President Biden, in the midst of inflation, potential recession and a stock market that will make you sad, twitted what might appear to be a surprising, and silly, position.
It's time we ban assault weapons in this country.
— President Biden (@POTUS) September 24, 2022
That this is his position is hardly surprising, even if one might wonder when a more serious discussion will put an end to the “assault weapons” characterization of common semi-automatic weapons that are black and scary looking. What might be surprising is that President Biden raises it now, presumably to gather momentum with the same voters who are energized to vote in the midterms due to the Supreme Court’s overruling Roe in Dobbs.
Congressman and former con law prof Jamie Raskin argues in an op-ed that the belief that the Second Amendment exists to enable citizens to take up arms against the government should the United States become a tyranny is constitutionally baseless.
This purported right to overthrow the government means that the people must enjoy access to weapons that are wholly unnecessary for hunting or self-defense, such as military-style assault weapons. As Representative Chip Roy, a Republican, argues, the Second Amendment was “designed purposefully to empower the people to resist the force of tyranny used against them.”
The issue here isn’t whether the Second Amendment exists, or whether it protects people’s right to hunt or defend themselves and their homes, but whether it’s also a bulwark against the government. Raskin points to some of the lesser intellects in Congress as being champions of the Insurrectionist Theory of the Second Amendment.
Representative Lauren Boebert declared that the Second Amendment “has nothing to do with hunting, unless you’re talking about hunting tyrants, maybe.”
While Boebert’s idea of “tyrant” might not conform with that of most people who can spell the word, does that make the notion wrong? Clearly, the Constitution prohibits insurrection, as would any government charter that wasn’t bent on self-destruction.
The Constitution treats insurrection and rebellion as political dangers, not protected rights. Article I gives Congress the power to “provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.” The guarantee clause in Article IV tells the United States to guarantee a republican form of government to the states and protect them “against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.” These provisions followed Shays’ Rebellion, an armed uprising in Massachusetts in the 1780s.
After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment disqualified from public office anyone who had sworn an oath to support the Constitution but then participated in “insurrection or rebellion” against the United States.
Of course, the winner of an attempt at insurrection, just as the winner of a war, gets to frame the effort as negative. But just as the founding fathers took up arms against King George, giving birth to this nation whose Constitution treats “insurrection and rebellion as political dangers,” what if, say, a president decides to steal an election for real and uses the military, led by Felon Flynn, to back him up? Does the citizenry shrug and mutter, “well, the Constitution [which has now been undermined] is against insurrection, so we just have to go with it”?
In other words, while Raskin speaks to the January 6 Insurrection, what if it went the other way and the tyrant to be deposed wasn’t Joe Biden, but Donald Trump? Does the Second Amendment protect the right of citizens to rise against someone who has seized power or engaged in tyranny as a reminder to those who would do so that the people might take to the streets with more than pussy hats if the government goes too far?
No, I have no idea how to define “too far,” and as we learned on January 6th, it’s too easy to manipulate the easily deluded into being the pawns of tyranny rather than democracy’s savior. This notion of the Second Amendment protecting insurrection is as risky a proposition as can be, but is it a legitimate justification or the rationalization of malcontents and fools?
*Tuesday Talk rules apply.