Photo: Public Domain, US National Archives.
Many Americans believe that the 2nd amendment provides a right to gun ownership. It doesn’t, and the supreme court has said so repeatedly, but politics and the law rarely mix well. If you do take a look at the scant 27 words that are the 2nd Amendment, you will see two troubling words… Militia and Regulated (in fact, “well regulated”). The purpose of the 2nd amendment was to provide a young and weak America with a military force, when it couldn’t afford to pay for a standing army.
Any doubt about the meaning of the 2nd amendment should have been swept away a few months after the Bill of Rights was introduced. The Congress, under President George Washington, followed the Bill of rights with the Militia Acts. clearly stating that all militias are at the direct command of the President, and exist to put down slave rebellions, Indian insurrections, and foreign invasions.
If you’ve ever listened to the rants of extreme 2nd amendment supporters, they clearly are not aware of the history of the 2nd amendment, or of the history of its enforcement. That history includes the Whiskey Insurrection, when an armed militia of 14,000 soldiers marched under President George Washington into Pennsylvania, with orders to shoot on sight any member of the Tea Party (a group of extremists who considered a tax on whisky the justification for armed rebellion against the US government).
And what happened to the 150 men who were caught by the militia? Why, they were tried for treason, of course. To me, this is pretty strong evidence that gun supporters misinterpreted the intentions of the founding fathers. Nonetheless, half of American families are gun owners, and many of them believe in the 2nd amendment story.
As I watched Snowden’s interview, I wondered if the gun rights movement, a group that supports the armed overthrow of our government, would also support the rights of American’s to use information-based weapons? Is resistance against the government (or corporations, or anything else) the 21st century version of the riots of occurred in earlier eras in US history? Rather than asking if Snowden is a patriot or a traitor, we should ask if he wants to be Che Guevara or Cesar Chavez. Is he trying to change the system or overthrow it?
America has always been a rebellious country. We like to think that we’re each individualists, who are in command of our own destiny, even to the point of taking our guns and going to the streets… although we talk about it a lot more than doing it. Now, we’re in an age where world-shaking rebellion can happen without a single shot being fired. Snowden clearly thinks he is in the right, and he believes that he tried the official channels before he began his rebellion. Instead of patriotic rallies with gun brandishing patriots, what will these new rebels choose as their symbol? Let me know what you think… and that’s my Niccolls worth for today!