Now, I know people who own AR-15s and similar weapons because they're gun enthusiasts and very much enjoy going to the range to hone their marksmanship skills. I have gone to the range with them, and sincerely appreciate their passion for their hobby. I won't lie: It is fun to shoot one. Consequently, I wouldn't deign to tar everyone who owns such a weapon or desires to with the same broad brush. But unless you are one of those people who simply loves shooting at spots of metal or sheets of paper at a well-regulated range, the only other reason to own one of these mass-casualty-inducing weapons is if you firmly believe that at some point, you will have the opportunity to use them.
I won't mince words: I firmly believe that many of the people who want to be prepared to kill a lot of other people are suburban and exurban whites who think they will get the opportunity to kill a lot of black people if and when the social order ever breaks down. While some may consider this outrageous, it's really not: All it takes is a brief visit to Free Republic or any other such outlet to see posters actively fantasizing about the breakdown in the social order so they can:
[...] deliver what they deserve, 9mm from a MAC-11. 900 RPM.Perhaps brashly, I tweeted various things to that effect, and got a bunch of angry replies from conservatives who defended their arsenals on the grounds that the quite substantial quantities of bullets those arsenals could fire were not designed for black people, but rather to protect them against government tyranny. At this point, many rational people would have given up, rather than continuing to engage in conversation with people who believe that the massacre of dozens of people is but a routine inconvenience to preserve the fantasy of armed rebellion. I am apparently not one of them. I continued a string of conversations with people who advocated this notion, and asked them how they felt about the idea of killing members of the United States Armed Forces.
After all, let's examine some basic, common-sense provisos behind the "protection from tyranny" argument. If, as some right-wing conspiracy theorists fear, President Obama will declare martial law at some point in his second term and use that to impose the latest evil du jour (fascism, socialism, communism, Islamism, atheism or a combination of all of the above), it would stand to reason that the military would have to be summoned for the purpose: That is, after all, what martial law means. At this point, resisting this tyranny in the name of freedom would require being actively willing to kill soldiers of the United States. Even beyond that, however, there is a larger question at work.
(Continue reading below the fold.)
If children getting massacred is just a tragic consequence born of the necessity of keeping legal the types of weapons one would need to stand up for freedom, we obviously can't stop here: You're going to need much more than semi-automatic rifles if you're going to rebel and wage a full-scale insurrection against the might of the best fighting force the world has ever known. Recent history has unfortunately shown that any guerrilla force, well-regulated or otherwise, will need more firepower: Things like fully automatic weapons, explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missile launchers and the like. Consequently, if the need to defend ourselves against internal tyranny really is the prime motivator of the Second Amendment, we are doing ourselves a disservice not to legalize those weapons. The amendment gives citizens the right to keep and bear arms, after all; and like Justice Scalia says, those arms are certainly portable, which means that their constitutionality is very much up in the air:
WALLACE: What about… a weapon that can fire a hundred shots in a minute?But even broaching this line of argumentation with my conservative interlocutors would result in outrage; they support the military to the core, apparently, despite forcefully advocating for their ability to engage in armed insurrection. But when I would ask which government agency they would be using their assault weapons against, I never did get an answer. That's because there are only two possible alternatives: Either they realize they would have to kill our own soldiers in this fantastical "martial law" scenario, or they believe that there is some shadow agency that will be the vanguard of the operation (maybe the same one that brings the black helicopters?), so it won't constitute killing our own troops—or at least, not exactly.
SCALIA: We’ll see. Obviously the Amendment does not apply to arms that cannot be hand-carried — it’s to keep and “bear,” so it doesn’t apply to cannons — but I suppose here are hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes, that will have to be decided.
WALLACE: How do you decide that if you’re a textualist?
SCALIA: Very carefully.
So if the Obama administration lives up to its word and considers firearm legislation in the coming weeks, we'll have to prepare for an onslaught of people who claim that assault weapons with hundred-round drums are necessary for defense against their own government. Anyone making that argument should be promptly asked how comfortable they would actually feel killing an American solder in combat. After all, martial law doesn't impose itself.