In a March 21 Vanity Fair column, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes suggests Second Amendment defenders have contributed to an “arms race” because of citizens and law enforcement.
He suggests this has happened as a result of the contention that private gun ownership is the “ultimate check against tyranny.”
The Second Amendment, its most strenuous defenders like to tell us, is the ultimate check against tyranny….The argument is that an armed populace keeps oppression at bay, but its practical effect has been the opposite. If the people are always armed enough to threaten the state’s control, then the state’s monopoly on violence is forever in question and the state therefore acts more often than not as if it were putting down an insurrection as opposed to enforcing the law.
Note the assertion that an armed populace threatens “the state’s monopoly on violence.” Hayes misses the fact that this is exactly what the Founding Fathers wanted. The Founders wanted to ensure that the central government could not overreach and run roughshod over the citizenry.
See James Madison’s Federalist 46, where it is evident that “the advantage of being armed” is one which “Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.” Moreover, the purpose of the arms–as described by Madison–is to enable the people to band together and repel a tyranny.
Madison wrote, “Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger.”
He makes the same point in other ways in Federalist 46, but what is applicable here is that Hayes and others who criticize “strenuous defenders” who say the Second Amendment is “the ultimate check against tyranny” miss the fact that this contention was nurtured by Madison. For those who disagree–whether they were disagreeing in 1788 or now, in 2017–Madison invites them to look at the lessons the British regular army learned when it tried to expand the Crown’s power over armed colonists formed into militias.
Rather than deal with these realities of American history and the documents that so clearly state the Founders’ intentions, Hayes tries to undercut the benefit of an armed populace by suggesting that Saddam Hussein was able to hold power, although Iraq had “one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world.” Hayes does not mention that Iraq also had a dictatorship which only allowed the best guns to go those loyal to the dictator.
Slate reported this by summarizing the Washington Post‘s Anthony Shadid regarding Iraq’s gun policy prior to the U.S. invasion of that country in 2003: “[Iraqi] gun stores can sell only hunting rifles and pistols. But AK-47s, the weapon of choice, are provided to millions of members of the ruling Baath Party and allied militias such as the one known as Saddam’s Fedayeen.”
The Chicago Tribune made the same point shortly after U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime:
Under Hussein’s tough policies, most Iraqis did not have access to guns. His military, however, had a hodgepodge of weapons bought from Russia and the Eastern Bloc nations and taken in wars with Iran and Kuwait. Many were old and in miserable shape, but the Republican Guard received modern equipment.
After U.S. troops took control of Baghdad, looters and thieves grabbed tens of thousands of weapons from government arsenals, Americans estimate. Remnants of Hussein’s forces apparently collected the best guns and artillery hidden before the war.
Madison’s point still stands. A well-armed populace at the outset is a hindrance to the formation of a dictatorship and a check on tyranny from within.
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.