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The liberal case for gun ownership Liberty needs defending from the threat of tyranny

'I’m armed like a conservative despite my liberal values' (Scott Olson/Getty Images)


November 27, 2021   10 mins

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was out hunting for supplies, running through scenarios and planning for contingencies. I found myself at a local gun shop, where a line of edgy patrons stretched out the door and down the block. It’s not the kind of place my high school self would have imagined my middle-aged self would frequent. I am, after all, an American liberal, and American liberals, as a rule, believe that our founders (fresh from a war they won with muzzle-loaded weapons) left us in a terrible mess with respect to modern guns.

Decades ago I changed my position on the issue of “gun control”. Even though I still believe liberals are correct about the unfortunate predicament created by our founders, I now hold that we must tolerate privately held guns and all that comes with them. That may sound like a paradox, but once you understand the tensions internal to the mind of an armed American liberal, you will understand something fundamental about the American experiment.

Portland, where I live, is an absurdly progressive city on the compulsively liberal Pacific coast. But that isn’t the whole story. Washington, Oregon, and California, the three left-coast states, vote as a Democratic block. But that’s not because we lack for conservatives. We have lots of them. They are just consistently outnumbered and outvoted.

I should probably explain here that, although I believe that liberals are right about the unacceptable cost of our second amendment rights, conservatives are closer to correct, as I see it, about the governing of our cities — a fact that becomes glaringly obvious if you visit Los Angeles, Seattle or San Francisco and compare it to any major city in conservative Texas. American liberals don’t seem to understand that their values cannot simply be implemented locally. That’s partly why I’m armed like a conservative despite my liberal values. But I digress.

That day at the gun shop, most of the people I stood in line with were conservatives who felt like they could use a bit more firepower. And I couldn’t fault them. So did I, apparently. I imagine they sized me up and read me as a liberal. I’m pretty sure I look like one. But I felt welcome, or at least as welcome as one can in an environment where there is a run on guns and ammo.

And there was indeed a run, as there always is when the population is on edge. When Americans worry, they buy guns. Some of that is irrational, as the guns they bought in previous panics are likely to last a good long time. Some of it is people arming themselves for the first time. And some of it is intuitive — the result of a somewhat vague reassessment of the level of need.

The gun shop was visibly strange in those early pandemic days. It looked like it had been stripped. The wall behind the counter that would normally display perhaps 100 different models of handgun had maybe 20 — guns no one really wanted but would eventually be reluctantly purchased by some Johnny-come-lately. But it was the state of the ammo that was most striking. In the major calibers there wasn’t any, a pattern that everyone in the shop knew was repeated all over town, and indeed across the entire country. Ammunition manufacturers couldn’t keep up. When a crate of ammo was occasionally delivered to the shop, it was target ammo, not ideal for self-defence, and it was rationed to one box per family, per week. Welcome to America.

In the gun shop, no one was troubled by novices, or even liberals. Explanations were patient. It’s a surprisingly courteous, agreeable, and highly technical culture: no one knows more than gun enthusiasts about the hazards that come with firearms, and such people take a very dim view of those who treat guns casually.

I suspect the notable courtesy was at least partly the natural result of the level of armament. The staff were surely all armed. So too, I would guess, were the clientele — it is legal in Oregon to have a concealed handgun given the proper, easily obtained permit. In such an environment heightened tensions are quickly noted, and de-escalation is an ever-present priority. It is, in some sense, the opposite of Twitter, where no one is armed and people are routinely terrible to each other.

There was one woman behind the counter, who had the unenviable task of running background checks for every firearm purchased. In most cases that meant she had to disappoint customers and tell them it would be days or weeks before they will be able to collect their weapons. She had been ringing up and disappointing people, non-stop for weeks. As I neared the front of the line I heard her say to the room: “I don’t get it. Do they think they’re going to shoot a virus?”

“It’s not the virus they’re worried about,” I offered. “It’s their neighbours if the food runs out.”

There was a general murmur of agreement, and I was glad to have brought something useful to the party. But looking back, I don’t think my explanation was complete. In fact, I’m sure it wasn’t.

Most of those stocking up on guns and ammo belong to a culture, and like every other culture, it has its beliefs, suppositions and fears. That culture believes that tyranny may descend on us, even here in the freedom-loving United States of America, and that privately held guns are the key to fending it off. I’m not a member of this culture, but I believe they may well be right about this.

In a country where politicians are increasingly prone to withdraw or stand-down the police to curry favour with confused constituents, it is easy to see how things can quickly escalate as they did in Kenosha, Wisconsin the night Kyle Rittenhouse shot three men in self-defence at a riot. To be clear, I do not believe Rittenhouse, then 17-years-old, should have been there with his AR-15. But I also don’t believe the streets of American cities should ever be ceded to violent ideological bullies — a now familiar pattern that set the stage for Rittenhouse’s actions.

To understand why private guns may be decisive in a fight against tyranny, let’s take a moment to revisit what is assuredly the most inscrutable section of the United States Constitution, the Second Amendment: “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.”

It’s almost like a deliberate non-sequitur. In fact, after decades of pondering the question, I’m now fairly convinced that that is exactly what the founders gave us: an intentionally vague pronouncement designed to force the question into the future, to ensure it would be repeatedly reevaluated to keep up with changing weaponry and circumstances. Near as I can tell, it’s a place holder for a principle they could not tailor in advance.

They clearly didn’t want to give the legislature or the courts complete latitude. They tied our hands; our representatives are not allowed to disarm the public, even if a majority desires it. And the founders gave us a strong hint about why — something about the need to protect a “free state” from, you know… stuff. But they didn’t tell us how much firepower citizens should be allowed to have. And thank goodness they didn’t, because muzzle-loaded weapons are no better a model of modern weapons than a movable-type printing press is for an algorithmically personalised infinite scroll.

The second amendment contains two conundrums, one novel and one original. The modern trouble is relatively straightforward: What does it mean not to “infringe” on the right to bear arms? In the 18th century that was far simpler because, although guns have always been a force multiplier for an individual, the factor by which an individual’s force was multiplied was so much lower. Back then, within reason, a person could be trusted to buy the guns they wanted to own.

On first glance, the original puzzle also seems uncomplicated: The state is going to need a fighting force if it is to remain free. But the longer one stares, the stranger this pronouncement seems. What militia, regulations and state were they even referring to? Is it a reference to the Army? No, the Army already existed and could have been referenced if that was their intent, having arisen first as the Continental Army that fought and won the revolution after it was formed in 1775, later to be re-founded as the United States Army in 1784 — seven years prior to the 1791 ratification of the Bill of Rights with its “well-regulated militia” riddle embedded in its second amendment. So if it wasn’t the Army protecting the “free state” they meant to invoke, then it must really have been the people — but against whom? And what is “a well-regulated militia” and where is it going to come from and in what way is it to be regulated other than “well”?

As a young man I regarded the second amendment as the founders’ biggest blunder. As we head into 2022, my position has flipped — I now believe history may well come to regard it as the most far-sighted thing the founders did, not in spite of its vagueness, but because of it. It’s like a mysterious passage from a sacred text that forces living people to interpret it in a modern context. The founders believed the people needed to be able to defend their free state — with deadly force — whether that refers to a geographical state, or a state of being, or both.

It’s not that I don’t see the terrible carnage which comes from ubiquitous guns. I do see it, and I detest it just like every other decent American. I know that a single deranged or careless person can rob us of anyone, at any time. No American is exempt. Not our families, nor our leaders. It is a terrifying realisation. With modern weapons an individual can kill dozens. It has happened many times, and it will happen again.

I find none of this remotely acceptable as a human, or an American. Remember, I said at the beginning that I believe that the liberals are basically right about the staggering cost of ubiquitous guns. Further, I don’t believe the net effect of ubiquitous guns during an average year, or decade, or century is a reduction in harm. It’s a complex picture, but many Western nations have managed crime as well or better than the US without the population being armed. On long timescales, however, I suspect this trend reverses. A nation’s descent into tyranny can kill millions, and it can drag continents, or the world as a whole, into war.

The terrifying carnage that derives from the right to bear arms must, in the end, be compared to the cost of not having that right, not only for the individual, but for the republic and its neighbours at a minimum. If you imagine that tyranny cannot happen in America due to some safeguard built into our system, or by virtue of some immunity residing in the population itself, then perhaps there is nothing left to discuss.

For my part, I don’t believe it. In fact, I believe I know better, both as a scholar and as someone who was falsely accused of racism and hunted in my own neighbourhood — with the police withdrawn in a foolish attempt to appease the mob. And I suspect that if we put the question to a vote, the fraction of the citizenry who believes tyranny could happen here is rising rapidly, even if we don’t necessarily agree on its most likely source. Of course, the fact that tyranny may happen anywhere is not sufficient counterweight to the unacceptable cost of ubiquitous modern firearms. To imagine that cost is outweighed, one must also believe that an armed population is in a position to fend off tyrants.

This, I admit, is by no means clear. Many will correctly point out that no matter how many semi-automatic weapons are in private hands, it will never be a match for the firepower of the guns — including fully automatic guns — in the publicly funded arsenals that, the argument goes, are in danger of finding themselves at the disposal of tyrants. When you add to that the incredible range of weapons and weapon-systems for which the public has no answer, it’s a slam dunk: in a head-to-head conflict between a treasonous, tyrant-led US military on the one hand, and freedom-loving Americans on the other, the military would trounce any number of militias, no matter how “well-regulated”.

But that isn’t really a persuasive argument, for two reasons. First, who decided this would be a fair fight? How many times will the US military have to find itself stalemated by inferior forces before we incorporate the lesson of asymmetric warfare into our national consciousness?

When our family lived in Olympia, Washington, we frequently saw foxes in our backyard. We learned not to worry about our cats because the foxes seemed to simply ignore them. Here in Portland, we have coyotes instead of foxes and neighbourhood cats are constantly disappearing. Does this imply that a wild fox can’t beat a housecat while a coyote can? As a mammalogist I’m sure that’s not it. A fox would almost always win a fight to the death with a domestic cat. But a house cat is capable of doing enough damage on the way out to dissuade anything but a desperate fox from trying it. An armed populace might not be able to defeat a tyrant’s army, but they could well punish it into retreat.

