framework) for disavowing the government. And in neither case is there a justification for violence, except in self-defense.

The Oath of Office I took has a good summary:

As long as the Constitutional checks and balances are still functioning or can reasonably be restored without force, I don’t consider violence to be justified. Once that ceases to be the case I have no ethical issues using force against the Constitution’s domestic enemies.

It only takes one bullet to take out the President. (Not a recommendation, just a statement of physical reality.)

I’ve never hurt a fly, and don’t own a gun. I can’t imagine me shooting another human being for any other reason than self-defense.

However, if some Darth Sideous type plan happened and we ended up in some tyrannical dystopia, well, I might change my mind. The political landscape would have to get considerably worse than it is now. I know some people can’t imagine that, but I can.

If “First Amendment solutions” have been eliminated, and “Article I, Section 2 solutions” and “Article II, Section 1 solutions” have been rendered impossible, and Marbury v. Madison solutions” have been rendered impossible, then “Second Amendment solutions” would be morally justified.

If free speech, free press, and freedom of peaceable assembly have been eliminated; and free elections are not possible; and judicial solutions to these usurpations are not possible (perhaps the courts are simply ignored when they tell The Leader he can’t dissolve Congress and rule by decree; perhaps the courts are in the same boat as Congress–dead or imprisoned), then violence has already been used, by somebody. By the government itself, presumably; either by some group which initially achieved political power by lawful means but is now acting unconstitutionally; or by some group which has violently and illegally seized control of the state.

It’s morally permissible to use force in self-defense–to resist unlawful violence with force. That applies collectively as well as individually.

I don’t know, we’re continually losing troops in Afghanistan, even highly trained forces like Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, to guerrilla warfare. Granted, these guerrillas have access to weapons that Americans don’t; they have RPGs and machine guns, and they build bombs. But if we ever got to the point where there was a civil war in America, the rebels here would undoubtedly start building IEDs and improvised rocket launchers and automatic weapons. Even a handful of trained engineers, a few dozen people to do the manual labor, and a clandestine workshop, could probably crank out illegal armaments equal to what guerrillas in Afghanistan are currently using against our troops.

Everyone always focuses on the guns in this hypothetical scenario but they never talk about the bombs that would undoubtedly be made. Right now there are people all over America who have the ability to create homemade bombs, but no reason to do so. If they had a reason, and they had organization and communication, there would be shit blowing up all over the place.

It would take more than just living in a dictatorship, because before it would be moral to take up arms to resist the dictatorship there would have to be some possibility that taking up arms would actually accomplish something.

And in most cases, it just wouldn’t. OK, you shoot a few cops, blow up a government newspaper office, drive a truck bomb into a day care center.

And then what happens? Everyone rises up and the dictatorship falls apart? Or what is more likely, the cops die and the next month more cops graduate, they just open a new office, and they use the dead kids from the day care center as propaganda against the rebellion.

Yes, it’s morally OK to use violence to save your own life, at least in my ethical system. But overthrowing the government by violence isn’t exactly the same thing, is it? It has to be proportional, it has to have some chance of working. And it especially can’t be “we need to make things worse via random violence so that the current situation is intolerable and the sheeple finally wake up.”

Note that in the case of a foreign conquering army, making things tough on them until they get sick of it and leave is at least plausible. In the case of a domestic authoritarian government that’s not going to happen.

And of course as others have said, it’s not going to be bands of partisans wandering in the woods shooting it out with light infantry patrols. It’s going to be bombings, bombings, and more bombings. Sure, some soldiers are going to get shot in ambush, but it’s going to look a lot more like Northern Ireland. And of course if there’s an authoritarian tyranny the freedom-loving gun nuts are going to be supporting it rather than resisting it. It’s a classic feature of authoritarian movements to have paramilitary volunteers performing quasi-official violent actions in support of the regime. And it’s also a classic feature for the fall of the regime to be accomplished by disloyal regime insiders who see their chance.

Which of course means that the most likely outcome of a successful revolt against an authoritarian regime is the installment of another authoritarian regime, sometimes with brand new faces and sometimes with some of the same old faces. Restoration of representative government is much more likely to follow from the peaceful dissolution of the regime, on the lines of the end of the Franco dictatorship.

Y’all’re fighting the hypothetical. In this thread the second amendment solution works.

I’m operating on the assumption that the rebels all simultaneously stand up, fire simultaneously, make perfect headshots on every person in the present government, then put on their targets’ clothes and steal their identities. Seamless changeover!

I fear that the descent into tyranny will be gradual, and there won’t be a single defining moment you could unambigiously point to and say “this is when democracy died.” Gerrymandering is one of those gray areas. It’s anti-democratic, because it can allow a minority party to remain in power despite the wishes of the majority. But is it worth picking up arms for it? What if the minority party maintains power for 30 years despite the wishes of the majority? Is armed rebellion okay in that situation?

I prefer a bloodless coup. All smotherings.

The mistake many make is the assumption that the tyranny would have to be on a national scale.

Not true.

It could be on a local or state level.

Allowing things to get to such a condition is on the shoulders of the electorate. And an armed response would be a horrible bag of shit. Gawd forbid anything even remotely close ever be necessary.

But, according to my research, it is one of the purposes of the Second Amendment, as is supplementing the organized militia, assisting law enforcement, assisting in times of civil unrest, natural disasters, etc…

Considering that it was essentially a lower-grab by the richest people in the country whose primary motivation was that they wanted a tax cut? No, it wasn’t, and we’d probably be a more mature country today if we’d remained in the Empire and followed Canada’s route to sovereignty.