Self-defense, or Defense Against
Tyranny--Does it Really Matter?



Print Friendly and PDF

By Kurt Hofmann, July 9th, 2014
JPFO writer contributor, © 2014.

In the Supreme Court's 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision, which established federal recognition of Constitutional protection for the individual's right to own firearms, the main thrust of Justice Scalia's write-up of the majority decision is that handguns are the "quintessential self-defense weapon" of the American people, and can thus, because of the Second Amendment, not be legitimately banned.

This has drawn considerable criticism, especially from those in favor of ever more restrictive gun laws, on the grounds that the Second Amendment says nothing about self-defense, nor is there any mention of that concept apparent in records of debates and discussion about the right to keep and bear arms in the late 18th century.

That is not to suggest that it is only the opponents of an armed citizenry who reject the notion that the Second Amendment was ever intended to protect the people's right to effective means of self-defense against common criminals. Even Second Amendment stalwart Ron Paul seems a bit dubious about the idea in his book Freedom Under Siege:

[Proto-libertarian Lysander] Spooner had an interesting explanation about why the Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment in the Constitution. He never once considered that the authors of the Constitution meant that only the militia were allowed to possess weapons, as today's liberals argue. He even considered it foolish to claim private gun ownership was for the purpose of defending one's life and property from robbers and murderers. "That" he states, "is so obvious one need not say it."

According to Spooner the real reason for individual gun ownership was for the purpose of protecting against the evil use of government power--as the revolutionaries experienced at the hands of King George III. In other words, when all else fails, the gun owned by the individual is to be used to protect against the tyranny of the state--something obviously denied the citizens of an oppressive state such as Poland or the Soviet Union.

Rabidly anti-gun gun dealer and self-described "gun guy" Mike Weisser, writing for the Huffington Post, also gets in on the act:

A close reading of sources from the debates over the Bill of Rights makes clear that individual gun ownership represented the ability of citizens to protect and defend their political rights; rights to free speech, free assembly, due process and the like. But the argument for gun ownership advanced by the NRA today, Ollie North's appeals to patriotism notwithstanding, is based on the alleged social value of guns to protect us against crime.

As Herschel Smith notes in his retort, "But the second amendment says nothing about self defense or hunting. It says everything about tyranny. My main intention here is to point out that whether the NRA recasts this issue or not, the context of guns in America cannot be undone or written out of the textbooks."

Then, of course, there is the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, who hedge their bets by both over and over again excoriating the Heller ruling for being so strongly predicated on individual self-defense, and beginning their "Insurrectionism Timeline" with the Heller decision's "embrace" of "the National Rifle Association's contention that the Second Amendment provides individuals with the right to take violent action against our government should it become 'tyrannical.'"

And every one of them is right (well, in CSGV's case, that would be half right, which is still dramatically better than can normally be expected of them)--the Second Amendment was written as a bulwark against tyranny, and not as protection of the people's right to the means of resisting street crime and burglars.

But as a practical matter, does that really make much difference? When you defend yourself against an assailant who happens to be a common criminal, after all, you're defending your rights from violation, no less than if your attacker--and aspiring rights violator--draws a government paycheck, carries a tax revenue-supplied firearm, and is acting on government orders. Likewise, in resisting a tyrannical government, you are defending yourself from that government--and the hired muscle of said government, from whom you are defending yourself, is no less criminal than the common street thug or rapist.

To claim a difference, other than one of scale, between a thug who rapes a woman, and a tyrant who rapes a nation, is to elevate the tyrant to something greater than the thug-writ-large he is. It is to claim that he can be resisted only by "revolutionaries," rather than by every man and woman who refuses to submit to thuggery.

We are the militia, necessary to the security of a free state. Any violence against us, even individually, rather than against the people in general, and by freelance criminals, rather than agents of an oppressive government, is therefore nonetheless an attack on that which is necessary to secure our free state. We thus have not only the right, but the patriotic duty to defend ourselves against such violence. Anyone who attempts to undermine that right and duty has allied himself with brutal thugs, in and out of government, and has declared himself an enemy of the American people.

Was this information valuable to you? If so, please consider donating, becoming a member or renewing your membership, or buying a DVD, book, tee-shirt, or other gear at our JPFO store.

A former paratrooper, Kurt Hofmann was paralyzed in a car accident in 2002. The helplessness inherent to confinement to a wheelchair prompted him to explore armed self-defense, only to discover that Illinois denies that right, inspiring him to become active in gun rights advocacy. He also writes the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner column. Kurt Hofmann Archive.

Back to Top




The JPFO Store

Films and CDs