Let’s have a discussion about the Second Amendment

This post was written by Richard Schrade, an attorney from Georgia and member of the Libertarian National Committee, and gun rights proponent.

This current meme being circulated by those that even seek to think about the real reasons for the Second Amendment is that no matter how well armed the populace that a tyrannical repressive government will always have superior firepower.  That being the case, so goes this meme, there is no reason to allow assault weapons, high capacity magazines etc. in private hands.  That argument is welcomed so far as it is intellectually honest in recognizing that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect the citizenry from the government and has little to do with hunting.  However, the argument is fundamentally flawed.

If revolution ever visits this country again, the central government will be better armed and better organized (as it was in 1775); the early participants in the revolution will represent less than 50% of the citizens (as in 1775); and the ultimate fate of the revolution will rise and fall on the tenacity of the revolutionaries (as with nearly every revolution in western history).

Revolutions are necessarily asymmetrical.  The government always (nearly always) has the upper hand in financing, organization and manpower.  Often the revolution will be loosely organized – sometimes for ideological reasons (St. Petersburg in February 1917) and sometimes for reasons of safety (Chechnya 1990s).  Sometimes the revolution seeks to throw off a colonial ruler (Vietnam 1950s), sometimes a tyrannical government (France 1789).

But the common element in successful revolutions is that there comes a “tipping point” at which government soldiers lose the will to kill revolutionaries.  Sometimes that happens early, sometimes only after the loss of many lives.  The tipping point only comes when the government soldiers face personal risk at the hands of the revolutionaries.  I cannot think of a single revolution in which the revolutionaries outgunned the government (I am sure there are some and I look forward to being schooled by those who can think of some).

To return to the current debate on gun control – a repressive and tyrannical government will always outgun a group of revolutionaries that seek to throw off the yoke of that government.  There will be a tipping point in that revolution at which those government soldiers lose the will to risk their lives in the defense of that government.  The Revolution reaches that tipping point more quickly with assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and special ordinance more quickly in the hands of private citizens.

Let’s have a debate about gun control – let’s have a debate about weapons in the possession of private citizens – but let’s do so honestly.  Let’s frame it in the context of a fundamental change to the Second Amendment.  If three-fourths of the States want to give up or attenuate the right to armed overthrow of the federal government then so be it.  Let’s not pass hastily constructed legislation in the heat of justifiable rage at the slaughter of innocents.

Finally – lest any of you think I am suggesting that we have a violent overthrow of the federal government at this time, I am not.  Lest any of you think that I enjoy seeing young children killed, you are delusional.  If any of you think that I would rather die a free man than live as a slave, you are correct.


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