The second reason an armed population might succeed against the military-gone-rogue is that it is exceedingly unlikely the entire military would accept immoral orders. Either they would divide over the question, and the armed populace would end up fighting alongside the hopefully large portion of the military who remained loyal to the Constitution and their fellow citizens. Or those who would naturally resist immoral orders would have been purged from the uniformed ranks under some pretext that discovers and discharges those with independent minds, returning these non-compliant souls home to their well-armed families and neighbourhoods. Either way, private gun ownership might well prove decisive in a periodic contest between “patriots and tyrants”.

I expect this argument will prove unpopular. Are we really that near the brink of tyranny in America? I don’t know. I think it’s plausible enough that it would be irresponsible not to discuss what might happen.

I also think it is worth taking a brief look at Australia to discern whether it has any lessons for us. Australia is, after all, a nation with many similarities to the US: it had its own permissive gun ownership laws and culture until the 1996 massacre in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in which 35 people were killed. The alterations in Australia’s gun laws and the gun buyback programme that followed are frequently held up as a possible model for American gun reform. And they make a strong case that massacres and other gun violence can indeed be greatly reduced by such a programme. But at what price?

I have to tell you, I’m finding it very difficult to make full sense of events in Australia at the moment. I see things that look a lot like tyranny reported from there. I have friends — people I know personally and trust — fleeing Australia due to what looks to them and sounds to me like tyranny. And I have interviewed Australians who describe absolutely tyrannical encounters they are having with governmental authorities.

But I also see respected people assuring me the picture we are getting is distorted. Whatever the truth, as the ideals of the liberal West spread like wildfire during the 20th century, I fear we Americans were lulled into a false sense of complacency as freedom caught on in region after region and appeared to become permanent. I don’t know if we will ever fully discern our founder’s intent with respect to the second amendment. But I strongly suspect their understanding of freedom, freshly won, was much more realistic than ours.

This is what gun ownership comes down to, whether you’re a liberal or a conservative. If there is a way to protect liberty from spasms of tyranny that does not condemn us to the spectacular cost of regular gun violence, I’d love to know it. But if the dynamism of the West, the productivity, the ingenuity, and the quest for fairness can only be protected from tyrants at the point of a gun, then so be it.


Bret Weinstein is an evolutionary biologist, host of the DarkHorse Podcast, and co-author of the best-selling book A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century. He lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.

BretWeinstein

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J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

What a wonderful essay. It presents the major arguments for and against private gun ownership and only (sort of) takes a side at the end.
I still find it hard to believe Americans might need to actively defend themselves against their government, but then Biden and his AG seemed very comfortable turning the full resources of the US Dept. of Justice against parents who spoke out (albeit loudly) against CRT in their children’s schools. And the drumbeat for vaccine passports keeps rolling, and the federal government now wants the power to monitor all financial transactions above about fifty dollars…
The author’s reference to Australia is telling. I always viewed that nation as full of highly independent individuals but it appears they are now willing to undergo a limitless series of lockdowns. What happened to them? Is the government really forcing this on them, or have they simply grown dependent and fearful? Is it too much of a cliché to suggest that once you start ceding control of your life to the government it’s thereafter an unstoppable slide down the slippery slope?
Somehow I don’t see civil war happening in the US. The practical barriers are just too great imo, but I’m more convinced than ever that, over the next few decades, there could be secession of those willing to turn over most aspects of their life to the government from those who aren’t. The division probably won’t be framed like that but that’s what it will come down to.
I’m extremely interested to see the results of the midterm elections next year. With the country no longer distracted by Trump, we’ll get some sense of where everyone stands with respect to the Democrats’ big government policies.

Last edited 2 years ago by J Bryant
Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The country will continue to be distracted by Trump because he will continue to distract it. It used to be said that the US system of government didn’t have a “Leader of the Opposition”; well Trump has decided to take that roll on himself and until the Romneys and Collins’ and other more mainline Republicans stand up up to him he will get away with it.
For what it is worth I think the Democrats will win more votes in the Mid-terms but will probably lose seats in both seats as a consequence of the demographic imbalance in the Senate and gerrymandering the the House.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

What part of the States are you in? I’m getting a very different impression of the political landscape from my little corner in the South.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I am sure you are but the South is rather different in many ways. The GOP have only achieved one majority in the votes (not the Electoral College) since 1988 ( in 2004) and the Senate now has a bias to the GOP in that the small rural states, which are predominantly rural and republican, get the same number of senators as California or New York. The way congressional districts are drawn has favoured the GOP in recent years.

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

The way congressional districts are drawn has favoured the GOP in recent years.”
Perhaps. All I know for certain is that in my home state of Pennsyvania—a key state in elections–our Democrat-heavy Supreme Court unilaterally imposed a ridiculously lopsided redistricting that heavily favors Democrats. There was a court challenge by Democrats to the old system, and various proposed maps were re-drawn. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected all of those proposals, which included the ones on the wish-list submitted by the Dems, and came up with their own plan that was even more partisan.
I wish that everyone who complains of “gerrymandering” these days would let go of the current meme that gerrymandering is solely a Republican tactic. It’s not. District boundaries have to be drawn in some fashion and BOTH parties angle to have the districts favor them or to favor particular candidates.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl Rhodes

Amen to that! In most States, whichever party controls the State House decides on the gerrymandering, which has led to the politicians choosing their voters vs. the other way around.
Everyone should check out the congressional district map in their own state to see the level of insanity that has taken place.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“The author’s reference to Australia is telling. I always viewed that nation as full of highly independent individuals but it appears they are now willing to undergo a limitless series of lockdowns. What happened to them?”

That’s a view that Australia and Australians like to purvey. It’s a stereotype of themselves they like to think is true. There are very few Crocodile Dundee types. The vaunted outback is virtually deserted. Most Australians live suburban lives in suburban homes. It’s illegal even to ride a bicycle without a helmet. The prevailing culture is that of safetyism and conformity. This has been true for a long while and even back in the day the draconian drinking laws were about a suburban class panicking over “larrikins” drinking after work.

Conformity is the real story of Australia. Always has been. As Clive James once quipped
“The problem with Aussies is not that so many are descended from convicts – it’s that so many are descended from prison officers.”

rod tofino
rod tofino
2 years ago
Reply to  Samuel Gee

Thank you for that brilliant quote from Clive James

Rocky Rhode
Rocky Rhode
2 years ago
Reply to  rod tofino

Great quote but it was actually coined by Peter Ustinov, not Clive James.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Samuel Gee

During the Depression vast numbers of Australians left rural areas for towns and the process has continued.

MICHAEL DEMAREE
MICHAEL DEMAREE
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Quick question to anyone: What are the numbers on the “terrifying carnage of gun ownership” to which the article referred?

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 years ago

I imagine he is speaking about the criminal market and easy access due to the sheer volume.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Probably the 40k deaths by firearms each year would be my guess

TruthIs Honor
TruthIs Honor
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“Probably the 40k deaths by firearms each year would be my guess”
Majority by SUICIDE…more people are killed each year with fists and knives than by firearms. LAWFUL people do not commit crimes (by definition). In 4 states alone, over 6 MILLION people entered the woods to hunt with firearms on opening day of deer season…and no one died. If guns were the problem, there would be uncountable deaths at gun shows. Our collective problem is a society that has lost its moral compass, becoming more secular and sinful by the minute, and the mental illness most often caused by Child Abuse.

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think this is a very good assessment, and I do think the midterms are going to be extremely telling. In Alaska much of the populace still hunts and is very comfortable and safe around guns, which I think helps to avoid accidents, especially with children. It is the soft people in US cities who have grown dependent on the police and the government to solve their problems. It amazes me when discussing the legality of guns that “If guns are outlawed, only criminals and the government will have guns” doesn’t end the debate. The next step, though, is training in gun safety. I’m not sure what to do about criminals owning guns, but it does seem likely that a hoodlum would be less likely to use this kind of force if he thought the house or person was well armed. I just had the thought that arms is an apt word; if you are so well trained that the weapon is an extension of your appendage, you are likely “well armed”.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

I’d say the exact opposite to be honest. I’d say the criminal would be less likely to use the gun if he knew the homeowner was unarmed. If he thinks there’s a possibility he’ll be shot himself id say he’s more likely to pull the trigger first

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Most criminals, like the foxes in the article, will avoid robbing homes if they think the homeowner is armed. They don’t want to risk being hurt or killed.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Yes, you’re right. Most criminals are looking for a victim, not a fight.

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
2 years ago

Let’s not forget that 90% of gun homicides in America happen in 5% of the counties. Rural counties in the US have twice as many guns and a fraction of the per capita gun violence as urban counties. That doesn’t help the popular assertion that more guns mean more violence. I don’t know the exact number off the top of my head but the percentage of American counties that have zero gun homicides is stunning. [I found it: 73 percent of counties in any given year had zero murders from 1977 to 2000.] We don’t have a gun problem in the US so much as we have horrible cities.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mikey Mike
TruthIs Honor
TruthIs Honor
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

And for the guy above who stated: “Probably the 40k deaths by firearms each year would be my guess”
For deaths in the US by firearms, the majority are by SUICIDE…more people are killed each year with fists and knives than by firearms. LAWFUL people do not commit crimes (by definition). In 4 states alone, over 6 MILLION people entered the woods to hunt with firearms on opening day of deer season…and no one died. If guns were the problem, there would be uncountable deaths at gun shows. Our collective problem is a society that has lost its moral compass, becoming more secular and sinful by the minute, and the mental illness most often caused by Child Abuse.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

A brilliant article that expresses expertly a (far more vaguely defined) set of arguments I’ve been trying to defend for some time.

While I wouldn’t call myself a liberal, I do possess both the personal dislike of guns and parts of American gun culture that most American liberals do possess (although that doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy emptying the magazine of an AK47 at a gun club in Budapest the last time I was there).

