“Gun control [properly understood] is we the people getting whatever arms we want, and telling the government what they’re allowed to have.” –Spike Cohen
Libertarians have long argued that the purpose of the second amendment, and the right to keep and bear arms is not the national guard, it is hunting, it is not defense against private criminals, and it’s not even keeping the King of England out of your face, as The Simpsons once put it-it’s keeping the king of Washington out of your face. In short, it’s about defense against tyranny. It is the right of rebellion made manifest, and it is the last check and balance in defense of liberty.
Let me be clear: I have absolutely no desire for civil war (not looking forward to any big boogaloo of any kind), nor do I think that our system has degenerated far enough where armed rebellion is remotely morally or practically appropriate. But the threat needs to always be there, ideally so that the simple threat will keep our politicians in line enough so that more drastic action is ever necessary.
That said…whenever this argument is posited, inevitably someone thinking themselves clever says something to the effect of “what about nukes and drones?” or “yeah sure, Bubba and his 50 extra pounds and CPD, and his single shot AR are gonna do great against the entire US military”, usually followed by something like “the second amendment is outdated”, “submit”, or general accusations of craziness.
Yeah…that whole argument is garbage for a multitude of reasons. Let’s dissect them.
First, nukes. Simply put, the chance of the US government using nukes on its own people is pretty damn low. Not because the feds are moral exemplars-I’m sure they would if they could do so consequence free-but because it would destroy the prize. A civil war is almost by definition about controlling territory rather than destroying it. No matter how much war by its nature destroys, it’s very unlikely that any tyrannical government would destroy its own home beyond its ability to send troops to stand on it.
Next, drones. Millennium Challenge 2002 put that to rest pretty damn quick. Drones are nifty tech, but they’re not invulnerable or inescapable. New problems demand new solutions, and this is an area where new solutions have already been prepared in abundance.
More generally, how about a high tech, numerically superior military vs. a scrappy band of freedom fighters? First off, that sound you hear is anyone who’s ever studied history laughing in Afghani, Iraqi, Vietnamese, and a host of others. Second, wars of attrition are expensive and morally complicated at best for the crowds back home.
So…how conquerable is the US, really? Answer: not very. Any civil war would almost certainly divide the United States military, meaning that its full strength could never be brought to bear on a particular rebel group for very long. Next, the United States is big, with incredibly varied geography and terrain. Finding someone in all of that, with at least something of a friendly populace, would be guaranteed to wreck havoc.
Or in other words, any rebellion, however undersized, would probably have a surprisingly good chance of tying up the United States federal government for years, and given that an insurgency really just has to outlast rather than win, well…
Again, I have absolutely zero taste or desire for civil war, for any number of reasons. But to say that the second amendment is a dead letter because private citizenry with simpler weaponry couldn’t stand up against the US war machine is both terrible on principle and ignorant of reality.