This is the ninth entry in my Antistatism Series.
The Second Amendment is a historical relic of an attempt to "put teeth" in the right of revolution, to put a general and pervasive fear of violent uprisings into Federal officials, and, in the final analysis, make an honest woman out of "popular sovereignty." It failed — utterly, completely, catastrophically.
The practicality of the Second Amendment’s principles depends on a number of social conditions, all of which could reasonably have been thought to have been present in American society at the time of the drafting of the Constitution. None of these conditions can reasonably be thought to be present in American society now.
- Military-grade weapons are readily accessible to the general population.
- At least a basic understanding of individual rights and the proper role of government is prevalent in the general population.
- An intellectual leadership exists that is able and ready to incite revolution or rebellion when needed.
Another way of putting this is that, for armed revolt to work as a last-resort means of restoring a decaying society to a former state of liberty, the people must have the means and the motive to defend their liberty, and must be able to recognize the opportune time to act.
I believe it is highly improbable that the ideological conditions that make armed rebellion a credible check against unlimited government will ever again be realized. But even if a significant minority of the people understood and were willing to defend their rights as individuals, and even if the necessary intellectual leadership were in place, the balance of power, measured in materiel, has irrevocably shifted to the government. The imbalance will only become more pronounced with time.