The part where I don’t agree with the liberal consensus is the – frankly idiotic – position that the USA’s Second Amendment can simply be dismissed as irrelevant to modern times with no plausible negative effects. The Second Amendment may well be controversial, but it nonetheless does perform a function that most sane people do understand to be essential to the stability of democracy: institutional plurality and the dispersal of power. This is what stops tyranny: the inability of would-be tyrants to concentrate sufficient power in a way that places themselves beyond democratic reach.

To be sure, the Second Amendment is an odd way of achieving this and doesn’t come without large costs, as the article makes clear and which nobody disputes. But it is impossible to deny the role it performs in a world where many other forms of dispersal of power are also under sustained attack: the separation of Church and State, the judicial independence which is increasingly difficult to distinguish from judicial activism, the now-laughable notion that monetary policy is for central banks to decide and not politicians etc.

If anyone cannot see that these trends are not unrelated, they are simply not paying attention, and while I don’t claim that we’re at least safe as long a disaffected teenager is effectively permitted to commit mass murder from the nearest clocktower in the USA, I do say that if we value liberty at all, we have to defend it when it produces bad outcomes as well as when it produces good ones.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Robb Maclean
Robb Maclean
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

An excellent, thoughtful post, John.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Robb Maclean

Thank you.

DA Johnson
DA Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

You are right in citing the principle of “institutional plurality and the dispersal of power” as the key point of the Second Amendment, but this argument is so rarely made. Thank you for stating it so succinctly.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Your term ‘institutional plurality’ chimed with me; for very many years, I considered the freedoms enjoyed in the United Kingdom were guaranteed because power was dispersed amongst institutions which came about through history, but I have lately begun to worry that in recent years, governments have added ever more institutions deliberately outside their control, while those and much older institutions have become increasingly aligned in a direction chosen neither by the electorate, nor the politicians they elect.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

No other country has a similar constitutional provision for guns, yet there are many countries that are not tyrannies.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

The riots of 2020 did more to hurt the cause of gun control than anything else in recent American history. How do we know? First time buyers. It was not the shooting, hunting, veteran, or rural communities this time. It was scarred suburbanites and liberals running to the gun store. By the way, the “militia” basically means everyone capable of being called up for military service. Look up the Militia Acts of 1795 and 1862.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

What about the well regulated part? A bunch of novices prepping in case of civil war doesn’t strike me particularly regimented

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It just means well functioning, idiot. The Bill of Rights was written in the 18th century before it meant having a lot of legal regulations and oversight. Before I have to listen to you drone out about the Second Amendment I would like to remind you “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” is the prefatory clause. It was explaining why the Founders thought it was important. Note every other right in the Bill of Rights applies to individuals not the state, since the state does need rights. I could go on an on why the “it does not protect an individual right” crowd are disingenuous idiots but I’m getting bored now.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Hindman
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Having to resort to insults indicates you don’t have a lot of faith in your argument.
Armies were well regulated and disciplined in the 18th century, those involved in America’s independence war couldn’t have won the battles they did if they hadn’t been. Why do you assume those that wrote the constitution weren’t referring to well regimented factions (regulated militias) akin to those that had defeated the Brits, as opposed to the free for all currently seen in America?
Having just defeated a foreign power when it was written, personally I’m more inclined to believe the second amendment refers more to local militias protecting America from foreign intruders than Americans shooting up their neighbours, however I’m not going to tell the yanks how to run their country. Living in a country where a punch up can quickly descend into a hail of bullets isn’t for me personally, but each to their own

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I am certain in my argument. The problem I have is I have had to have the same argument over and over and over. It is like clockwork. “What about ‘militia’?” So, I have to explain what the militia is. Then they switch tracks to ‘well regulated’. So now I have to explain it in the context of the 18th century and what it meant. Usually after that they start raving about muskets. Then I must point out if you applied the same to the First Amendment, no one would have free speech on radio, television, or the internet, since those were not invented at the time the Bill of Rights was written (1791). The same would apply to the Forth Amendment. “Oh it looks like wire taps did not exist when the amendment was written. Too bad, we almost needed a warrant for that.” What next? Should I go on about how the militia owned and provided their own firearms? How about the fact the American Revolution kicked off in the first place when British regulars tried to destroy stockpiles of gunpowder at Lexington and Concord? What about the American Founding Fathers emphasizing the dangers of disarmament of the citizenry? Admit it. You just do not like the fact the Second Amendment exists and you are trying to come up with revisionist history excuses.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Hindman
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

You failed to answer what I asked though. Militias were well organised and regulated in the 18th century, they simply couldn’t have beaten the British Empire in its prime if it hadn’t been. Why do you assume the constitution doesn’t refer to these disciplined groups fighting foreign forces when it relates to arms rather than Americans using weapons against their neighbours to settle minor disputes?
As I said I don’t care either way, that particular form of anarchy and might has right doesn’t interest me in the slightest and you’re welcome to it. I’ve just never understood the fascination you yanks have with guns and the misguided belief a couple of rifles could repel your military which is probably the best equipped in the world

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Who thought the UK empire was in its prime in 1776? The norm in UK attitudes about its status in the world has always been gloom.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

And you will never understand either, so stay put my friend.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

You’re looking even more like a rambling idiot.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Your way of making a case is intemperate, ad hominem and hostile. These are actually rather classic confirmation bias positions why someone’s arguments may be suspect, or at least incomplete. You are ‘certain’. Well, that isn’t any guarantee anyone is right on anything. You have as much of an axe to grind in your pro gun owning position as the people you attack (rather than criticise) on the other side. Perhaps you might consider that not all of us have previously has the benefit of your wisdom, and stop being so damn rude. And it is just a rookie error in critical thinking, you immediately ascribe thoughts and views to your opponents that you have no evidence they hold. We are having a debate, Bret Weinstein’s position as a liberal is interesting. I have no axe to grind either way as to whether the US has liberal or tight control laws. But obviously it cannot be a simple untrammelled right even there for everyone to own any number of guns of whatever power, because State law varies so much.

We can’t know actually what exactly was in the minds of the Founding Fathers. In your interpretation, the word ‘militia’ appears to me to be rather be redundant. In any case, it is up to the US courts to interpret the Constitution, not any of us. The deadliness of the weapons in question is very much a consideration.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You are right about Militias. General Washington was asked if the Militias helped his armies in the Revolutionary war, Or hurt. He replied it was a hard question to answer.

Trained military are unbeatable by civilians in battle. Even at great differences of numbers. But holding large territories against a hostile civilian citizenship is another matter.

But as I have said here USA is NOT going to have a Civil War. First, the Military are Citizen Soldiers and would not fight the civilians in a war. Second is no one wants one – everyone knows what happens in a Civil War, and no one wants that. People talk big – like even Bret above – but it is not going to happen.

AND the 2nd Amendment, just make it two sentences:
““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.””

and it is clear as a bell – this is how constitutional law people read it –

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

WHY is it “not going to happen”? I don’t know if you’re on the “progressive” side of this argument or not, but the problem with progressives is that they think things just get better with time, as though the passage of days is in itself a magical force. And since they themselves are the current generation, it follows that they must, by definition, be the most evolved, the most humane, the most intelligent people of all time and any who oppose them aren’t just wrong, they’re evil.

They important point is that this is completely unconscious. There is no self-criticism or self-examination, no dispassionate critical thoughts along the lines of “if I’m wrong then it follows that…”. None of that occurs. They just take themselves as the standard of good. The consequence is that the average progressive — although he would deny this — ends up looking on conservatives the way humans in general look on neanderthals: admirable from an academic perspective, but to be put down by any means necessary should they ever return. There is simply no respect, nor are most progressives capable of giving it. How can you, when you think of yourself in those terms? And with a mindset like that, narcissistic and verging on the contemptuous, why would there NOT be war?

Last edited 2 years ago by Francis MacGabhann
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

You’re barking up the wrong tree there, I certainly wouldn’t label Galeti as a progressive as you mean the word. Eccentric maybe, and I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him that as I mean it as a compliment, the world needs more eccentrics especially those as well read as himself, but he’s certainly not in any way connected to those of the hard left as you’re implying.
I’ll tell you why there won’t be a war, and that’s because most people just don’t care about any culture wars going on. It’s largely a battle that’s played out on social media rather than in the real world. Everybody else is too busy struggling through their lives to worry about a few trannies using the wrong bathroom.
The only thing that could cause conflict would be a collapse of the economy, which I can’t see happening anytime soon

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

A civil war in the USA would not be about bathrooms …

James Watson
James Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

If you can’t see the potential scenarios for an economic collapse out there you aren’t looking very hard

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Wrong. People are waking up finally

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

“Clear as a bell”??!#%@!?
The first part is not even a sentence. And, since when do we get to remove punctuation marks at will?

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Of course, there IS a reason why someone might call a person an idiot other than a lack of faith in his arguments…

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Eighteenth-century elites were classically educated. The Founders would have been aware of the Latin root of a word like “regulated”, which as any fule no, is derived from “regula”, meaning “rule.” The idea that the word only came to acquire this sense recently flies in the face of logic. And yes, the nature of the rule is debatable: does it refer to government regulation, or to training and discipline (which could indeed lead to a militia being “well functioning”)? Funnily enough, Bob here was talking about the latter before you went off half-cocked.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

The following are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary,
1709: “If a liberal Education has formed in us well-regulated Appetites and worthy Inclinations.”
1714: “The practice of all well-regulated courts of justice in the world.”
1812: “The equation of time … is the adjustment of the difference of time as shown by a well-regulated clock and a true sun dial.”
1848: “A remissness for which I am sure every well-regulated person will blame the Mayor.” (other docs say “Major”)
1862: “It appeared to her well-regulated mind, like a clandestine proceeding.”
1894: “The newspaper, a never wanting adjunct to every well-regulated American embryo city.”

