Gun Laws & Legislation

A Right To Rebellion?

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By David Codrea, GUNS Magazine

“This notion—that the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to fire upon federal officials, or their local police, or sheriffs or even US military personnel—is common among right wingers,” political consultant and Clinton machine apparatchik Paul Begala wrote in a CNN opinion piece. “But it’s one thing to hear, say, goofball Ted Nugent honk off that way… It is another to know that someone with those loopy views is one step away from the United States Senate.”

Begala was ridiculing Iowa’s Republican candidate, newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst, who had talked firearms freedoms at an NRA event in 2012. Mocking as a political tactic is promoted as Rule 5 from the late “community organizer” (and Hillary Clinton mentor) Saul Alinky’s Rules for Radicals, wherein he noted “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.”

What did Ernst say to prompt Begala to treat her like—using Alinsky’s carefully-chosen words—“the enemy?”

“I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family—whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from a government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important,” she declared. Not that the qualifier she placed at the end of her statement makes any difference to those who mean to call her on it.

At the risk of alienating readers of this column, I’ll venture the opinion that, in a way, Begala is right—but for the wrong reasons. The hesitation on my part comes from being taken to task for an earlier GUNS Magazine piece (“Privileges’ Watch,” February, 2008), when I angered some readers who thought I was siding with the gun-grabbers.

“Public opinion polls show that, although more than 60 percent of Americans erroneously believe the Constitution gives them a right to be armed, only a minority of Americans believes that it should grant that right,” the Brady Campaign maintained.

“They’re right, you know, if not in their percentages, then certainly in their assertion,” I wrote. “If you believe the Constitution gives you the right to be armed, you’re simply and demonstrably wrong. If you think the Constitution should grant you that right, sorry, you’re wrong again.

The point I was trying to make is the Bill of Rights gives and grants no rights. It merely defines some, but not all rights, which the Founders correctly viewed as preexisting to the government they were establishing. That understanding was further solidified in the 1875 Cruikshank decision (and repeated in the 2008 Heller decision), when the Supreme Court noted, “The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.

For having the cheek to point that out, along with citing the debate between the Federalists and anti-Federalists on the need for a Bill of Rights in the first place, I was called “a Trojan horse” a “clown” and an “idiot.” I “sound[ed] like an anti-gunner.” Even if I was right, I shouldn’t have written what I did, because it might somehow tip off the anti-gunners to use the information against us, and “if this kind of article or information appears again, refund my money and cancel my subscription.”

Sorry, but I’ve got to do it once more, and this time risk being labeled a Begala puppet, to boot.

The Second Amendment does not give us the right to rebel against civil and military authorities. Focus on the word give. But now, to really make the critics mad, let me add that such language does not appear within its text, or within the definitions of Constitutional purposes for “calling forth the militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.”

So what it this, game over? Are the antis right, and is such talk of “Second Amendment solutions” treasonous? Have our gun rights leaders been lying to us? Have we been kidding ourselves?

Of course not.

The Founders knew only too well, from having just fought a rebellion against what was once their “legitimate” government, that the need to confront tyranny might arise again. They’d even anticipated it.

“[Wh]enever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,” they wrote in the Declaration of Independence. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that belief had changed when they got around to adding the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Bill of Rights, which respectively noted “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

So contrary to what critics of Ernst would have us believe, with media allies like “Think Progress” and “The Huffington Post” joining Begala for a pile-on, she did not, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow told her viewers, “threaten… that she is ready to turn to armed violence against the government if she doesn’t get what she wants through the political process.”

Assuming that process does not abrogate the Constitution, there won’t be a problem. If it does, and if there’s no recourse, John F. Kennedy’s 1962 admonition (to the “Alliance for Progress”!) that “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable,” comes to mind.

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers,” novelist Thomas Pynchon wrote in Gravity’s Rainbow. The proper question is not where Americans get the right to “dissolve the political bonds … and to assume… the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The Declaration answers that one. It is where do those in government get the power to violate their oaths, assume powers nowhere delegated to them, and suspend, eviscerate and ignore that which they are commanded “shall not be infringed”?

When that happens, it is criminals in government who have claimed illegitimate authority and suspended the “supreme Law of the Land.” It is their actions which are unlawful. What such usurpers fail to realize is, the Constitution doesn’t just protect us from them. Adhering to it protects them from those of us who, if left no other choice but tyranny, would take up arms to reassert “a Republican Form of Government” that would “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

So perhaps it’s fitting that Paul Begala is a leading voice for those who tell us we have to eat whatever power-grab he and his fellow “progressives” impose on us and like it—or else.

“Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kind of cool,” Begala gushed, when his former boss Bill Clinton set out to rule by executive order when he couldn’t get Congress to give him what he wanted.

What could go wrong with that?


Thanks to David Codrea and GUNS Magazine team for this contribution. Take a moment to visit GUNS Magazine online – click here. You can get GUNS delivered to your door – click here for subscription information.