Letters to the Editor

Taking up arms against the government is not protected | Letter to the Editor

I enjoyed the recent Beachcomber discussion of the Second Amendment.  However, I must disagree with two statements made by Jim Plihal in his letter (“Violence caused by a murderer, not the NRA,” Jan. 23). He would have us believe that the purpose of the Second Amendment is “so the citizens can stand against the tyranny of government.” He also says the Second Amendment serves to defend the other liberties found in the Bill of Rights.

There are a number of legally recognized reasons for keeping and bearing arms, besides the obvious ones such as hunting and target shooting. Well-regulated militias of armed citizens may be called upon to help defend the country by repelling invasions or suppressing rebellions. According to Justice Scalia, writing in the 2008 Supreme Court case that overturned the Washington, D.C., handgun ban, lawful purposes also include “defense of home and hearth” and the right to personal self-protection in a confrontation. What they do not include is the right to take up arms against the government.

Although the Second Amendment arose out of our revolution against the tyranny of Britain, with the adoption of the Constitution, we entered into a pact containing built-in mechanisms for protecting the rights dearly won in the Revolution. Our justice system, as part of the constitutional system of checks and balances, is and has been throughout our history the bulwark against encroachments upon citizen freedoms by government at all levels. It hasn’t always been perfect, but it is better than the alternative of containing government excesses with firearms, as Mr. Plihal seems to suggest.

In 1861, many Americans took up arms against a “tyrant.” His name was Abraham Lincoln, and his tyranny was to threaten the right to own slaves. President Lincoln rightly regarded the taking up of arms against the United States by its citizens as rebellion, and rebellion is treason.


— Bill Tobin


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