How The Second Amendment Prevents Tyranny

The Federalist

The latest gun control hysteria being stoked by the press has revealed an enormous amount of confusion about the role of the Second Amendment as a guarantee of liberty in our constitutional system.

That role is alternately embraced in rather simplistic form or dismissed as an absurdity: how could ragtag bands of rednecks with AR-15s ever hope to take on the U.S. military, with its full panoply of tanks, helicopters, and elite troops? The same people who say this will also insist that any American military action overseas is a mistake, because the U.S. military, with its full panoply of tanks, helicopters, and elite troops, can never hope to defeat ragtag bands of insurgents with AK-47s. But don’t look for consistency in partisan politics, and don’t be surprised when a Democratic politician wanders off script and suggests that if President Trump were to “ignore the courts,” then “this is where the Second Amendment comes in, quite frankly.”

Some declare flatly that this would never even be necessary, because “in a democracy, the government is the people’s government.” That begs a very big question. I wish I could be so complacent that it can’t happen here.

The Founding Fathers didn’t ask why it was necessary to provide the people the means to resist a tyrannical central government. It was a problem they had very recently encountered in real life, in the form of thousands of Redcoats sent across the Atlantic by a distant central government to suspend civil rights and enforce oppressive laws. So when they drafted their own system of central government and provided it sufficient military force to repel or deter foreign threats, they were profoundly concerned that this new national government would not be able to turn its power back against its own citizens.

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