With the NRA meeting in Texas this week to rile up its members into not only believing Obama and "liberals" are coming to take away their guns, they are fundamentally challenging their "Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms!" You know the drill, make baseless vitriolic statements about Obama wanting to take guns away from Americans and the base shouts, "Hell no, we need our guns to protect us and to overthrow our tyrannical government!" So when do the historians jump on board to demand the gun rights folks actually read the Second Amendment? When do historians demand the gun rights folks read Article II of the Constitution? So when do historians point out that our history is filled with incidents in which Americans have picked up their guns to fight governmental tyranny (and lost)? Where are the historians needed to remind the NRA and its 5 million members that the right to fight tyranny arose during the Revolutionary War, but since the ratification of the Constitution, no such right exists? When will Americans learn that the rhetoric pushed onto them through the ideologically oriented for-profit media is simply false? Think I am a bit "off" on my history? We all know about the Civil War and how that turned out. But do we know what the Constitution actually says and how it was applied during the first direct challenge by armed Americans during the Whiskey Rebellion? Let's take a look.
According to the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, "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."
Sounds straight forward right? But, it obviously is not! Every American has a fundamental right to bear arms, but in the context of maintaining a "well regulated militia." So far so good, right? Yet this is exactly where the NRA and promoters of the Second Amendment jump from the train. A reading of Article II might help them understand the context of the Second Amendment, but they always forget the Constitution even has Articles!
Among other powers enumerated to the President, Article II, Section 2 also states; " The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment." Ah that part! The president of the United States, acting in his capacity as Commander In Chief, is also the Commander of "the Militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States...."
A closer reading of this provision in relationship with the Second Amendment reveals that well regulated militia's may be formed by armed citizens when called into service of the United States and they shall all be commanded and led by the President! Pretty hard to organize a militia to overthrow the government when the head of that government is your military commander (in today's case, President Obama), right? So what gives? I know, you might believe I am massaging my interpretation to fit my view on the Second Amendment, but consider President Washington's handling of the Whiskey Rebellion, wherein Americans took up arms to fight the government over taxes imposed on Whiskey. Remember folks, the Constitution came into existence 11 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They are not the same document (unlike what many folks erroneously believe).
Due to serious budget shortfalls and high debt associated with fighting the Revolutionary War, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton convinced President Washington of the need to increase federal revenues. In doing so, a tax was levied in 1791 on the purchase of whiskey. Questioning the legitimacy of the government imposing a national tax on whiskey, Americans in Western Pennsylvania took up arms to fight it out over the tax, leading to the deaths of U.S. citizens. Washington, deeply concerned that the incident could erupt into a widespread insurrection, had to figure out how to stomp this movement out. Initially, he could not send troops from Pennsylvania because even high ranking officials in the Quaker State agreed with the rebels and favored the armed insurrection. So President Washington had federal troops from New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland assemble and under his personal leadership and with Hamilton at his side, set off to confront the armed mob, determined to use lethal force if necessary.
Eventually, Hamilton convinced Washington to stay "above the fray" and he alone led the federal troops to their violent confrontation with the rebellious men from Pennsylvania. After firing upon the rebels (killing four), it became obvious that the government was determined to uphold federal law, even if it required violent military action. I know, so what Rubin, what's your point? My point is simple. Eventually, about 20 Pennsylvania rebels were arrested for "insurrection against their government" and the use of arms against the United States led to their conviction as traitors. Taking up arms against the United States is not a right guaranteed and protected by the Second Amendment. Instead it is a CRIME. How do we know this? Because once the dust settled from the Whiskey Rebellion, President Washington issued all of the convicted rebels a full Pardon. Presidents only pardon folks convicted of CRIMES! Now I know that was a long time ago, but does it not help clarify what the Framers meant when writing the Second Amendment? I mean, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were ratified in 1788 and the Whiskey Rebellion was put down in 1794. One can certainly deduce what the Framers really had in mind when just 6 years later the government lawfully put down an armed citizen insurrection.
So why haven't the historians brought this up to the Second Amendment advocates claiming they have a right to overthrow their government? Do they think these claims are so ridiculous that no one is paying attention to them? Just last week, a Right-Leaning Rasmussen poll found that 44% of Republicans agree that Armed Insurrection may be needed to protect their "liberties" from our "Tyrannical" government!
(See: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/gun_control/44_think_government_effort_to_confiscate_all_guns_likely). Still think gun advocates are just nuts when it comes to the Second Amendment? Please think again as they continue to stockpile weapons and ammunition at an alarming rate (exactly the goal of the NRA - to boost sales of firearms). Are Americans paying attention? Will they ever?
So when gun advocates cite the Founding Fathers claiming they supported the right of all to violently overthrow a tyrannical government, you might want to ask them when those statements were made. Because if they predate the ratification of the Constitution, they have no bearing on the current interpretation of the Second Amendment. To all those claiming it is their patriotic duty to be prepared to violently overthrow the government of the United States of America, I leave you with President Washington's own words, "Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism!"