Some of the best and worst arguments about politics and the Second Amendment can be found on the editorial pages of newspapers. My aunt sent me the obituary notice from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (Feb. 11, 2013, B-6) of a long-time neighbor. On the other side was a series of letters about politics in general and gun issues.
The first one was about how Republicans are subverting majority rule. The self-described Democrat contends that since President Obama won a second term, he should be able to implement his agenda without resistance from the Republicans.
Our government isn’t built on the “majority rule” principle. We are not a Democracy. If we were, we wouldn’t have a president. There are three branches of government and a purposefully divided Congress — House and Senate.
In the Federalist Papers (No. 10), James Madison wrote that democracies are “spectacles of turbulence and contention.” Pure democracies are “incompatible with personal security or the rights of property. . . . In general [they] have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”1
Article Four of the Constitution states: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government,” not “majority rule.”
Another letter writer describes how his late father would not recognize the National Rifle Association (NRA). “When he became a member as a young man,” he writes, “he got very involved. He was proud to be a member because, back then, the NRA was all about saving the environment and teaching gun safety. He was not a gun collector. He was a hunter, a sportsman. He raised five children, three girls and two boys. He taught us all how to shoot and hunt safely. He actually taught gun safety courses for the NRA. . . . . Today’s NRA speaks for gun makers, not hunters, sportsmen and responsible gun owners.”
These are commendable, but the First Amendment is not about hunting, saving the environment, and teaching gun safety. By logical extension, the First Amendment includes hunting, and it also includes gun makers. If it didn’t, then Congress could get around the Second Amendment by outlawing gun making.
One shorter letter was equally misinformed. One of the arguments that Second Amendment advocates use is that guns might be needed to protect against tyranny. That’s a reasonable expectation of the freedoms granted because of the phrase “well regulated militia.” She writes:
“Do these advocates not understand that the very people against whom they would rebel would be their fellow citizens in the armed forces? The so-called tyrannical government would send in the National Guard, Reserves, etc. to quell the rebellion. Do the words ‘civil war’ mean anything to these people?”
Let’s suppose an indigenous insurgency of Islamic extremists decide to act against a small city. Given the way liberals want to regulate guns, what defenses would the people have? How many people would be dead before the National Guard could be deployed? What if there were a national emergency of some kind? Local communities, with the help of local law enforcement (sheriffs) could call on gun owners to act as a civilian force.
But what about her claim that we would be fighting against our “fellow citizens.” Is she familiar with the 1915 Armenian Genocide (not to mention the Russian Revolution and Nazi Germany)? “The Great Crime” of the “Armenian Holocaust,” as it was often called,
“was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey. It took place during and after World War I and was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert. The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. The Assyrians, the Greeks and other minority groups were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, and their treatment is considered by many historians to be part of the same genocidal policy.
The genocide started with intellectuals and community leaders and was then extended to include Armenians uprooted from their homes who were then forced “to march for hundreds of miles, depriving them of food and water, to the desert of what is now Syria. Massacres were indiscriminate of age or gender, with rape and other sexual abuse commonplace.”
The letter writer might respond, “Well, that would never happen here.” I agree, because too many people have guns and know how to use them. Gun ownership will keep us from having a civil war.
- Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist, Jacob E. Cooke, ed. (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), 61. [↩]