Gun activist Alex Jones told Piers Morgan this week: “The Second Amendment isn’t there for duck hunting; it’s there to protect us from tyrannical government.” And this odd reading of the Second Amendment‘s text is being echoed around the blogsphere:
“We have the right to have guns, to protect ourselves from our government, if it ever turned against us. Period.” ~ Internet message board comment
“So why is there a Second Amendment? Is it for target shooters, hunters, personal protection? It was created in order to keep our free society from a tyrannical government.” ~ Letter to the Editor, Aspen Daily News
“[D]o we want only the government, military and the police to be the only ones with guns? That is how Stalin and Hitler and the likes were able to get away with murder. … We need guns to protect us from government” ~ the Standard-Examiner
You get the idea.
And then the left counters with how absurd it is to compare modern-day America to 1930s Nazi Germany, because our democracy could never become a tyrannical regime like that. And we’re right … to a point.
There’s actually a problem with both sides of this argument. …
If any group (perhaps other than gun rights activists) ever actually used guns against our government were it to send out armed forces to tamp down our Constitutional rights, the right-wing would be downright apoplectic. The evidence of this truth played out in the events of the fall and winter of 2011 when we did experience our government acting tyrannically against tens of thousands of citizens protesting with Occupy, and the right-wing’s reaction to it.
The Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Federal Reserve, mayors of 18 cities, and state and local police forces, all coordinated with one another to crack down on, and break up, Occupy protests happening all across the country.
When we tried—peacefully—to exercise our Constitutional right to assemble, we were harassed, tear-gassed, assaulted with bean bag guns and other weapons, arrested, and charged with crimes. Two innocent civilians, both Iraq War veterans, one of whom wasn’t even a participant, nearly died as a direct result of the police brutality waged against citizens legally rallying for the attention of our government.
And most of the country sat back and watched, either with indifference, or with glee. And Republicans universally supported these tyrannical government actions—cheered them on, in fact.
Yet with the exception of the civil rights marches of the 1960s, not since the days of the Civil War has there been a more explicit case for the importance of The People to have the ability to fight back against our own government. They came at us with guns, TASERS, batons, flash-bang devices, rubber bullets, tear gas and other chemical weapons, wearing full body armor and sporting shields to protect themselves from … bottles of water, maybe some rocks, and possibly a little paint.
The backlash and sheer outrage from the right wing towards citizens acting within the bounds of the Constitution, a minuscule fraction of whom dared take up “weapons” against the government that really was acting tyrannically, stands in stunning contrast against their literal screams today that, by G-d, “the second amendment is to protect us from being ruled by a tyrannical government.”
Can you imagine if we had brought guns to the camps or the marches?
Of course not.
So if not then, when? When tanks are rolling through the streets?
Semi-automatic assault-style weapons will be useless against those. No, I’ll tell you when …
Never, that’s when.
No, we are not like early 20th century Nazi Germany. We aren’t even like modern-day Syria, Egypt, Yemen, or Iran. We will never have that kind of tyrannical government that the right feverishly envision in their fantasy future America. But there is no way on earth we’d stand for massive groups of armed citizens marching through our streets against the kind of “tyrannical” government we actually do have. We don’t have the stomach for it. Or, let’s be honest, the courage.
But we don’t need guns to stand up to our government. The Occupy movement was an immense success. It exposed the unfairness of our tax code and the corporate pay practices that have destroyed the middle- and working-class in America. It invigorated people to get out and vote for more progressive candidates for office who would work to right these wrongs. It got the attention of the President of the United States to such a degree that a major theme of his re-election campaign was taxing the 2 percent at the top and rewarding the 98 percent who work hard for what we earn … and he won on that platform. Occupy worked in spite of some parts of our government trying to shut it down so that it would fail. And we have new tax legislation now to show for it.
We won with our activism, with our voices, and with our votes. We are the heroes of this generation’s “civil war,” and we did it without the loss of a single life, against the country with the mightiest armed forces in the world, without ever once raising a single gun.
So let’s burn this absurd “stand up to tyranny with guns” argument in the back yard trash heap where it belongs. It’s nothing but a smoke screen.
This post originally appeared at The Winning Words Project.