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Actually the older witness provided by the OED
1648: “The preposterous conversion of the well regulated Monarchy of this Kingdome into a monstrous conception of a Military Anarchy.”
renders completely absurd the notion that the phrase meant “subject to regulation [by the government]” when it was written.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Yetter
Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

No need to be offensive!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I’m afraid your resort to personal insults marks you out as the idiot. Your comments have lost their credibility as a consequence and no-one will read them as you’ve made a fool of yourself.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Stewart
David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

No need to be insulting. I’m sure there are many non-American readers here who aren’t familiar with the intricacies of the U.S Constitution. Besides, I like Unherd posts because by and large they are intelligent and courteous.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

Sorry about that. I have had this very “discussion” way too many times with other disingenuous Americans and it always plays out the same way. Most of them are just looking for a fight and do not care what evidence you have or their ignorance of the subject matter. At the same time there are too many people from across the pond who confuse how they think the U.S. Constitution should work with how it actually works. I took a little more offense than I should with Billy’s “A bunch of novices prepping in case of civil war doesn’t strike me particularly regimented” line.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Hindman
David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I’m from “across the pond” (UK) and I have followed your explanations on the topic with interest. I have learned a lot, thanks.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Bell
TruthIs Honor
TruthIs Honor
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

How much training do you do? I have 1,000’s of hours of practice and training…And I have never even had so much as a parking ticket. I train to be SAFE and effective if protection of myself and others is ever needed. What are you doing to protect others from CRIMINALS?

TruthIs Honor
TruthIs Honor
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

What is the FIRST ACTION that the US and NATO did for Ukraine when Russia invaded…PROVIDE FIREARMS to allow for protection of the people. Later came the heavy arms, missiles, artillery, etc.
What is the FIRST thing that every elitist does when they “come into their own/position/wealth)…they have assigned or pay for ARMED security.
So for the Elites its AOK for them to be armed, but not for their constituents/servants/surfs/fellow man???? Why are they armed? TO PROTECT FROM CRIMINALS…not LAW ABIDING citizens…

David Slade
David Slade
2 years ago

A much more sensible commentary on gun ownership in the US than the usual condescending smugness we get from UK and European journalists when addressing this.

I am – on balance – quite glad guns are hard to get in the UK, but I do acknowledge that this would be very different if I lived in a country with 300m plus guns on the streets already.

As we have all felt increasingly helpless in the face of state over reach over the past two years, and now with the terrifying coercion in previously free states such as Austria,Australia and New Zealand, things certainly feel ominous, and it has led me to think about where the power to curtail our birthrights comes from ultimately. And, without sounding paranoid, it is ultimately the implicit monopolisation of the means to commit violence in the hands of the state. On a clear day in a functioning democracy, of course, this is for the better. We shouldn’t assume that will always be the case though.

My only caution would be that – as the past two years have shown us – a sufficiently scared populous is likely to produce a significant proportion of an armed citizenry in support of tyrants. The prospect of armed vigilantes enforcing public health measures during the pandemic is truly terrifying.

Bo Yee Fung
Bo Yee Fung
2 years ago
Reply to  David Slade

Yes, the equation can go both ways. The prospect of armed vigilantes enforcing public health measures IS truly terrifying. But I would still uphold the Second Amendment, and trust that most liberals are too squeamish and prefer to have others do the dirty work while they just pontificate from a safe distance.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

I’m a Yank. I’m a gun owner if not a gun enthusiast. I have a CCP–a concealed carry permit which allows me to have a firearm on my person–although many states are doing away with this requirement. To walk around all day with a gun on your hip is not easy–there are places you can’t go–banks, govt. buildings–places it is unclear if you can go to–malls, for example, though the need for a gun might be great there, as mall shootings do happen and are more and more likely, let alone the rampant crime at malls–see the YouTube videos.
One thing that scares me about gun owners and CCP holders in particular is how little training one needs to get such a permit. I’m sort of in favor of keeping it easy to obtain a gun but make the training hard, and serious. It’s not hard, nor is it very serious (though the training does emphasize safety), but not so much safety in everyday life. I would like much stricter requirements to carry a gun around, annual training of X hours, as a sort of screening mechanism so that only the serious actually get guns.
Having an armed society also raises many problems. Some say an armed society is a polite society, but I’m not so sure. Take a recent case–Florida, I think. A woman, pregnant it turns out, deliberately struck a motorcyclist due to some real or perceived infraction. Minor damage, mostly his pride was hurt, but she refused to stop. He and someone else followed her, calling 911 to report what had happened. She drove home. They followed. There were still on the phone with 911 when she emerged from her house with a pistol and pointed it at them. One of them shot her. Dead. Done and dusted. She was not only pregnant, but leaves behind an 11 year old. The shooter was legally armed, and legally permitted to defend himself. He did nothing wrong, sort of. But is this the best way to resolve the matter?
Another case in Cincinnati, where a gun might have helped. A white guy was driving through a black neighborhood. A kid ran out and he hit the kid–forget if he was killed or not. It was an accident. The kid was at fault. It happens. The white driver was hunted down and beaten to death by a black mob. Would it have been different if he had a gun? You bet!
Generally speaking, people get and carry guns for a few reasons: first, hunters, competitive target shooters, etc, second, people who fetishize guns, love to have their picture taken with guns, etc., third, second amendment people, who like guns on principle, and finally people who are truly, truly afraid. They are, writ large, the most dangerous group, but as the author points out–they are afraid for a reason.
Finally, the Australia comparison forces me to mention Jim Jefferies’s “gun control” skit. Brilliant. He talks about Port Arthur and the US. BUT, Australia and the US are very different countries, so what works in Australia (or doesn’t work, if tyranny prevails) won’t necessarily work in the US>.
I think a civil war is coming in the US–a possibility the author considers and does not dismiss. I have been chastised not to sign off “lock and load” but “think and listen.” The former may be necessary because the latter doesn’t work.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Thoughtful comment. But one quibble: For the white guy driving in Cincinnati, would the black mob not also have firearms? How much would his gun have helped him if he was both outgunned and outnumbered?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

People who are emotionally mature confident people whose mettle has been tested are not controlled by fear : fear of being to made to look inadequate, to be made to look inferior, to be ridiculed. I remember talking to a member of the SAS who said they were trained not to to rise to the bait, even taking a beating if they were working undercover.
It appears Americans cannot cope with being mocked without resorting to violence. It would appear America has lost it’s sense of humour. Perhaps Americans should undergo very tough unarmed combat training and be taught to laugh at themselves before they are armed. Use wit, if that does not work then fists and only as a last resort, firearms. The unarmed combat training will strengthen lower arms will improve pistol shooting.
Liverpool is a tough city and they have an incredibly sharp and fast wit which often diffuses situations and then only fists are used. The ladies of Liverpool are incredibly good at put downs towards men whose attention they dislike.

James Stangl
James Stangl
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I think you’re painting with a very broad brush when you say that Americans can’t cope with being mocked, etc. What I would say is that people would benefit from training in common sense and situational awareness, and identifying trouble before it’s literally on top of you. I grew up in a large US city, and learned “street sense” pretty early on. This seems to have been lost in the age of people walking with their noses stuck in their iPhones.

And as a CCP holder, I would second the notion of training attached to it beyond basic safety. Having taken a number of self defense classes, situational awareness is highly stressed. And most people I know who do carry are to a person incredibly polite and not looking to “pick a fight.” They just want to have the ability to defend themselves and others when evil can’t be avoided.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Have you seen Brets latest ‘Dark Horse’ video? He spends over an hour interviewing an Australian woman about how she is refused a vax waver on medical grounds – Amazing. So amazing I thought she must be fabricating – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qA0wZD0iPw

This kind of insanity is why Bret is moving more and more out on the conservative curve…… That and Evergreen, and Covid censoring of all outside the agenda (He always walks the line to being banned from youtube for this)

So I searched vax wavers in Australia – and it is True! They do not give them out. One site showed how there are 2 kinds of vaccine bases, and if you are unable to take one you must take the other – so there are NO wavers given!

“In order to be exempted from having a COVID-19 vaccination, a patient must have medical contraindications to all three available brands of the vaccine.
If a patient has a medical contraindication to one brand of COVID-19 vaccine, they will most likely be able to receive an alternate brand. For this reason, medical exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination are extremely rare.”

https://medicalcouncil.nsw.gov.au/covid-19-vaccination-exemptions-what%E2%80%99s-criteria

Really – Read this insanity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The government requires you to be imprisoned in your house, with no way to pay the rent, unless you vax – and NO exceptions are given – watch Bret – this is TOTALITARIANISM ONLY SEEN BY Sta*in, Mao, and the other tyrants! And in a Western Society! This shows how the world is more scary than ever – As you know THIS IS NOT ABOUT HEALTH.

DA Johnson
DA Johnson
2 years ago

I admire Bret Weinstein for his open-mindedness and his unusual willingness to admit and explore contradictions in his own positions. I would like to hear him expand on one such contradiction: his assertion, after saying that conservatives are closer to correct about the governing of cities, that “American liberals don’t seem to understand that their values cannot simply be implemented locally.”  Does he think that “liberal values” can be implemented nationally but not locally? Or that “liberal values” are not fit for the purpose of local government? If that’s the case, what are such values fit for?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  DA Johnson

that was my question as well – and a very important one since it gets to the heart of what could be hopeful for the US

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

As an outsider, I used to think of the gun debate in US a foregone conclusion where guns needed to go as they went everywhere else.
Watching the events in America unfold, seeing in horror what the Democrats have done under the banner of Wokeism, that perception changed now. I take the American liberty argument a lot more seriously than I ever imagined myself doing like Mr Weinstein – at least for the context of America.
It’s a reflection of our times we now see several articles seriously analysing the prospect of an actual civil war in America, or worse French generals publishing manifestos warning of an impending civil war.
All the while, (apparently former) liberals who should be voices of sanity and compromise here are coming up in support of crazier and crazier ideas doing virtually nothing to contribute to a solution.
The times are so desperate I find myself being relieved to hear the voice of sanity even from Tony Blair:
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/16852203/tony-blair-calls-for-labour-to-reject-wokeism/

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

It won’t happen. Left-leaning organization, charities, universities etc. get a lot of funding based on how abject they are toward woke causes.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. – Upton Sinclair

Steve Walker
Steve Walker
2 years ago

You mean the variant that Chris Witty has said is less worrying than Delta? What is there to discuss?

