The title to this post means two things. I mean to say that I intent to talk about the insurrectionist doctrine, but also I mean to question whether it is wise to do so and how we might go about it when we must.
Debates about gun control often devolve into hunting and personal defense. These are both noble and worthy reasons to own firearms, but they immediately prompt questions of need. Do you “need” an AR-15 for hunting? It’s not really the choice weapon for most hunting circumstances. Do you need an AR-15 for home defense… eh, maybe. Surely they can be used in such a manner, but other weapons could too.
The fall-back argument for “need” is the insurrectionist doctrine. However, the insurrectionist doctrine is the rhetorical tactical nuke of gun control debates. You might win a few battles, but there’s fallout. Folks who have never considered the subject before find it rather disturbing that people might some day want to overthrow the government.
Case in point: Dick Durbin tried to trap Wayne LaPierre on this subject.
If you’re anything like me, you were yelling “yes!” at your screen in answer to Durbin’s question. Wayne LaPierre did two smart things. First he genuflected towards the history of the doctrine, then deflected Dick Durbin’s loaded question to talk about another need for effective weaponry, the situations where the government is not able to protect you.
As a practical matter, there are any number of “sh*t hits the fan” scenarios for which one would want to be sufficiently armed. As LaPierre explained, the government might not be available to help during a disaster, or civil unrest. As a matter of Constitutional philosophy though, the insurrectionist doctrine is still the underlying philosophical principle that the Second Amendment is designed to embody.
To the extent that we are forced to talk about the insurrectionist doctrine, it is important to follow LaPierre’s lead, moving from the concrete to the abstract, away from our present crises –both real and imagined– and towards a timeless principle.
In common conversation, we’re bad at that. I fully appreciate that some sort of SHTF scenario seems ever more likely given the direction we’re headed, but it’s important that we not give them impression that we’re stocking up for when the FEMA storm-troopers pound down our bunker doors while black helicopters hover overhead.
When confronted, how about this: “Things seem okay right now, but what about in 10 or 20 years?” (Safely outside of any time-frame where Obama would occupy the White House.)
The insurrectionist doctrine is most simply described as a final escape hatch from a tyrannical government. Upon closer inspection, it is a deterrent to that possibility. A well-armed populace ensures that a tyrant can not easily come to power. It is a critical check and balance on the accumulation of power in the hands of politicians just like the rest of the checks and balances in the Constitution. It should actually reduce the likelihood of armed revolution.
Does it not make more sense to view the Second Amendment in this way? Would the founders set up an elaborate set of checks and balances and then say, “Oh yeah, and people should have guns. Because that would be awesome.” No, the Second Amendment fits neatly into the rest of the Constitutional balance. To think otherwise is to sell the founders seriously short.