Monday, May 6, 2013

The NRA, Tyranny, Armed Rebellion, and Lunacy

At some point rational discussion about the Second Amendment and gun ownership crosses the line into crazy conspiracy politics - and that point has apparently become the foundation of the new National Rifle Association (NRA).  Keep in mind that up until the late 1970s, the NRA was an association of gun owners focused on sportsmanship, hunting, and gun safety.  But that has all changed, and the change is nowhere more clear than with the election of new NRA president Jim Porter, a man "still fighting the Civil War."  And, that's not so extreme when you learn that Jim Porter, living in the twenty-first century, actually referred to the Civil War as "the War of the Northern Aggression." Perhaps nothing is more disturbing than Porter's assertion that it is the responsibility of the NRA to train citizens in the use of military style weapons in preparation for the fight against tyranny.  Clearly, in opposition to the feelings of most Americans, the NRA has finally detached itself from reality.

Granted, in response to mass shootings in Arizona and Colorado and Connecticut, there has been a concerted effort by gun safety advocates to limit the possession and ownership of firearms.  Yet, pro-gun forces seem unaware that gun ownership has never been unregulated in the United States.  And that attitude - that "liberty" is found at the end of the barrel of a gun - becomes all the more disturbing when people like Jim Porter are pushing an anti-government, borderline treasonous, agenda.  Of course, it's not just isolated fanatics and the gun manufacturer's lobby that promote a fight against tyranny, as some recent polls have indicated as many as one-third (30%) of Americans believe armed rebellion "may be necessary" against the United States government "in the next few years" as a hedge against eroding liberties.

And that's the point where we depart from rational discussion.  Many pro-gun advocates have seemed to imply the second amendment is grounded in a belief by the Founding Fathers of the people's right to overthrow the government.  It's not.  For, if it were, the definition of treason and the penalties against it would not also be engrained in the Constitution.  And, the early leaders including Washington would not have used the power of the federal government to suppress such armed rebellion, as he did during the Whiskey Rebellion or Shay's Rebellion.  In fact, the Civil War was fought against the very idea when the federal government responded to insurgents firing on Ft. Sumter.  That was armed rebellion against what "the South" felt was the encroachment of tyranny on the liberty of the southern people.  Clearly, history indicates that gun ownership and the second amendment do not provide "license for treason, or armed revolution."  And, it's not simply left wing liberals that believe this.  In fact, as Jay Bookman points out, the very idea was written into strict Constitutional interpretation by one of the strictest of all strict constructionists, Antoin Scalia.

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