Is There a Right to Revolution?

It is a fundamental tenet of the gun rights people that the Second Amendment embodies a right to revolution. Lets assume for the sake of argument that this is exactly what the Founders intended: there certainly seems to be a lot of incidental evidence in their writings that this was so.

If so, it was the worst decision they made in drafting the bill of rights.

It was illogical and ludicrous to construct a machine that contained the seeds of its own destruction. In order to survive, the machinery of a democracy must be based on the assumption that it will always function justly. If it does not, then human nature dictates that sooner or later its citizens will seek to leave it or to overthrow it. "A right to revolution" is really no more than a glorified version of the statement that I just made, that people will not consent to live indefinitely under an unjust government.

Open resistance to an unjust law is a badge of honesty--as is willingness to take the consequences of such resistance. Gandhi's life was a complete and courageous example of this. Gandhi said, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." There is no courage in anonymous actions. A terrorist bomb is not a courageous action; lying to the draft board is not brave.

A law must be judged as honest or dishonest from outside. It is hard to imagine a law so mealy-mouthed as to build in its own escape clause--"obey me only if I am just." Such a qualification would encourage the weak, the cowardly, the excuse-seekers to disregard the law. If a law is unjust, a brave human will resist it without an escape clause. Escape clauses are only for the lazy, selfish and dishonest.

The Second Amendment is such an escape clause. The gun rights people read it to mean, "You may carry arms in case you ever have to shoot government officials." Read this way, the Constitution communicates a very confusing message: Obey me unless you have to shoot me; but if you must shoot me, that's all right too. This view allows the Second Amendment to trump the First, Fifth and Fourteenth; after all, I may have to shoot you because you are protecting some speech that offends me, or because I don't agree with the procedural due process you have granted someone else, or I don't believe in equality and integration. And in each case, the soothing Second Amendment stands in the wings, crooning that I did the right thing.

Strong and brave people take up arms as a last resort (or never,if you follow Gandhi's way of thinking.) The cowards are the ones taking up arms now. If the Second Amendment, or the gun rights view of it, did not exist, there would be fewer people stockpiling arms and daydreaming of killing government officials. But the Second Amendment, preached by the NRA, allows them to believe that they are serving a higher American good, that they are the real Americans attuned with the founders. This is very similar to the way a particular fringe group believed that it constituted the "real" ten tribes of Israel, while Jews were children of Satan. It is somewhere between a sociopathology and a psychosis, officially fostered by the Second Amendment and whipped up by its interpreters.

Only in the atmosphere of such a violent contradiction in the Constitution ("obey me until you kill me") could we have the strange spectacle of an organization, the NRA, whose members consider it patriotic and mainstream; which defends a right to revolution while championing armor-piercing bullets and semi-automatic weapons and resisting taggants in black powder; and which owns Congress. Never in the Sixties, when people so feared the left, did we see extremism standing behind the throne of power. It took the '90's for that.