The 2nd Amendment Wasn’t Written to Codify Insurgency

As the Bundy Militia pathetically try to make themselves relevant by occupying Federal Lands to protect two convicted Arsonist (who want nothing to do with the Bundy Klan) social media is again abuzz about militias, gun rights and how the second amendment was written for the sole purpose to permit armed insurrection against the government of the United States, if “the people” sees it at “Tyrannical”. 

Many on the right extreme have come up with bizarre and unsubstantiated claims about our founding and what the constitution says, however this interpretation is among the most laughable of all of them. Nothing in the history of the time, not the Federalists papers, not the written works or diaries of the founders, not even reason or logic substantiates this idiotic claim from those who may have read the Constitution but either didn’t understand it or only read propaganda about the Constitution by NRA conmen and phony historians like David Barton. 

Let’s examine this theory from the loons on the right. However to fully understand what follows you need to have an open and clear mind and the ability to utilize critical thinking. So Gun Nuts will have problems sorting through this, but here’s hoping. 

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution adopted in 1791 and states clearly: 

“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 we all know that the Gun Nuts out there like to ignore that first part. I read one blog that on one hand accurately stated it was a “dependent” clause but then oddly stated that as a “dependent” clause, isn’t relative to the rest of the amendment(?) Ah, rightwing logic! 

The issue of Militia is key. The current and popular theory of the Gun Nuts is that the whole purpose of this amendment was for the people who they see as the “militia” are the only way to remove tyrannical government, like the founders did in the Revolutionary War against George the Third. Now if the Second Amendment was the only amendment referencing the militia in the constitution and there were no other acts of Congress legislated and signed by the Chief Executive at the time, you may, with a lot of booze and no sleep on a school night, give credence to that theory. However, that isn’t the case. 

Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution provides that the states transferred to Congress the power: 

“To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel Invasions” and “to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia.”  

The founders were wary about having a standing army so they wanted to rely on calling for State Militias to defend our nation from all enemies foreign and domestic. They wanted to ensure that the Militias were well armed, trained and organized for just such an eventuality. In fact each time until 2008 with Heller, When Second Amendment rights were argued before the Supreme Court, the Justices ruled that the Second was a “group right” ceding to the dependent clause regarding a militia. It has only been since Heller that the Supreme Court has now changed over 200 years of stare decisis and has now made gun ownership an “individual right”. So much for Antonin Scalia saying the Constitution isn’t a “living document” subject to change. 

Now that’s not all. Congress in 1792 (keep in mind this Congress was made up of who we call our founders at that time) legislated the Militia Act of 1792. Under this Act and Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution father of our country, presider of the Constitutional Convention and first president of the United States George Washington twice put down armed insurrections against the government of the United States by calling out the Militias. It would appear as many clearly understand, the second amendment was written as a means to defend our government, not threaten it. If the latter were so, how was President Washington allowed to use the Second to put down armed rebellion? By the way, the Whiskey and Shay’s rebellions essentially were about the same things (taxes, federal government overreach, etc.) that the right cite now as “Tyranny.” After Washington put down the Whiskey Rebellion he reported back to Congress stating: 

“To yield to the treasonable fury of so small a portion of the United States, would be to violate the fundamental principle of our constitution, which enjoins that the will of the majority shall prevail.  . . . Succeeding intelligence has tended to manifest the necessity of what has been done; it being now confessed by those who were not inclined to exaggerate the ill-conduct of the insurgents, that their malevolence was not pointed merely to a particular law; but that a spirit, inimical to all order, has actuated many of the offenders.”

He didn’t care much for “Second Amendment Remedies”. 

Now many on the right will cite quotes from the founders like Thomas Jefferson to support their claim the purpose of the second was to give the people a means to threaten our government. Interesting notion except for two things, if it isn’t legislated and signed into law by the Chief Executive, it carries no legal weight. And second, the quotes they cite have no basis in fact. One they love to cite is Jefferson saying: 

“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” 

These are stirring words except for one thing. Thomas Jefferson never said them. It has been researched and no historians have been able to attribute it to any of his writings or speeches. In fact the quote first surfaced in 1914. Keep in mind Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826. 

Some like to say it can be found in the Federalist Papers. I suspect they never read them or understand that the term “Federalist” is key. These papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay who were “Federalists” and it was the Federalists who advocated for a stronger central government to replace the weak one provided under the Articles of Confederation. Why would those believing in a strong central government write about a means to overturn it by a mob? 

Another thing these Gun Nuts don’t comprehend when they cite “Tyranny” as reflected in the Declaration of Independence as a warning to “Tyranny” in our government. At the time prior to our formal break from the rule of King George the Third, his leadership was absolute. He wasn’t elected King, he was born King. He wasn’t held to the will of Parliament, he controlled Parliament. He wasn’t bound to orders of the English Courts, he was the English Courts. When the founders created our government they wanted to avoid a Monarchy like the one they just rebelled against. They saw government as only being viable upon consent of the governed. So they created a Chief Executive who would serve terms of four years and to remain in office must win in a nationwide election governed only by the Electoral College. That Chief Executive could be held to account by a separate Supreme Court, that Chief Executive can be impeached by a Congress or by the people by not re-electing him or her.  So it would appear that the remedy for a “tyrannical” President is actually either our Congress, our Supreme Court or our ballots. Things that didn’t apply to King George the Third in 1776. So comparing Obama to King George is disingenuous at best. 

Another thing to consider if you still believe a small militia group has the right to overthrow the government of the United States because they see it as Tyrannical and they don’t want to wait for the next election or take the time to go to Court or Congress for redress of their issues: Who determines what’s Tyrannical and who elected these Militias to represent the rest of us? Seems that these people are nothing more than insurgents taking matters into their own hands regardless of what the rest of the nation thinks. That makes them far more dangerous than any elected official who is constrained by the US Constitution. These people see themselves literally above the law, which make them the tyrants. 

No my friends, nothing in the Second Amendment or the Constitution as a whole condones or permits armed insurgency against your government. Our system is set up to deal with redress in a much less violent manner than the idiocy of ne’er-do-wells who really have no business socializing with decent folk.

At best, private gun ownership is for your personal protection, not revolution. Certainly not a revolution you would ever win or live through. 

One final thought, people who join up with the weekend warrior types should be careful calling themselves “Militias”. As somebody pointed out to me on Twitter recently, if they are militias, then under the Constitution, Congress and the President can call them out and deploy them to defend our nation. They could be sent to Syria for all I care.   

3 thoughts on “The 2nd Amendment Wasn’t Written to Codify Insurgency

  1. I enjoyed reading, however it was George III, not George the Second who was king at the time of the American Revolution. (You might be amused to know this is a question on one version of the test asked of immigrants seeking citizenship.)

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