By Thomas Kwan
In 2022, nationwide mass shootings have prompted many state and federal governments to enact some form of gun legislation, but could the total prohibition of weapons endanger American freedom?
Let us start by asking, do we have the right to protect ourselves against a tyrannical government, where is the line drawn on when or if we should pick up arms, and how does the Second Amendment come into play with upholding our government, and the nation as a whole.
A Look Back Into American History
According to the Declaration of Independence, for a government to be legitimate, it must have the consent of its citizens, and without it, the citizens may form a government. The founding fathers George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, had done before them. But what does this mean for the modern era, and has our government stepped too far in violating civil rights?
According to the Declaration of Independence, Americans had asked their British brethren to address these issues repeatedly, but they were less receptive and failed to help the colonists. Founding father and third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, looked to the works of theorists such as Cicero, Locke, and Sidney, stating that the declaration was the elementary book of public rights. In the eyes of Jefferson, government without consent is the same as robbery Second Amendment became a legitimate form of self-defense against a tyrannical government. Should this same form of thinking apply to our current state of government in the modern era?
“Prudence dictates against changing long-established governments, or withdrawing consent for light and transient causes,” said the declaration. Though in 1776, “the long train of usurpations and abuses” by King George’s government had “a design to reduce” the colonists “under absolute Despotism.”
Do Checks And Balances Alone Prevent Tyranny?
Anti-Federalists had many concerns with the new government, worried it could become too powerful. With the ability to ratify the Constitution, the government could potentially become tyrannical. Many checks and balances lie within the Constitution. James Madison reassured the public that the government would not become a tyranny.
According to Federalist No. 46, the American government functions with checks and balances by separation of powers. This separation between the executive, legislative and judicial branches would ensure that tyranny could not prosper, or at least make it highly unlikely. If someone such as the President seized too much power, the state government could lead armed people in militias to fight it. Meaning the only thing the only safeguard American citizens and states have against tyranny is the Second Amendment right, serving as a way to restore constitutional order.
“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation,” Madison wrote,
“the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.”
According to our Constitution, when Madison was referring to simple governments, he meant unitary governments such as the one in France. In opposition to a unitary government, our US Constitutional system divides the ruling power between federal and state governments. The best leaders were those who were intermediate magistrates, such as local governments and officials.
Does The 2nd Amendment Apply To The Individual?
Many founders opposed using armed force when an individual or group had issued a particular law. They believed that the Constitutional should specifically empower Congress alone, with its first use executed during the presidencies of Washington and Adams, when federal governments called upon state militias to suppress the insurrection infamously known as the Whiskey Rebellion, which occurred in western Pennsylvania. Fries Rebellion, in eastern Pennsylvania, was also born out of anti-tax protests, with mobs of people using armed force. The American Revolution followed the Constitution as independence from Britain was delegated by representing state governments and not the individual.
“to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions,” the US Constitution
The Right To Fight Tyranny Applies To Everyone
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, while the Second Amendment right does not give people the right to fight tyranny, the ability to fight it is an essential human right.
“It is essential if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,” written in the Constitution.
Americans who enjoy the privilege of possessing a weapon for protection are due in part to the diligence of Ambassador Eleanor Roosevelt, who carried a handgun for protection. Influence from the Declaration of Independence also helped ensure that no government could disarm the American People.
In the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller, all nine Justices agreed that the amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for service in the militia, according to the Law Department at Cornell. While the justices disagreed about the right of gun ownership for other purposes, such as personal self-defense or hunting, they all agreed that it was imperative to fight against tyranny. The court justice, Antonin Scalia, was asked why the founding fathers believed in a well-regulated militia.
“When the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny,” said Justice Antonin Scalia.
While gun ownership, rights, and regulation is a divisive topic, and the need to address mass shootings is apparent, the ability to have a well-regulated militia in the eyes of the founding fathers and American citizens is necessary to uphold our Constitution and to fight against tyranny.