The argument generally employed to defend America’s second amendment, and similar policies around the world, is that an armed population can somehow restrict a government’s attempt at subjugation. However, does this argument still hold water in a modern world?
Thomas Jefferson famously stated that the tree of liberty had to be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants. I know this even though I am Australian because I read about it in the papers seemingly every five days. Every time Obama sneezes and some pundit interprets it as a conspiracy to “take our guns”. Jefferson is quoted continually to reaffirm a steadfast belief. A belief that an armed population can defend itself against tyranny. However what is never explained is the context in which this quote was made and how it differs from today. Jefferson lived in a time when guns and canons were the height of military technology. These guns weren’t rapid fire, they could not hold multiple shots, they were not long range and they could not go through armoured plating. To be honest they were little more than high-powered slingshots. Furthermore, both the government and the people were roughly on an even playing field in regards to technology, and the people vastly outnumbered the government. The people were largely proficient with the arms; they could forage and track, among other things needed in a military campaign. And America had just overthrown an oppressive regime, and wanted to ensure another one did not arise. In this context, the Second Amendment and Jefferson’s quote make all the sense in the world.
However, today’s world is markedly different. While the general population still possess weapons that are essentially gunpowder powered slight shots, with minor advancements in ammo loads and accuracy etc. The governments now control weapons beyond Jefferson’s wildest dreams. Between planes, missiles, submarines, gasses, viruses, nuclear weapons, tanks and warships etc.; soldiers do not have to get anywhere near their targets to completely decimate them. And even if soldiers were to fight the population directly, military guns far outstrip anything that can be bought even on the black market, let alone what the general population would have. As Libya has recently shown, an entire population is no match for even a small number of government loyalists who are better equipped and better trained. But Obama does not even require loyalists proportional to what Qaddafi had. With even a handful of people, Obama controls enough firepower through unmanned weaponry (drones, missiles etc.) that he could completely wipe out any resistance. If Libyans required America’s assistance to fight back against a relatively unequipped Qaddafi (relative to America), how could the general population of America ever stand any chance against America’s government, especially when there is no other power to match it let alone overpower it?
The frontier times and the Wild West are long gone. America’s staggering amount of gun deaths per year compared to countries with no guns negates the argument that guns are needed for self-defence. And the idea that guns are somehow a defence against ones own government is also void. Guns have no place in a modern society, except in the possession of a professional army, which protects that society. If Americans want to defend the “right to bear arms”, they need a better reason.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”