I was raised in Wyoming. It is the quintessential “square state” — a big patch of beautiful nothing in the middle of nowhere, populated by 300,000 people, and wind.
Wyoming is also a gun-totin’ Red State. My father was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and made the kids in the neighborhood some of the best wooden guns I’ve ever seen. Our neighbor across the street was a serious gun collector. A lot of people hunted game in the fall — typically deer and antelope — and the ranchers all had predator issues for which a gun was simply a convenient and appropriate farm implement.
As a young man, I believed — as my Wyoming upbringing taught me — that the point of the Second Amendment to the Constitution was to allow The People to defend themselves against their own government, should it turn to tyranny, and found that my callow political sympathies lay with neither the Republicans nor the Democrats, but with the Libertarians.
Then I grew up.
I really can’t put it any more delicately. This view of the Second Amendment is juvenile at best. For anyone who wants to disagree, I have just three questions.
Envision a situation — any situation you like — where you believe in your heart that The Time Has Come. The Government has turned to tyranny, and it is the hour for all good men and true to kick off their man-slippers, step out of their man-caves, and start kicking some ass. It’s time to do your duty, and Defend America. Lock and load.
First question: Do you know who your CO is? That’s Commanding Officer, just to be clear.
Don’t tell me who it is, since if you’re going up against a national government gone sour, I’d certainly hope your CO’s identity is need-to-know. The question is, do you know your CO? If not, do you at least have a reliable means of knowing when you’ve been called to leave your home and family, and report for duty and (probably) death in the glorious cause of Freedom?
I’m guessing you don’t belong to any chain of command whatsoever. You’re a private citizen with privately-owned lethal weapons. No one gets to tell you what to do. That’s what freedom is all about.
That means you are, at best, no different from an armed vigilante in a city-wide riot. You are surrounded by other armed and dangerous hotheads freshly arisen from their man-caves, and also by lots and lots of unarmed fellow citizens — you call them “sheeple” — who are most certainly not going to man up and grab a gun. In fact, they’ll take pictures of you on their iPhones and rat you out to the authorities.
Your revolution is over before it even starts.
So let’s assume you are in the small minority of armed citizens who are also part of a volunteer militia with a clear chain of command and a sworn oath of duty.
Second question: Who is backing your revolution?
It takes an 18-wheeler full of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) to keep a fighting force of 1000 well-fed for ten days. You need a constant resupply of ammunition just for training: if every patriot gets to practice with one shot per day, it’s 1000 rounds of ammunition a day. What about clothing: shoes, coats, hats, gloves? Body armor, helmets, shovels, and mess kits? Kitchen equipment? Vehicles? Spare tires? Gasoline?
What about shelter? Where will you winter? Where will you hide 1000 men, and is your secret base proof against infrared satellite imaging, drones, air strikes, and old-fashioned betrayal? Or are you going to embed yourself in a civilian population, and implicitly use them as hostages?
Do you have smart, seasoned tacticians in your organization? Do you have strategic planners? Do you have a path to winning this war you’re about to start your militia of 1000 men, good and true, pitted against the sworn and ready Armed Forces of the (now-tyrannical) United States Government?
I know you are all enamored of the American Revolution and how it turned out, but I hope you understand that without financial support from France, and without an entire ocean between Britain and the colonies, the American Revolution would have been nothing more than a short-lived riot, swiftly put-down and its leaders hanged. It very nearly ended at Valley Forge. It might well have failed had not King George been afflicted with the madness of porphyry during the critical phases of that war.
It was a near thing.
In the modern world, you are aware, are you not, that every single “patriotic resistance” (or “radicalized terrorist group”), from ISIL to the FARC to the Shrouded Whatever, is — as it must be — supported by a solvent government that wants to see a rival government fall? So which hostile foreign government is going to supply, support, and guide your militia? Will you be working for the Russians, or the Chinese, or for someone else?
I’m going to guess that it never occurred to you to think about any of this, and I’m going to further guess that your CO, and his CO (if he has one) has not thought about it, either.
Your revolution will end when your forces are pinned down by the FBI and the National Guard, besieged, and start to get hungry.
So let’s take this to the final step. Let’s assume that somehow, after weeding out all the sheeple and the snowflakes and the Democrats and the Godless Liberals and the women and the children and the cripples and all the rest of the worthless dross that never has and never will stand up and fight for freedom — that somehow, there are still enough of you, good men and true, under some kind of brilliant strategic command, with support commitments from at least one major government hostile to the tyranny in Washington, DC, to actually make war on the United States Government. That there are enough of you to potentially defeat the sworn and duty-bound soldiers and high command who remain loyal to the US Armed Forces, and force the corrupt US government to its knees.