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Walker

My thoughts exactly. There’s been enough “discussion” and conjecture around speculation, supposed facts, fearmongering from a wide spectrum of commenters without anyone knowing the whole story. Even when more details of Omicrom are known, it won’t get much better. Just listen to Anders Tegnell, one of the most knowledgeable on Covid thanks to his experience, information network and analytical colleagues. When he doesn’t have all the facts or strong verified evidence he refrains from spouting forth speculative assertions and fearmongering quotes. Apologies for posting on the wrong thread. Interesting article and comments. Would be good to see an in-depth article on Sweden, guns, grenades and explosives, the modern day Chicago.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Not unherd, but people from The Spectator often drop by here to post things, and vice versa.
https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/how-sweden-became-the-most-dangerous-country-in-europe

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago

Thanks, it’s a recent event but I’d like to see a comprehensive analysis of the why and how and the clan structures in place and why the problem will never be solved but instead lead the Swedish nation and society into an ever deeper morass of despair. Although Sweden has an established weapons culture it has mostly been restricted to hunting and rifle ranges by the rural working classes and urban middle and upper classes. The last 25 years with mass imported poverty from east of Istanbul and the Balkan states has created a lifestyle vacuum where the younger generations with no prospects of a normal and meaningful life have nevertheless found meaning and empty respect in the urban warfare waged in the slum suburbs. but now spreading outside of these areas. The difference is that the weapons are all illegal, the guns and grenades coming from the Balkans and the explosives either from there or thefts from construction sites. There is estimated to be approx. 2000 hardened individuals who are active, using drive by shootings, bombing appartment buildings, executions of individuals sitting in parked cars or just hanging around. The drive by shootings have started to take a death toll on innocent bystanders but otherwise the scum are taking each other out. There is no political party apart from the Sweden Democrats who have the nerve or resolution to do anything about this. The legal system is just not equipped for this and any forceful measures such as cyber surveillance are being obstructed by the ECJ on human rights grounds. The prisons are full but sentences are limited and it doesn’t stop the violence since the clans are intact. Europe might have a lot more to worry about than the US.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Note that the ‘no prospects for a meaningful and normal life’– the party line — is more or less a myth. They have plenty of prospects. There is no country on earth where it is cheaper and easier to get training for all sorts of jobs including those that don’t need a university degree than Sweden. Until people understand that being a career criminal is not a choice forced on these people because they lack prospects, but something they very much want to be in the same way that others want to be lawyers and doctors, they will keep trying to fix the problem by adding more training.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago

The plenty of prospects in practice starts narrowing once they are born – upbringing by parents who are themselves struggling, ghetto environment, total disinterest in schooling, surrounded by bad influences. By the time they’re in their early teens, it’s like you say, career criminal and some come to realise that they may die young. We could go on discussing but I’m getting a bit off topic other than the possible likeness to certain sections of American society.

Robb Maclean
Robb Maclean
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Walker

The fact that HE said it.

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 years ago

The U.S. Constitution’s special provision for gun ownership is unique. Given its wording, it is not surprising that its meaning is unclear and that it has been subject to so much debate. The liberal case for gun ownership has no need to be tied to the U.S. Constitution. It can be made in many other countries that do not have that constitutional protection. However, I doubt that it is going to be useful to try to make the liberal case as a protection against government tyranny. Unorganized individuals with guns are not going to beat the government, unless there is military mutiny.
A large part of the reason why Weinstein and many of his neighbours in Portland (and other US cities in which the officials have tolerated armed anarchy) is because the citizenry feels unsafe, and for good reason. In well-run countries and states/provinces and municipalities, the military and the police have a monopoly on violence. If they exercise that monopoly properly and limit the type of violence that would make the citizenry feel unsafe, there is no real need for Weinstein and his neighbours to go out and buy a gun and stock up on ammunition. It is when they fail in their duty to exercise this monopoly to keep armed anarchists, rioters and criminals from threatening the citizenry that there is a strong case for do-it-yourself violence protection. When self-protection becomes necessary, even in a liberal democracy, there is a liberal case for gun ownership and use if needed for self-defence.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Roman

As in the recent looting in South Africa in which some little towns and outlying suburbs had business owners come together to form their own barricades against the looters. I think they had their own weapons.

N T
N T
2 years ago

Amen. For my part, I preserve deterrence as the sincerest form of self-preservation. No one learns from history. Naiveté is everywhere. People are sheep. Tyrants are wolves. Sheepdogs are an underrated commodity.
And compulsory military service and mandatory firearm ownership are both policies that any free-ish state should not dismiss out of hand.

Last edited 2 years ago by N T
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

I stopped listening to COVID crap in April 2020.

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago

Maybe you have stopped listening full stop

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

The wording of the second amendment may have been a compromise designed to accommodate two or more conflicting views at a time when gun ownership was widespread and largely uncontroversial. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the first task of a tyrant would be to disarm the populace.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

This whole debate is meaningless. America won’t ban guns and 300m private weapons can’t vanish. The US for good or ill is stuck with the issues. The UK, for example, has a vanishingly small need for guns as tools- no real wilderness, no real hunting and a tiny number of guns on farms etc. So no gun culture. We do have some knife violence and, like the states, this is within groups who kill each other. The general population doesn’t care.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Hi Bret, love watching you prove the old line of Irving Krystol’s

“‘A neoconservative,’ he famously explained, ‘is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.’”

And I know you have been mugged that way from watching you talking.

I do not go armed, do not keep a weapon handy in my house – like the way I refuse to lock the front door of my house wile sleeping, or when I leave the house, or my truck locked – like how I will not vax or mask, I am a passive conscientious objector, and will not let myself be pushed around by fear or by command. I am not a turn the other cheek kind – but I refuse to be afraid unless I must be – and so I will not lock my house (this is true) until a real and present need requires me to, this is my statement of confidence in my fellow people.

But I am a firearms expert, and they hold no fascination for me. I did end up buying 250 rounds as I had almost no ammunition, it took over a year of me casually checking for ammo – and every where has been sold out mostly since Feb 2019. I could have gone on-line, but it never has been important – but I wandered into a gun shop the other day just to see how it was, and they had loads of ammo, so bought it. It is just in the attic with the guns, I guess prudence, Maybe I just bought it because everyone has talked of how hard ammo is to get – Walmart has not had any for a couple years – they still sell it, but never have any…. so crazy is the demand.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

Well written and sums up what I have also come to believe.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

“When Americans worry, they buy guns. Some of that is irrational…”

Yeah. I remember September 11th.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

I applaud the author for realizing the error of his liberal ways with regard to the 2nd amendment.
In addition, it was refreshing for him to acknowledge the following:
“It’s a surprisingly courteous, agreeable, and highly technical culture: no one knows more than gun enthusiasts about the hazards that come with firearms…”
This is usually the case when a liberal steps away from CNN or any other major media outlet and sees for himself what actually happens in society. A very small percentage of murders are committed by a legal firearm owner. Apparently, we are all not knuckle-dragging, beer bellied imbeciles after all.

ryan8
ryan8
2 years ago

I identify with this article to a large degree. I grew up on the Left Coast in three different states, all liberal bubbles, as a designer and artist. Hence, I do hold a lot of “liberal values”, but I also had part of my family imbibing me with the conservative values as well.
What I have come to discover over the past twenty years is that the political camps and ideologies do more of a disservice toward unity, universal cultural values which simply service those who seek to render control over the masses. I used to be anti-gun in the typical leftist manner, but over the past decade have come to the realization that I was wrong on all accounts regarding the intent, purpose and expectations of the 2nd Amendment and have since reacquainted myself so to speak.
What I find Bret describing here is similarly what I went through via other experiences and research many years ago. The unifying factor being simple: Logic and Critical Thinking. Think about the 2nd Amendment and you are immediately met with these thoughts: rednecks, right-ring, Republican, white, male, outdated, only for hunting, violence, murder, aggression, gangs, etc. In reality, the 2nd Amendment is not about any group, type, race or identity group. It applies to all citizens equally.
I’m glad Bret has come around to explaining his experience through logic and reasonable consideration of the need for recognizing these 2nd Amendment rights.
I will add a few points which I hope Bret would consider in the future:

  • The second Amendment isn’t as vague as he thinks once you look at writings from that era on the topic from many of those involved with creating it.
  • The second Amendment is actually written in a generalized way, rather than an unclear way, as to avoid being negated through outdated or overly specific parlance which could be inevitably be mis-interpreted by those seeking to infringe upon our rights.
  • Take a look at Mark Passio’s YouTube videos on the 2nd Amendment. He pretty clearly shows the meanings of Militia (body of the populace, not a standing army), free state, arms, etc. While not everyone will desire to agree with every point, he does bring validity toward the supposedly “vague” definition that they gave to us.
  • What we see happening right now globally is all connected toward the globalist control system needing to skirt around an armed populace. We are the only thing standing in the way of all out tyranny the traditional way. This is likely why they are pushing so hard on CV, the jabs, the CV passes, and the central banks CBDCs coming to a wallet near you. All part of the next steps for their total control over the populace. It’s been happening for many, many decades and we’re just seeing the beginning of their plans.

