A friend of mine, replying to a Facebook post which argued that the “Second Amendment was added to the Constitution as an assurance that Americans will never lack the weaponry to fight against their own government, if that government becomes tyrannical,” countered with “needing [semi-automatic weapons] to protect us from a tyrannical Government is silly in that the US Government by virtue of the crazy amounts of money spent on our military would always have the ability to beat the population. For a start they have rocket propelled bombs, drones, even grenades.”
The first and primary reason for the Second Amendment is to guarantee the citizens of this nation the right to protect themselves from the natural tendency of governments to become tyrannical. When the government has all the guns, the people are in a very dangerous situation. Witness the millions upon millions – estimated to be in the range of 100,000,000 people – murdered by their own governments in just the Twentieth Century.
In every genocide in the last 100 years – the Armenians, the Jews, the Tutsis in Rwanda, the Ukrainians, the Cambodians – to name just a few, the government was able to round people up with virtually no opposition because the people were disarmed and utterly defenseless. Not so in America.
I have no idea how an existential confrontation with a tyrannical government in America might play out. I don’t believe that the entire military would turn on the people. Some certainly might, but many would not. But the fact that there are an estimated 300,000,000 guns in the hands of American citizens puts us in a very different position than the unfortunate victims of their own governments mentioned above. If nothing else, the fact that we are an armed citizenry makes us far more assertive in our criticisms of and our opposition to bad or dangerous government policies and initiatives.
I have a very interesting – and very small – book titled “How Do You Kill Eleven Million People?” The eleven million figure is the number of institutionalized murders carried out under Adolph Hitler. It does not include military deaths on either side in the war, just the people who were arrested on the street and disappeared, the people who were herded into ghettos, and then later onto cattle trains bound for concentration camps and, ultimately, firing squads and gas chambers. The title of the book is rephrased on page 19 with this question “What we need to understand is how eleven million people allow themselves to be killed.” The answer is simple. They allowed themselves to be killed because: 1) they were disarmed and rendered defenseless, and 2) they were lied to about the intentions of the authorities every step of the way. When people are defenseless, what choice do they have but to submit to authorities with guns? In Rwanda, it wasn’t even guns. It was machetes. The roving government inspired mobs had machetes. The Tutsis had nothing. Almost 1,000,000 Tutsis were murdered in about three months. But when people have their own guns, the entire dynamic is different. They have a choice. If only the Tutsis had AR-15s with large capacity magazines.
Men, by nature, are not angels. They are not to be trusted with unlimited power. Jefferson, understanding human nature as he did, said that those who govern in America are to be restrained, bound down from mischief, by the chains of the Constitution. But when the chains of the Constitution are not sufficient to secure the liberty and the rights of the people, our fall back security is the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is what the Jews, the Armenians, the Cambodians, the Tutsis, and many other victims of their own governments didn’t have.
Of course, to my friend’s point, it is true that the American citizenry could not stand toe to toe against our own military if it ever came to that. But as long as we as a people preserve our unalienable right to keep and bear the arms of our choice, we will never be defenseless, and we will never have no other choice than to allow ourselves to submit like sheep to tyranny. That, in my view, is a blessing from the Lord for which I am grateful and which I intend to stand up for.