Third question: How do you really expect this to play out?
I hope you understand that you are starting a war against an established government that is, however corrupt you believe it to be, still the lawful government of the nation.
I hope you understand that you will be immediately branded as foreign-led terrorists on US soil, vilified by the US media, shunned by a terrified US public, infiltrated by spies and traitors to your cause, and will be engaged in not only a military struggle, but a propaganda struggle to capture the hearts and minds of this nation of television-drugged sheeple.
I hope you understand that you will no longer be a member of a militia. This is war. You will be a soldier in a full-scale army. They will feed you. They will clothe you. They will train and arm you. They will give you orders, and hang you if you disobey (not shoot you — they’ll want to conserve ammunition). They will do all the thinking for you.
As for your privately-owned weapons: if this insurgent army has any interest in them at all, it will be to confiscate and distribute them to their sharpshooters and special operatives. You’ll get standard issue.
No one can say who would eventually “win” such a civil war, but one thing is guaranteed: we will all lose our freedom.
Here’s the bottom line.
No government cares about your guns. Your guns are not a threat to the government. Your guns have never been a threat to the government. Your guns will never be a threat to the government.
On the other hand, if your guns make you a sufficient annoyance, they will put out an arrest warrant, hunt you down, starve you out, and — if necessary — fire bomb you out of existence. You will be a terrorist shot while trying to escape.
And if it’s really a tyranny you are up against — a real, honest-to-God tyranny — they’ll take out the entire area around you, without hesitation or qualm, even in the middle of a heavily populated city. You think your assault rifle is going to stop a stinger missile?
Your privately owned guns are a hobby. Your band-of-patriots doing calisthenics in the woods is a hobby.
Private gun ownership does not “protect the liberty of America.” It never has, and it never will. This is one of the most ridiculous Libertarian myths to have come out of people who’ve lived too long with the maddening moan of Wyoming wind in their ears.
So what is the Second Amendment all about? Glad you asked.
Turns out — and I didn’t know this until a couple of years ago — it was a negotiating point that the Southern states demanded in return for their ratification of the Constitution. The “militias” they refer to so mysteriously in the amendment weren’t mysterious at all in 1778: they existed, and were a matter of common knowledge in both the North and the South.
The militias were informally known as “slave patrols.” These were armed citizen militias in the southern states with mandatory service requirements for every able-bodied white man — with explicit exemptions for various occupations, like ministers and politicians. Their purpose was also a matter of common knowledge: it was to control the negro slave population, through oppression and fear.
The new Constitution explicitly established a continental army, and the Southern states feared that this national army would supersede the authority of their slave patrols, and that the Northern states would use this authority to gradually absorb and phase out the slave patrols. The Northern representatives argued that this was nonsense (they were most likely lying). The Southern representatives held fast: they believed (almost certainly correctly) that they would lose control of their slaves without the militias, and without slaves — if they were forced to pay their laborers a living wage — they believed the Southern economy would collapse.
The Second Amendment is about preserving slavery, and the slave-economy of the Old South.
If you want to take issue with this “theory” of the Second Amendment, then I’ll ask you a final question. We know the writers of the Constitution were worried about the unwashed masses, the people the Romans and later historians referred to as “the mob.” They were worried enough that, although they gave citizens a House of Representatives and a vote, they initially restricted the definition of “citizen” to landowners. They also established a separate Senate composed of members who were originally appointed to their office by the State governments. They further protected their fledgling government from the mob by establishing the Electoral College, to filter the popular vote once more.
Given all that, do you really think they were interested in giving the mob a way to blow away the government they had tried so hard to create? By simply pulling a trigger?
That makes as much sense as hair on a cue ball.
Now, I don’t begrudge anyone for not knowing the two-century-old politics behind the Second Amendment; it certainly isn’t taught in school.
But if you’ve been thinking your gun ownership has ever had anything to do with protecting the US against tyranny under our own government, let me make it clear: you are thinking like a child.
Like those Bundy boys, who took over a government bird sanctuary in Oregon, got on the government-created, government-protected Internet to beg for food, took for granted that it would be delivered promptly to their door by the government-run Postal Service, and expected any outcome but public humiliation and a prison term.
I, for one, am sick of hearing this gunslinger fantasy from grown men. Newsflash: you are neither Shane, nor Batman.
Might you consider doing a revision of this post in the light of the Jan. 6 insurrection? I’d say some of your points here were proven.
I was just thinking that very thing, and spotted your comment… 🙂
[…] I’d like to turn back to a (perhaps) slightly-prescient post I wrote just after the fourth of July in 2017. […]