Guns alone will not solve anything. The biggest danger is lack of truth, information control, which is where the conglomerate MSM comes into play and is why most people hold off-the-shelf political beliefs that lack personally obtained nuance. The MSM is an identity and weltanschauung factory (“reality projector”) which, after a few odd decades or more of propaganda has led to our current predicament where forced jabbing and removing rights is acceptable to large enough swaths of the Earth’s populations (e.g. Australia). But… go onto BitChute or any other independent streaming site, search videos on mandate protests, and you will see that much of the world is not bending the knee to totalitarianism. It’s hard to realize this living in a liberal bubble where people gladly where their masks and demonize their fellow citizens based on Father Fauci’s unabashed proselytizing.
It’s time to wake the eff up and take control of OUR reality. It is not THEIR world to play GOD with.
*I also recommend Mark Passio’s many videos on Natural Law which leads right into the concept of the 2nd Amendment

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

Excellent essay.
Defending oneself against one’s governemnt is not new. Under Elizabath there was no Divine Right of Kings and she travelled widely and consulted Parliament. Under, the Stuarts who were Scottish and were influenced by France, they introduced The Divine Right of Kings. Charles I wife was French. The English Civil War was basically a conflict between Parliament and King who beliecved in the Divine of Kings. Charles II and his Brother James II were influenced by the concept of Divine of Kings. James II was a Catholic and as Louis VIV was on the thrown of France who was absolute monarch, there was a fear of the introduction of Catholic Tyranny: hence The Glorious Revolution of 1689. The Bill of Rights of 1689, which includes the right to bear arms, along Blackstone’s commentary English Law influenced the Founding Fathers of the USA. The Founding Fathers had a classical education and knew that in Rome and Greece democracies and republics had become imperial and tyrannical. The right to bear arms can be traced through the various statutes of 1295, 1285, 1182 and the Anglo Saxon Fyrd.
Britain opposed a Police force until the 1820s because it feared it would be an instrument of state oppression.
The Founding Fathers knew from history that it was easy for The State, Monarchs and rich individuals to aquire power, money and impose their will on the population and create tyrannies; hence the right to bear arms.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago

Could one lesson from, this very interesting article, be that liberalism is only skin-deep?

Aidan Barrett
Aidan Barrett
2 years ago

Pre-1917 Russia had one of the most vibrant gun cultures in the world.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.rbth.com/history/326865-guns-rifles-russia-revolution/amp

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Barrett

The Ottomans disarmed the populace in 1911, before the Armenian genocide. Germany did in the 1930s, only allowing people to have guns if they joined the (Fas *ist) ‘Gun Clubs’ which were just a way to train soldiers out of uniform as their Army was limited by Treaty of Versailles. (Same as they had ‘Glider Clubs’ everywhere to train military pilots disguised as civilians, and limited in Navy vessels by treaty they built their U-boats in Belgium…) China disarmed the people in 1925/29 – and then Japan invaded Manchuria in 1932, and created the puppet state of Manchuko… Cambodia disarmed, and Pol Pot fallowed… and on and on…

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Barrett

I have read a comment posted by a Russian in another forum, telling us Americans to cherish the 2nd Amendment, concluding with the remark that in Russia almost everyone had weapons “when we were free under the Tsars.”
I leave you to ponder whether the connection between liberty and democracy is as strong as a lot of us seem to believe.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

You’ll notice that having those weapons did not prevent the revolution, the civil war, or the subsequent communist tyranny.

AL Tinkcombe
AL Tinkcombe
2 years ago

A couple of historical points: 1) The prevailing opinion that the Second Amendment allows all Americans to bear arms, and thus that the right to own guns is enshrined in the Constitution, dates to Supreme Court rulings from the late nineteenth century. From Wikipedia: “In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the right to arms preexisted the Constitution and in that case and in Presser v. Illinois (1886) recognized that the Second Amendment protected the right from being infringed by Congress.” This interpretation was new at the time. For grammarians in the crowd, the interpretation hinges on the way the comma in the text of the amendment is read.
2) The American Revolution was fought not only by the Continental Army led by Washington but by state militias. These militias were called up when needed; their members showed up, fought, and then returned to their farms when the fighting moved on. (As has been noted, this early lesson in the effectiveness of asymmetric warfare has been lost on the US military.) Since the Constitution was written close upon the end of fighting and is engaged primarily with the separation of powers, including those of the states and Federal government, a reasonable reading of the Second Amendment limits the rights it enshrines to participation in militias (which no longer exist). In addition, there were several armed rebellions against the early US government, the government framed by the Articles of Confederation, so handling potential state firepower would have been a concern of those framing a new order of government. One could argue that the amendment is intended to limit the power of the federal government, not to produce an armed citizenry.

Sam
Sam
2 years ago

You know, reading this essay, what struck me isn’t that Brett is right or wrong, rather, that is thinking isn’t very clear on the issue. I feel like he’s grasping to get at the heart of the matter but hasn’t quite reached it. Unclear thinking leads to unclear writing.
I know this because I often encounter the same in my own writing. When I believe something to be true, but can’t quite explain why, I often end up with a rather muddled essay like this. When I believe something to be true and understand the exact reasons for my belief, I am far more articulate.
At any rate, all one can say is, god bless Brett for continuing to live in Portland. I expect I would have abandoned that sinking ship years ago.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

Americans arguing over something or other – again. You are a weird people. The resistance to tyranny is a political matter: Liberty is not preserved by supposedly grown men waving their muskets around shouting “King George is coming!”
Don’t worry lads, I am content to remain neutral. I just sip my cup of breakfast tea, contemplate a grilled smoked kipper, toast Good Queen Bess and offer thanks to my god that I was born an Englishman.

Last edited 2 years ago by Terry Needham
N T
N T
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

I think you might have the order reversed. The imposition of control is political. It seems to start with a drive to remove “corruption” in the political class and in the armed forces.
The resistance comes from individuals who decide they will not comply, before they unite with others of the same mind. It does seem that we do not have very many examples of militaries successfully maintaining long-term control over a restive populace. It might take a while, but the natives do seem to win more than one might expect.
In cases where the populace is not well-armed, that timeframe seems to be much longer.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago
Reply to  N T

As I said, I’m glad I was born an Englishman.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”Mao _ “Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun”
George Orwell said one could buy firearms easily from hardware shops before 1917. It was the Irish War and Russian Civil War which pushed arms control.
England and Scotland has always been armed. The Ango Saxons expected every man to be armed and willing to fight,Why does killing occur, emotional immaturity. it was called the Fyrd. In Scotland, The Clan System meant all men had to fight. It was continental Europe which developed a feudal system where serfs were banned from owning weapons and only knights and and above could be armed.
An act by Henry II in 1182commanded every home to own at least a spear. From the late 13th century archery practice was compulsory. Archery fell out of practice because arrows could not penetrate plate armour at more than100m yards.
The Bill of Rights 1689 allowed Protestants to own weapons.
All dictatorships ban the the private ownership of guns. In Switzerland people own military automatic weapons.
Should we ban sharp knifes as someone is capable of killing many people in a crowded place? Chefs own many very sharp knives; how many murders occur in kitchens? Many people in the countryside own guns without killing people.
If we looking at who is being killed and doing the killing, it is a very small number of emotionally immature criminal people who lack self control in a very few inner city areas. Most murders are due to some persons brittle delicate ego being slighted- being dissed.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I may be neutral, but this is still bollocksonstilts.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I may be neutral, but this is still b*llocksonstilts.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Where are the killings taking place and by whom?

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Not in my village – But we are all English folk.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Precisely. Most murders take place within a very small areas within inner cities which is the same for Britain and the USA.
The violence of inner city Glasgow is not replicated in the areas where deer stalking occurs and many people own large calibre rifles.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

What the second amendment meant depends upon the context at the time it was written which surely was very different from today. Perhaps UnHerd should address that. Should “free” be read in the context of free from the tyranny of British rule? Should “State” be read in the context of an individual state free from a federal tyranny? Should “militia” be read as a locally organised force raised as needed to maintain law and order?  Should the right to bear Arms be read in the context of the restrictions imposed by the British to curb insurrection? With so many changes in the last 250 years it is most unlikely that the context that existed then is the same today. Indeed today’s debate is far more frequently framed in the context of individual self-defence rather than tyranny. Should that be addressed separately? I do find the underlying sentiments in the article alarming, I had thought the US constitution had withstood the test of time remarkeably well.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

An interesting and thoughtful article. It made be glad to live in a country in which the epidemic caused a panic to go out and buy lavatory paper rather than guns and ammunition.
Of course, I’m fully aware that history and especially geography have brought about the difference; there’s a great difference between a medium sized island and an enormous continent.

Mark Duffett
Mark Duffett
2 years ago

Unfortunately one of the links purporting to demonstrate Australian tyranny has been falsified; apparently it’s of the LAPD, not Australian police, assaulting a guy in a wheelchair. However Weinstein could easily have pointed to a number of authentic examples, such as the pregnant Victorian woman arrested in her PJs at 6 in the morning after a Facebook post in support of a banned protest.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

Great minds think alike.

“Lulled into a false sense of complacency”

I coined that redundant expression. Complacency is always false.

https://unherd.com/2021/11/there-is-no-spiking-epidemic/#comment-248176

Last edited 2 years ago by Rod McLaughlin
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Mexico is basically a rogue state next door to America. I can only imagine that if Canada had happened to separate Mexico and the USA, that Canada would have a big-time gun and drugs issue/problem on a par with America today. Their having read the news of various atrocities in Mexico, it may not be surprising if some Iraqis have scratched their head and wondered why on earth America bothered with intervening militarily in Iraq. Imagine if old Colombia bordered for hundreds of miles, Spain. The Spanish would be reaching for more than just hunting guns across gun shop counters if it were legal. (Sadly the opportunistic criminal-minded too). If there were a massive sea between Mexico and the USA, I doubt there would be as much of an appetite to own a gun in America. Obviously I assume fewer drugs on the streets, fewer gun crimes.
Mind you, one or two folk have commented on this site about Holland becoming a narcostate. The gateway anyway for drugs from Central and South America into Europe. But the law is different in Europe. Mind you, did I read somewhere that Switzerland has as high a gun ownership as America? I’m not sure if that appetite extends to as wide a range of weaponry. The Swiss must be a different kettle of fish. It’s so sad about Mexico. Children there could grow up happy and secure – should grow up so. Mexico has a nice climate, temperate, and the soil is very good. Nobody goes hungry there, I don’t think, nor even among a great amount of its good people who are very poor.

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 years ago

I think you are off target. Its not the military you need to worry about. Its the left wingers removing the police and leaving cities being controlled by anarchic thieves and worse.

