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Is a Violent Revolution Morally Outdated?

December 4, 2015

Yesterday, I was involved in a discussion on gun control and I heard one of my friends say that the 2nd Amendment is necessary solely because it ensures that we are capable of rising up against tyranny from the government.  This was a position than many in politics like Ted Cruz believe in, I myself believed in it in college, however it’s ignoring a glaring fact.

We have morally progressed so far, that we would never violently revolt against a tyrannical government.  And if a few did, we would almost universally overwhelmingly reject that action.  Now I’m a left leaning libertarian gun owner who believes in the right to own guns for personal protection, but it made me wonder hypothetically if 3, 5, or even 15 people, with legally purchased rifles, pistols, and flak jackets attacked the San Bernadino courthouse with the intention of violently revolting, what would be the response? Obviously, the media would consider it a horrific tragedy, perhaps even domestic terrorism, but the important question here is, where does a mass shooting end and the violent revolution alluded to by the founding fathers begin?

Justification is probably where it hinges, but even that is simply a point of view that has shifted over the years.  In the 1770s, taxes without representation was enough to revolt.  However, the same situation today might muster up only novelty license plates and people wandering around with signs and waving Gadsden flags.

Does Regulated = Regulated?

So lets look at the 2nd Amendment.

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. – As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, then-Secretary of State

I once had a friend who argued that the term “well regulated” meant stringent government regulation, but actually he was incorrect.  The term “well regulated” doesn’t mean what many liberals think it means.  It does NOT mean government regulation.  In fact, according to the 18th century Oxford English dictionary, it was a term that meant the opposite, it meant more appropriately, properly working, or calibrated.  If a militia is working properly is it making the government completely powerless in attempting to attain a monopoly on violence. Furthermore, in District of Columbia v. Heller “Well regulated” is defined as skilled.  Even if that is a slight deviation from the original definition, the supreme court’s word is the official one.

So how often should this 2nd Amendment be utilized to its fullest extent?  Thomas Jefferson wanted violent revolutions every 20 years.  John W. Whitehead from The Rutherford Institute provides Jefferson’s take at

One revolution was not enough for Jefferson, however. In a later letter to James Madison, Jefferson stated, “A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as in the physical…it is a medicine necessary for the sound health of the government.” In fact, Jefferson was so convinced of the value of frequent, publicly-driven rebellions that he advocated for a new rebellion approximately every twenty years. In a 1787 letter to William Smith, John Adams’ secretary and son-in-law, Jefferson wrote: “[G]od forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion . . . the tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

To be honest, that image that Jefferson paints sounds more like a destabilized middle east than the United States.

Now if a nation is universally horrified when 14 people are shot a killed in San Bernadino, wouldn’t it be equally be horrified if 14 people were shot in a courthouse because the shooters believed they were centralizing too much power to the point of tyranny.  The very motive that is the spirit of the second Amendment according to Thomas Jefferson.  The very act that the 2nd Amendment tries to normalize.  Gigantic piles of bodies seem yo be much of a hurdle to overcome morally to achieve political means violently. So don’t line your walls with AR-15s expecting to make a huge regime change, doing so might actually undermine support for your position.  So while the 2nd Amendment is still in effect protecting the ownership of guns, the macro level angle, the view that the 2nd Amendment protects against tyranny is simply obsolete form a moral standpoint.  Our activism would instead mostly manifest itself nonviolently.

Life is Considered Far More Sacred Today

In the 1700s, dueling was normal, if it was still normal today you’d see people shooting each other taking eachother’s parking spots.  In today’s world, if you disagree with your church’s leadership, you leave, or even have a dramatic falling out.  In the 1600s, if you if you disagreed with the church leadership, you were tied up and burned to death.  Also, despite what you see on the news and what the world seems like, we are actually living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.

Let’s take a modern example of large civil unrest and apply revolutionary war numbers to it to create a hypothetical situation.  As of this writing, the last large scale civil unrest was the Baltimore riots in April, 2015.  What if the result there was the same as the the battles of Lexington and Concord against the British. In that case, 73 Baltimore police officers are killed and 174 are wounded.  What would the public response to that be?

I believe if there was a gigantic violent uprising today, a majority of The United States population would emphatically reject it on the basis of that violence.  Now you could argue that the justification for the civil unrest in Baltimore was not universally supported be justified enough. However, if there was a much larger organized resistance to tyranny, that body count might be more closer to the mass shooting in Paris, France which claimed 130 lives.  So what type of government would warrant that type of violent response that would be accepted morally by the populace?  Nazi Germany is always comes to mind, so let’s make that the threshold.  But wait, America is already compared to Nazi Germany when abortion is equated with the holocaust.  There’s even a activist group called “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” on Facebook.  So one must conclude that  (1.) either they don’t truly believe that or (2.) they do, but they cannot morally overcome the violence that is required to rebel.  Then again,1 guy just did it a week go, but he’s “mostly” brushed under the rug as mentally ill.

So maybe the holocaust is a bad example, what if it is a combination of all the other multi faceted, fascist authoritarian governmental policies in Nazi Germany? What about if the government began a registration system for certain minorities and members of certain religion?  What about going further and completely closing down certain places of worship?  What if the government opened endorsed torture?  Militarized its police forces?  What if the government decided it wouldn’t hesitate to kill certain civilians? 

It probably still wouldn’t be enough, because ironically, the very subset of the conservative population that outcries tyranny the most actually supports Donald Trump, a presidential candidate leading the polls touting every single one of those tyrannical ideas.  So if you believe in the 2nd Amendment because it gives you the ability to rise up violently to tyranny ask yourself, “What exactly does that tyranny look like where Nazi Germany doesn’t even come close and how many American soldiers and police officers are you willing to kill?”  If you’re a moral person, that number should be 0.