I got some good responses to my last post; let me see what sort of mileage I can get from them.
Let me try to restate what seems to be the most common objection to my argument in list form:
- The government can become illegitimate for various reasons. Let’s grant the premise, it seems uncontroversial.
- Force may be required to fight back against an illegitimate government
- People have a God-given right to be able to defend themselves, including in cases when the government becomes illegitimate
- Therefore the state must recognize the right of citizens to bear arms to fight them in the event they one day become illegitimate
- An example of this in action is the Battle of Athens (this is not actually a premise of the argument but it does help illustrate it)
This is pretty good.
The Battle of Athens was about the subjects of the rightful sovereign fighting against rebels who attempted to oust the sovereign in place of their own, illegitimate sovereign.
Let’s replace election with “King” and see how it looks:
After the death of the king, the rightful king is meant to be the king’s son, Joe the 4th. But the nephew of the king, Bob the 2nd, makes a power play, and claims he is the rightful king, even though it is well known that this is not how the line of succession works. So Joe the 4th leads his subjects to take back his rightful throne from Bob the 2nd. He does, and we all live happily ever after.
If the 2nd Amendment is interpreted in such a way I don’t see an obvious problem with it.
Let’s take a look at the Civil War, or again, a certain interpretation of it.
The Southern states did not see themselves as rebels. Rather, they saw themselves as keepers of the proper, original government of the United States, which had been ousted by an illegitimate leader in Lincoln (let’s ignore for the moment whether their view was actually correct). In their view the leaders of the government were usurpers of the rightful sovereign. Therefore they were fighting to let the rightful, sovereign government keep control at least of their half of the country.
The fighting of the Civil War itself seems to indicate some issue with this interpretation of the second amendment; at the very least it is hard to see how the government can possibly recognize it in practice, since it will always judge those fighting against them to be illegitimate usurpers.
The only way the second amendment can possibly work is if a legitimate sovereign actually backs those bearing arms. If the U.S. federal government had stepped in and declared the original election legitimate, like it or not the fighters of Athens could do nothing about it.