N T
N T
2 years ago

Perhaps less obsession with panic pr0n would be good.
“Crash”? Your definition of “crash” is 2%? Oh, no, that’s what “every other site” is calling a crash.
Every variant is the scariest, until we learn more about it and realize maybe that was incorrect, and therein lies the problem with the panic pr0n: the noise-to-signal is small.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Essentially it boils down to whether you believe 40k deaths from firearms annually (plus many more maimed and injured) is a price worth paying for the slim chance society descends into civil war. For me personally it wouldn’t be, I don’t believe a few guns would be enough to protect me from a well trained army anyway, with tanks, bombs and an Air Force, so I’d rather live in an unarmed society and take my chances that society won’t collapse anytime soon.
Also I believe the comparison with Australia is also slightly misleading. I don’t think their approach to the pandemic was the correct one (although each state was slightly different) for me it was far too authoritarian, however for a long time it did enjoy support from a majority of the population. Once it lost that support however, restrictions were lifted. They didn’t need weapons to do that, just political pressure, a few angry protests and falling numbers in the polls.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Almost all those deaths are criminals killing people they know (and likely involved in crime) or suicides. The amount of deaths by law abiding firearm owners is tiny.

About Australia the old line of

‘Australians are not descended from the Criminals, but from the Guards.‘ (if their actions since 1996 are anything to go by)

The first action of EVERY Tyrant is to disarm the public – Stal*n, Hi *ler, Mao, Castro, as well as every minor one – like all the MENA, Central and S America, Africa, anywhere tyrants rule the populace are disarmed.

Also – Billy Bob, you fail to understand just how dangerous the American Criminal Class are; they are Much more dangerous than any other Western nation’s. If the citizens were disarmed life would be unlivable in a great many parts. The fact that almost all houses in rough areas have a gun keeps law and order to the levels it is. Fully 1/3 of all American Households have a weapon, and knowing this makes criminals more careful. In USA it is very rare for burglars to enter a occupied house because of this – wile in Europe it is much more common.

Samual Colt called his handgun the Equalizer, and a 80 lb woman can kill a professional wrestler in a face to face fight, if she is armed. I hold this to be a Human Right – that the weak do not have to yeild to the strong in a conflict.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Except that’s not true is it. America’s crime levels are a long way above those of most western nations, including robbery and burglary. Everybody having guns simply leads to more homeowners and would be burglars ending up dead on the floor. You seem to imply that if everybody is armed then they’ll all leave each other alone, but the statistics simply don’t back up the argument.
Also the tyrants you describe didn’t disarm their populations, as their citizens had little in way of weapons to begin with. Are you suggesting a couple of shopkeepers with handguns could have repelled the Red Guards or the Bolsheviks?

Last edited 2 years ago by Billy Bob
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Excellent point

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The only way this can really be measured is in context – the ratio of guns to population. By far and away the majority of civilian gun owners are not shooting people. Criminals and malign individuals of course have a nasty old ability and habit of getting their hands on guns even when this is not legal yet law abiding civilians don’t. Further criminals and malign individuals resort to other weapons when denied guns.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

It’s much harder to kill numerous people in one go, or to accidentally kill innocent bystanders with knives though isn’t it. Whilst a few guns will always slip through the net, in most civilised societies people don’t have to worry about their neighbours shooting them over a minor disagreement, or whether their kids are going to get turned into Swiss cheese just for going to school

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“Essentially it boils down to whether you believe 40k deaths from firearms annually (plus many more maimed and injured) is a price worth paying for the slim chance society descends into civil war.”

Actually the article deals with this issue and in addition evaluates pretty clearly what that small tail risk involves. You appear not to have noticed this.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I noticed it, and personally I don’t agree with it. The article seems to imply that a civil war will be a nicely split affair between the army and an armed populace, however with the way America is divided its much more likely to be neighbours taking pot shots at each other with the army in a peacekeeping role in my eyes. To me some vague notion of guns being able to solve political strife in times of trouble simply wouldn’t be worth the carnage they cause in the meantime

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

The poor woman behind the counter, the one running the background checks on all the customers! There she was, or had been, ringing up folk to give them the disappointing news about the delays to their orders, an activity she had been doing “non-stop for weeks”, only for her brief foray into puncturing the heavy air with a little humour gaining an even more disappointing response.

I gather, in her attempt to relieve the tension, she is heard to “say to the room, ‘I don’t get it. Do they think they’re going to shoot a virus?’”
Her saying “they’re”, to “the room”, is clearly her attempt at feigning being overheard talking condescendingly of the long queue of gun-shop customers.
Then the author of the (fine) piece here pipes up: “It’s not the virus they’re worried about. It’s their neighbours if the food runs out.”

An opportunity lost! If one had felt a little out of place, one had quickly confirmed one’s separation from the mob, from being one of the like-minded souls in the store: why did one not instead cry out: “It’s not the virus WE’RE worried about (love: (optional)), it’s OUR neighbours if the food runs out!”?
One must have felt that the good guys in the line were thinking, Ah, an imposter in our midst!

But if one in the line had been by now close enough to the counter, I suppose one might have feigned a colleague of the lady’s response: hence one’s “they’re”. Perhaps!
But then that would have conjured up the sort of scene seen in many a movie or tv drama of the verbal-sparring, keen-eyed, hard-at-work, no-nonsense, midwest diner’s waitress, putting an elbow on the counter and staring straight at her charmer trucker’s eye to whisper: “Is that so?” But it is my impression there was a dearth of jocularity in the gun store.

Maybe what our valuable writer here did intend was a little humour with what he offered, by reply. And was disappointed, no doubt similarly to the good lady, by the rather chilling “general murmur of agreement.” His “glad to have brought something useful to the party” was an ironic backtracking, a little way to salvage some pride.

“There was a general murmur of agreement.” How did America sink so low?
Might they have laughed if you had explicitly as good as claimed you were one of them? In your reply to the good lady behind the counter?

Deborah B
Deborah B
2 years ago

Lots of rather odd comments here, rather missing an important point. If gun ownership is held up to be some sort of protection against state tyranny, then surely if that event comes to pass, what will occur is anarchy. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 years ago
Reply to  Deborah B

What will occur is a violent revolution with lots of civilian deaths unless the military support the revolution. We already have the anarchy, which is why Weinstein needs a gun to feel somewhat safer.

Scott Ragland
Scott Ragland
1 year ago

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/More_Guns,_Less_Crime
irrefutably disproves your ignorantly presumptuous assertions re ‘the cost’ of an armed society.
also:
An Armed Society Is A Polite Society
No Free Man Ever Goes Unarmed
axiomatic, but to libs, alas.

Last edited 1 year ago by Scott Ragland
Tom Hammer
Tom Hammer
1 year ago

The state of Washington militia:
RCW  38.04.030
Composition of the militia.
The militia of the state of Washington shall consist of all able bodied citizens of the United States and all other able bodied persons who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, residing within this state, who shall be more than eighteen years of age, and shall include all persons who are members of the national guard and the state guard, and said militia shall be divided into two classes, the organized militia and the unorganized militia.

1989 c 19 § 3;  1973 1st ex.s. c 154 § 55;  1963 c 74 § 1;  1943 c 130 § 2; Rem. Supp. 1943 § 8603-2. Prior:  1917 c 107 § 1;  1909 c 134 § 2;  1895 c 108 § 2.]

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago

I think the meaning of the second amendment was clear when it was drafted. There was a lot written at the time by Thomas Jefferson and others that confirm they were concerned about protecting the people from tyranny.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago

Thank for this article, Prof. Weinstein. You did not mention one issue that often is. The rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights exist by nature, not by human edict. The right to bear arms “shall not be infringed.” Presumably there are other rights that exist by nature, but that did not find themselves in the Bill of Rights. If I am on track here, there are many rights that exist by nature, but some may be infringed and some not. We all liked your article so much, I wonder if that is true in part for what you chose not to mention.

I have also this question: We say such-and such right shall not be infringed, sometimes adding an express rationale and sometimes not. Does the addition of an express rationale weaken the the right, in a way that an implied rationale does not? And if so, why?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

About Australia (the 51st state) – so far the governments’ policy has been very popular. In Western Australia, where I am, and the most isolated state in an isolated country, we had an election this year (compulsory voting in Australia) and the government had the most astonishing victory – the main opposition party was reduced to an incredible TWO members of parliament, and the Premier won his seat with 87% of the vote.
So, if tyranny, the policies are the tyranny of the majority. Demonstrations against the policies are growing in numbers, especially now that mandatory vaccination policies are being implemented. From the beginning I was for letting the virus rip, the costs of doing otherwise were too great and fell too much on the young, still I recognise that the policies have been popular, and we have lived more or less as usual, without masks and lockdowns. Even in Victoria, where Melbourne has been the longest locked down city in the world, the government is ahead in the polls.
If you really want a gun in Australia, you will have one. I don’t want one, my brother has one. My fear is, as a commenter noted above, not tyranny, but armed anarchy

Last edited 2 years ago by Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Correction – I meant to type that the Premier won with 87% of the vote – still incredible. There will be people who think compulsory voting is tyranny, but I like it; it makes election results more credible as a reflection of the people’s will. Voting seems a small price to pay for democracy, and you are free to not mark the ballot paper.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Is there good and broad freedom of expression in Western Australia? Where a wide range of views on different subjects are generally welcome? Where the local newspapers are not stuck in a rut of thinking?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Australia is one of the freest countries in the world. These days newspapers in most countries leave a lot to be desired. In Australia you can read the far right Murdoch press, or the woke left Guardian and ABC. But local, state and national libraries give everyone the opportunity to logon at home and read just about any newspaper in the world for free. I suspect most people get their news from social media these days, rather than newspapers.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Has the definition of ‘arms’ in the 2nd been tested in court I wonder? Surely it would mean being able to walk around with two scabbarded swords on one’s back, or carrying a spear? I don’t understand why an amendment can’t be amended. Surely it has been by insisting on arms being concealed. But if ‘arms’ was defined as in the original draft, it would solve the problem: not many guns would get used if only muzzle loading guns were ‘arms’! (I am not trying to be facetious just trying to understand the legal position).

