Guest Column: Second Amendment: Defense against tyranny?

March 20, 2013

By Del Wasso

I’ve heard the “defense against tyranny” argument many, many times, and while some courts have acknowledged it, it has both an inherent legal and logical flaw.

The natural right of revolution, as espoused by both John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, was a concept that a tyrannical government could — and should — be overthrown by the people when that government no longer looked after the interests of the people being governed.

Locke even described armed revolution as a duty and an obligation, rather than as an option citizens could decide against.

The flaw in applying this concept to the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment is in assuming that exercising one’s natural right to revolution guarantees a republican form of government or — the legal flaw — a constitutional government.

Exercising one’s right to revolution guarantees neither. All it guarantees is revolution.

The Constitution was established and ordained with an amendatory process by that any part of and/or all of the Constitution could be altered or repealed. As long as that amendatory process remains intact and has not been rendered impaired, or was somehow repealed, we can assume that anyone taking up arms against the government is doing so in opposition to their duly elected officials — and not against the government those officials represent.

That’s not a revolution.

That is, instead, an insurrection, which the Constitution, referencing Article I, Section 8, Clause 15, clearly states is a criminal act to be suppressed and neither encouraged nor legalized courtesy of someone’s distorted and twisted personal interpretation of the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

And that brings us back to what this is all about: The constitutional or extra-constitutional interpretation of the Second Amendment, and precisely why the “right to bear arms shall not be infringed.”

While the right to own a firearm has been ruled as an individual right — and properly so, in my view — by the U.S. Supreme Court, as opposed to a collective group right, the context is clearly for a collective group right purpose: “A well regulated militia.”

That purpose is clear because that is, after all, exactly what the Second Amendment says the purpose for the amendment is:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Obviously, the men who drafted and voted on the passage of the Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment saw the right to own firearms as a prerequisite to a people’s militia, and equally obvious was that this people’s militia was to serve the federal government — not overthrow it, citing, again Article I, Section 8, Clause 15.

This people’s militia was intended to be subject to federeal regulation and federal oversight citing both the Constitution’s Second Amendment and Article I, Section 8, Clause 15.

It is Congress’ constitutional duty in that clause, in fact, “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasion” — making the federal government the master of the people’s militia, not the target of that militia’s armed might.

If that is the case — and it most certainly is — then Congress could be said to be derelict in its constitutional duties when it fails to properly regulate the people’s militia. Failing to do so prevents the people’s militia from performing those activities the Constitution says the people’s militia is constitutionally obligated to do.

Any other interpretation of the Second Amendment under the hubris of a “defense against tyranny” argument is, therefore — in one way or another — flawed.

Del Wasso is a resident of Freeport, Ill.

From the March 20-26, 2013, issue

One Comment

  1. John

    March 20, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Sorry, but you are most certainly incorrect. Your arguments contain some very big and very incorrect assumptions; I will focus on the biggest.

    The United States was a “State Supremacy” form of government prior to the Civil War. States printed their own money, maintained their own militias, and generally governed their own affairs. They were held together by a loose confederation we know call the Federal Government.

    The Federal Government was most certainly NOT the master of the Peoples Militias until After the Civil War.

    The framers of the Constitution did not form the States Militias and place them under the Federal Government. Militias were under the control of the States themselves. States recruited, armed, and trained their own militias. This is why the Civil War saw such an enormous collection of non-standard arms amongst the various militias.

    The Civil War changed this, and a Federal Government Supremacy emerged. The Federal Government began the process of assimilating state militias which led to the creation of the National Guard, a reserve component of the U.S. Military.

    No, the Framers of the Constitution and the Post-Civil War Federasl Government had nothing in common.

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