by AWR HAWKINS
A Washington Post column published July 14 observes that the Founding Fathers placed constitutional protections on gun rights so the people could preserve a means of staving off an attack from our own standing army.
The Washington Post is 100 percent spot on with this observation. At the same time, readers will notice the column has a fatal flaw in that its author writes in a way that suggests staving off a standing army is the central reason for gun ownership in the United States. It is not.
The jumping point for the column is France’s Bastille Day. The Washington Post reports:
It was fear of the French army that first led Parisians to storm the Bastille. And distant though that event may be in both time and place, Americans should take note: this kind of scenario is why the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution exists. Both those storming the Bastille and those ratifying the Bill of Rights had a genuine fear of a standing army as the enemy of a true republic — a fear that shows just how disconnected modern readings of the Second Amendment have become.
Notice how the author correctly describes the trepidation of our Founding Fathers, only to suggest that those who do not see this “fear” as the reason behind the Second Amendment are actually “disconnected.”
The author makes viewpoint clear:
Gun rights advocates argue that the founders included the amendment to protect the people from a tyrannical government. To an extent, they are correct. But the founders were concerned about a specific kind of tyranny. They were worried about the same thing that the Parisians were worried about on the eve of the storming of the Bastille: that a despot would order his soldiers to attack the citizens. A citizens’ militia, by replacing the army, could prevent that scenario from happening.
In recent years, the idea of the Second Amendment as a justification for standing up to the government has become more popular. Today’s visions of armed resistance, though, have become unhinged from the Amendment’s 18th-century moorings, in ways that make appeals to “what the founders thought” ring hollow. The story of the storming of the Bastille can help, by showing how an 18th-century “Second Amendment solution” was meant to work and how ideas of military service have changed since the Early Republic.