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Amendments have the same status as original clauses. To make an amendment would need 2/3 majorities in both the House and the Senate and 75% of states to ratify. Doesn’t happen often.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

This is partly why I’m glad the UK doesn’t have a constitution.
Constitutions is incredibly difficult to change, when in fact all they are a bunch of laws that suited the time they were written. If every law needed a 75% majority to be repealed no nation would ever function as it would be a shambles.
I much prefer the law statute book being able to move along with the times, without certain laws being given special status

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

I’d love to understand what kind of tyranny Bret Weinstein is imagining that his armed citizenry should stop – especially if he thinks modern Australia is close to that limit. Most tyrannies I could imagine would have the support of some significant fraction of the population – which would also be armed. Assad, for one. The Czar had an entire army, but it did not save him, or prevent communist tyranny. Modern countries with an armed citizenry would be like Afghanistan or Ethiopia, and they are hardly tyranny-proof – just ungovernable. Surely a tyranny-minded US government could conjure up a lot of supporters on one side or the other of the political spectrum, and then what? All your weapons give you is the option to start a civil war.

I have no dog in this fight myself, but I would line up with Lynyrd Skynyrd:

Mr Saturday Night Special

Got a barrel that is blue and cold

Ain’t good for nothing

But to put a man six feet in a hole.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago

The argument about the 2nd amendment in this article is not clesr and, I think, not correct. The Founding Fathers drew heavily (particularly Jefferson) on John Locke’s Treatise on Government. This stated that no government was legitimate without the consent of the people. Locke had huge difficulties working out what, in practice consent means and ended up by saying, more or less, that someone walking along the road had effectively given “Tacit Consent” to the form of government. If sufficient citizens did not have consent then the form of government was invalid and the citizenry had not just a right but a duty to overthrow it.
It is important to to be clear what is at stake; it is not being able to vote out the party you don’t like but to overthrow the whole structure of the government. As the government has legitimate reasons to be armed then so do the citizenry to maintain balance.
Having said that the 2nd Amendment has clearly outlived its time. For the citizenry to be on a par with the State arms-wise then they would need tanks, warships and tactical nuclear missiles.

DA Johnson
DA Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

As other commenters have pointed out, “asymmetrical warfare” is a consideration in this issue, as is the likelihood that many service members would not cooperate with orders to attack their fellow citizens. If a truly tyrannical government came to power and could get sufficient cooperation from the military, they could of course destroy resisting citizens with superior weaponry. But having guns in so many citizens’ hands is a useful deterrent to the use of such power.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago

A person who goes down the road of buying a gun to protect themselves must embrace a world-view of fear and constant threat. If they live in a war-zone, that’s reasonable. Otherwise, it’s neurotic.
Americans can only let go of their addiction to guns if they live elsewhere for a while and understand how the rest of us manage to get through our lives.
Till then, the right to bear arms comes at a very heavy cost in terms of loss of life, a cost that in practice most Americans are willing to pay. That’s democracy but sad for the victims.

yp54797wxn
yp54797wxn
2 years ago

Why do you assume we have an addiction to guns? We have a right to protect ourselves. That’s it and that’s all.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  yp54797wxn

I assume the addiction from the long-term exercise of the legal right to bear arms by 100s of millions of Americans. Gun ownership levels in the US are far higher than comparable countries. The right to protect oneself can take many forms and the proportionality of the means and the wider social implications of any particular means are relevant.

Milos Bingles
Milos Bingles
2 years ago
Reply to  yp54797wxn

Addiction is caused by fear. You’re all afraid. So you buy guns. We just don’t need guns in the UK. It’s just not a thing. It’s heart breaking to see such an appalling problem with such an obvious answer continue. And it will continue long long into the future. Because you’re all afraid. I suspect that’s why you guys are so religious. Fear. Religion & Guns are your comfort.

Last edited 2 years ago by Milos Bingles
Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

Yes, I agree, although no doubt Americans can see quite clearly some aspects of social problems in the UK that we don’t find as easy to acknowledge.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

I am from London – I was given my first shotgun at 9, at 16 or 17 (I think that 17 was legal age to get a ‘Shotgun Certificate then – a long time ago) I got my own shotgun certificate (license) and bought my first shotgun with money I made working.

It is very easy to own a shotgun in UK – all you need is some demonstrable use, like join a club, or a land owner give you written permission to shoot on it. Then apply, get a safe, then the police interview you, and you get the license to buy one. The process is automatic.

The difference is you MAY NOT own that gun for self defense, if you said that was the purpose they would ban you for life from owning a gun. In USA that is the Primary allowed reason to own one.

A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THE LAW

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“Americans can only let go of their addiction to guns if they live elsewhere for a while and understand how the rest of us manage to get through our lives.”

I have lived in several countries, been in a great many. But then I have been in the dark side of a lot of places – and the lesson I learned is freedom to self defense is a human right, and USA is doing the right thing defending this right. But then I have seen some really bad things – and by your post I know you have not – but reality is not just what you have experienced in your safe and protected situation.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago

So what is a classical liberal? A liberal who has “fallen out of love”? Maybe he’s over 50 and not rich enough to pay taxes in California or to have perfect Hollywood teeth? It’s always a pleasure to see how he projects his rabid individualism upon the Other (aka “the Conservative”)

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

According to Wikipedia: “Classical liberalism is a political ideology and a branch of liberalism that advocates free market, civil liberties under the rule of law with an emphasis on limited government, economic freedom, political freedom, and cultural liberalism. ”
Or, in shorter terms still, financial prudence and individual freedom. You might ask yourself (I do) how far any of the mainstream political parties match these ideas. My suggestion is that most don’t. They start off well with the emphasis on financial prudence or individual freedom but eventually are captured by their own personal concerns and careers within the background of a bigger state and the promises of authoritarian control. Until the next revolution or democratic spasm.

Last edited 2 years ago by AC Harper
Jean Nutley
Jean Nutley
2 years ago

I am sure I am in a minority, but I do not believe that there is such a thing as a liberal case for gun ownership. The desire to own a gun surely stems from fear. Like for like doesn’t come into it, does it? If someone pulled a gun on me, I wouldn’t have time to reach my gun, I’d be fumbling about for it. We all think we know how we would react to stranger danger,but the reality is we don’t.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Jean Nutley

I agree. Arming yourself to the teeth can always be justified by those intent on doing it. And if they equate gun ownership with freedom, the discussion is over. The better way is to have a low level of gun ownership across society.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

But you live in a safe place. How about people who live in rough places. Must they be prey to those stronger and with mal-intent?

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
2 years ago
Reply to  Jean Nutley

Here’s an analogy likely more your speed: my wearing a mask doesn’t protect me but appears to give a slight protective benefit to the community; similarly, I don’t have a gun but the fact that many of my law abiding neighbors do lessens the home robbery rate and makes the recent Australian type covid tyranny unthinkable here

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Jean Nutley

Your door locks stem from fear – I refuse to lock my doors or keep a weapon handy because I refuse to fear my community. I have guns but that is because I used to shoot competatively and hunt. Both of them I lost interest in in Middle age, and the guns are put away. BUT I do believe absolutely in my right to own them, as I believe the right to personal defense is a Human Right. I just do not feel I am in danger – but who knows what the future holds. That is where Rights matter – not for now when everything is just fine – but for the eventuality when things go wrong. My right to Habeas Corpus is not one I need now, but if something horrible happens and I do need it I am glad it exists.

Milos Bingles
Milos Bingles
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

.  I just do not feel I am in danger – but who knows what the future holds. That is where Rights matter – not for now when everything is just fine – but for the eventuality when things go wrong. = dripping in fear.

Alan
Alan
2 years ago

There is no liberal case for gun ownership in any functioning Western nation. The fact, Mr Weinstein, that you think there may be makes me conclude that the US of A is no longer a functioning Western nation.

Milos Bingles
Milos Bingles
2 years ago

“When Americans worry, they buy guns.”
This is the nub of the problem. America’s love of guns is fuelled by fear. Fear of their neighbours, fear of those with different politics, fear of tyranny. Fear, fear, fear. Their news channels are hyper-salacious. I remember watching the news whilst visiting New York and thinking I better get myself a gun, this place is scary. Their media fuels the fear. Addiction is fuelled by fear. Addiction is an attempt to self soothe with drugs and alcohol. I think America is collectively addicted to guns. And addiction is really really hard to recover from. Because it’s scary. If they give up their guns they will feel afraid. American society is ill. And it’s sad to watch from this side of the Atlantic.

Last edited 2 years ago by Milos Bingles
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

Have you ever lived in the US? What a strange comment… I lived and worked in the US and visit the States for several months a year. I don’t agree with you or recognise anything you said. Only because you were watching news in NY, you thought Americans live by fear. You might listen to much to the MSM, which btw.tries to scare the hell out of anybody on our shores.

Last edited 2 years ago by Stephanie Surface
Milos Bingles
Milos Bingles
2 years ago

So you’re either in denial or agreement I can’t work out which? The rest of the civilised and educated world doesn’t have the same issue with guns. America has more in common with South Africa or South America when it comes to gun violence than it does to Europe who seem years ahead on this particular issue. We aren’t as afraid as you guys. I don’t feel the need to own a gun. It wouldn’t even cross my mind.

Last edited 2 years ago by Milos Bingles
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

“We aren’t as afraid as you guys. I don’t feel the need to own a gun.”

No, you are likely more in fear – and just a bunch of Pu**ies willing to surrender freedom for some perception of safety. Is your covid passport up to date?

Milos Bingles
Milos Bingles
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Yeah. double jabbed?
I assume you’re afraid of the vaccine too. Your fear has made your country stupid

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
2 years ago

The American Revolution had nothing to do with private ownership of guns; the rebels won because they organised a conventional army and had the support of a conventional navy and army from France. But the misguided myth that it did plus Hollywood myths about the old west help explain why America has such a sick attitude to guns.