By Darrell Ehrlick
About the Second Amendment: I have questions.
I cannot wrap my lizard-sized brain around the notion that the reason for people to keep and own guns is to protect against tyranny.
Spare me the historical discourses about the establishment of the Second Amendment, because I realize a bunch of a rag-tag colonists rose up against the lobsterbacks and sent the British running.
That was when the average firearm for both sides could take more than a minute to load one bullet or any other trash you could find to pack down the barrel. Saying Americans should still own any gun or as many as they want isn’t the same as saying we rose up once with muskets, swords and canons. One is set against a historical backdrop when dysentery and smallpox killed as many soldiers as bullets. Today’s backdrop is set against a scene of unspeakable firepower often used against innocent citizens, many times kids at school.
One was in defense of an entire country; the other, killing for the sake of killing – and quickly.
Everyone has accepted that the primary reason for accepting guns everywhere is because of the concept that those same firearms may be needed to fight against a tyrannical government.
Few, though, really question how sound that rationale is.
You see, I am all for keeping my guns for a lot of different reasons, but I’d rather say it’s for self-defense before tricking myself that I am just a soldier-in-waiting for the government to go full-tyranny on the country.
The problem is that this idea of the average American stockpiling an arsenal seems rather quaint when compared to the military and the taxpayer funded arsenal we’ve allowed the government to develop. It’s kind of like putting up a macaroni collage right next to the Monet.
Does anyone seriously believe that a bunch of aging mostly white dudes are going to be any match for the United States military, which trains daily and has the best arsenal in the world? And, if we believe that our military can be overrun by a bunch of hobbyists, then we’re getting royally hosed by spending so much on defense.
The problem remains that if we don’t tell ourselves this unlikely fantasy – that we’re the vanguard against tyranny – then we also have to admit there are limitations to the Second Amendment. Therein lies the real rub.
There are plenty of morally defensible reasons for having a firearm, including hunting and self-protection. And I would resolutely stand against any government to ban firearms outright. However, the Second Amendment, like all freedoms, has limitations, and politicians are quaking to define those boundaries, fearing someone may accuse them of being soft on the Constitution.
Convincing ourselves that a few pistols, sprinkled in with even a healthy stock of ammo, are a buffer between freedom and tyranny is no more effective than cuddling up with a blankie to keep the monsters under the bed from attacking. And because no monsters have attacked yet, then the blankie must be doing its job.
The same is true for firearms: We believe the only thing that has stopped either political party from assuming dictatorial control of the country is because secretly both sides are scared of an armed citizenry.
Instead, the real power in this country hasn’t been about instruments of war, rather the prosperity of peace. Peace and the lack of needing guns has meant a stable economy, investment, wealth, opportunity and innovation. Those have kept us free and happy, not our guns and ammo.
The Second Amendment isn’t standing between us and tyranny; instead it seems to me that our own prosperity and not needing to have a gun to get things done has more to do with America’s success than our ability to scare our own politicians.
The challenge is that the conversation about guns has been coopted by groups like the National Rifle Association, which has used this flimsy militia argument to sow fear of the government in order to sell more sophisticated and expensive tactical gear to civilians. Instead, it’s high time for responsible gun owners to have a reasonable conversation about the more legitimate purposes for gun ownership and the commonsense legislation – from gun locks and storage to firing capacity – that has the backing of most Americans.
Maybe one of the reasons that we’re having such a hard time solving gun rights in America isn’t because of a plot to take your guns and then come for your liberties. Maybe it’s something much less sinister, but no less dangerous: We’re not really having an honest debate. We’re hiding behind muskets, revolutionaries and militias instead of having a frank conversation about the real stakes, which is, we want to keep our guns and need an excuse.
Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan.