With the advent of another school shooting, gun control is back in the spotlight. The focus of much of the debate revolves around assault rifles and high capacity magazines. I’ve heard people argue that we should ban both high capacity magazines and assault rifles. The proponents of this argument reason that neither are used for hunting, but instead have the sole purpose of enabling someone to kill more people faster. While this is true, the proponents of the ban are wrong in their assumption of what the 2nd amendment was intended for. The 2nd amendment was not written for hunters, it was not written for collectors, it was written for a specific purpose. Here is a simple fact of life:
Government authority is derived from violence.
Like it or not, the government claims a monopoly on socially acceptable violence. (Whether they are justified or legitimate in doing so is another issue.) A government’s laws only have weight because they are backed by the threat of violence. This threat may be very well concealed by formalities like a bureaucracy, but ultimately, if you resist a chain of laws long enough, you will come face to face with an individual with a gun acting on behalf of the government who’s laws you are breaking.
Given that violence equals governmental authority, what happens to a government’s people when they are relieved of their ability to use violence?
They lose ultimate authority over their government.
It is possible for people to exercise authority over their government by voting, but this is not the same as ultimate authority. People can vote about something all they want, but if other people show up with guns, the ones with the guns are going to have the final say. I realize this might sound absurd to someone living in a first world country, but the reason it sounds absurd is because first world countries, by in large, have a relatively good track record when it comes to adhering to the will of their people when the people exercise their will through voting. This track record, however, has varying degrees of length depending on the country. You only need to look at now first world countries during the various hot and cold wars of the 19th and 20th centuries to see governments repressing their people. (Franco Spain, Vichy France, DDR Germany) It can happen. It does happen. It currently is happening across the middle east. Syria, Egypt, and recently Libya are good examples of where the government swept away any illusions that ultimate authority rested on anything other than violence. It is also here that the people have attempted to reassert their ultimate authority through violence. When the 2nd amendment was written, the colonists in the newly formed United States had just thrown off an oppressor with violence. They had attempted various non-violent means previously, but fond them to be ultimately powerless. They used the last recourse available to them: violence. Having learned this lesson, they drew up the 2nd amendment to ensure that their people would never again be powerless in the face of an oppressor.
The 2nd amendment exists to ensure a people’s ability to use violence against the government.
It is for this exact reason that weapons like assault rifles and their extended magazines are needed. They are designed for you to fight a war scenario and kill people. When someone argues for banning assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and other implements designed specifically for war scenarios, what they are actually arguing for is the removal of a people’s final say over their government.