Strange Arguments Against an Armed Citizenry
Wheaton College philosophy of law professor Stephen Mathis argues against the belief that the Second Amendment seeks to ensure, in part, that the citizens of the United States cannot be bullied by their government — creating a “right to revolution,” as he puts it. His points, however, are self contradictory and conceptually flawed.
First the contradiction. Seeking to show the context of the Second Amendment, Mathis writes:
One key point many people overlook, however, is that most of the Founders were against the idea of a standing military in peacetime, because a standing military gave the president too much power, thus making citizens less free. Consequently, a citizen’s militia played the central role in national defense.
His next subsequent point begins from wholly different assumptions, though:
It is hard to imagine the stockpile of firearms an individual — or group of individuals — would need to mount an effective defense against the U.S. military, and the idea of an effective offense strains the imagination further.
That’s certainly a problem for the modern-day revolutionary, but it hardly conflicts with the Founders’ vision, as Mathis himself describes it. If the federal government has no standing army at all, then even the minimal stockpile of a gun over the mantle could be an effective defense against it. That the United States ultimately developed such a highly functional military hardly argues for the disarmament of its people.
This can be seen to be true upon addressing Mathis’s major conceptual error:
… the right of revolution cannot be guaranteed in the Constitution, because we can engage in revolution only when we are willing to throw away the Constitution and start from scratch. …
After all, if one is really committed to this understanding of the Second Amendment, one is also committed, by logical extension, to overthrowing the U.S. government altogether.
That’s nonsense. It’s very easy to imagine (especially in the current political reality) circumstances in which the “revolution” would be acting as a guarantor of the Constitution against leaders who have, themselves, effectively thrown it away. A single op-ed is too narrow a base from which to assert it as the case, but it seems likely that Mathis misses this point because he fundamentally sees the government as the natural inheritor and keeper of our Constitutional legacy. It’s not; the people of the United States are.
That being the case, the possibility can hardly be discounted that the mighty American military would turn in support of a patriotic revolution that arises as a correction to tyrannical excess. And having at least some minimal weaponry above and beyond household items like knives and pitchforks surely gives the people an added sense of independence and confidence and makes it much less likely that a righteous cause could be swept away before the government’s enforcers have reason to question the justice of their commander in chief’s orders.
(Please note that I offer these arguments as theory, not as an expression of hope that such a revolution, much less an incitement toward it.)