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A Second Amendment Conspiracy Theory

This is one of the stranger songs from The Beatles' White Album.

A few weeks ago, I read an article on “HubPages” talking about the importance of Second Amendment rights. In this article, the writer argued that “power seekers” who want to keep guns out of the hands of individual citizens are manipulating “liberal pussies” that believe a gun-free society will be much safer. I wrote a brief comment explaining why I have no desire to have a gun, and he wrote a response that said, among other things, the following:

 “The establishment -- government, major and international corporations, media, government ‘clients’, etc. -- does not want an armed citizenry. At least two reasons:
1) They are aware of what happened in 1776+
2) They know that a helpless, dependent populace will lead to increasing their power, as that populace will bleat ‘save me’ to the establishment.”

So I decided to write a longer response with my own conspiracy theory.
Keep in mind, however, that I do not entirely believe in the following thesis. Like all conspiracy theories, it exaggerates the ability of the “establishment” to formulate and execute a grand, nefarious strategy to control the masses. In other words, it assumes that the “establishment” is some sort of a single entity, giving the “powers that be” much more credit than they deserve:

I understand both your desire to have a gun for self-defense and your disdain for gun laws that criminals, by definition, will find ways to get around. I also agree that the Second Amendment was largely created in order to prevent the national government from having a monopoly on gun ownership. Like all of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, it was created in order to set limitations on federal power and prevent the national government from abusing individual citizens. What confuses me, however, is your description of an alliance between “liberals” and “power seekers” in creating some sort of a liberal establishment. So I decided to spin my own conspiracy theory. I don’t know if it is entirely accurate, but like your interesting take on things, it may contain an element of truth.

You seem to think that gun-hating liberals represent a grave threat toward individual liberty in the United States. Now from what I can tell, the institutions that represent the greatest potential threat toward individual freedom are those in the security establishment: the military, defense contractors, police forces, and justice system of courts and jails. Officially, they have the function of protecting us. But in the name of security, they also have been given the power to fine, spy, imprison, physically coerce, and even kill. Ideally, these powers are used for the good of individual American citizens. The potential exists, however, for these institutions to become the oppressive central authorities feared by those who created the Bill of Rights.

Few would question the fact that these security establishment institutions tend to support and benefit from conservative political policies. Conservatives are often the ones, after all, pushing the hardest for defense spending, tough sentencing, tight security surveillance, and plenty of cops on the streets. One might counter, however, by saying that conservatives are also the ones who want to protect individual gun ownership. So if, as I claim, there is a conservative security establishment that could be a threat to personal liberty, then why do conservatives want individuals to have guns? Gun owning individuals, after all, are able to defend themselves from central government oppression.

There is a fundamental, practical problem with this line of reasoning. Militias just are not what they used to be. In the late 1700’s, militia groups might be able to resist the U.S. military if the need arose. Today, a battle between militia groups and the U.S. military would be a joke. First of all, few individual citizens are likely to take up arms against the United States. Loyalty and a sense of national identity are much stronger today than when our nation first began. But even if a significant number of people did rise up against central authority, they would not stand a chance. My money would be on the $700 billion dollar a year U.S. military to mop up any modern day “minutemen” in short order.

It is in the interest of the conservative security establishment, however, to let people play the part of “minutemen.” People can then maintain the delusion that they are able to defend themselves against central authority. Also, as an added benefit, conservatives can keep gun enthusiasts paranoid about those liberals who want to oppress them by confiscating guns and restricting future access to them. And in the meantime, the real potential threat to individual citizens can linger and possibly grow even stronger.

The Roman Republic lasted for hundreds of years. But then, once they grew into a massive empire, military leaders asserted control and established a dictatorship. Will this someday be our fate? I hope not. We would be wise, however, to heed the words of Dwight Eisenhower, a man who could hardly be called a member of the “liberal establishment”:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

I hope that Eisenhower was wrong. For if the future of our democracy is dependent on an ‘alert and knowledgeable citizenry,’ then we might have a serious problem. And all of those guns, which more than anything else provide a false sense of security to those who own them, may be one of many factors in maintaining the illusion that we are still living in a democracy.”


  1. Just a couple of points to make. Not all conservatives are Republicans and not all Republicans are really conservatives. As a civil libertarian I am considered conservative but I am also considered a pro individual rights as well as individual responsibilities. I am just as worried about infringements of the 1st and 14th amendments as I am of the 2nd amendment.

    If you are within the demographic required to register for the draft in the United States then you are also part of the unorganized militia. The argument that militia cannot stand up against the might of the US military is pretty common. But history as proven that argument to be false, Afghanistan is but the most recent example.

    Part of the problem in understanding this is that most people simply don't understand the nature of modern civil wars. And who would want to? They are horribly bloody affairs, they can last for decades, and rarely do they resolve the issues that started the war in the first place. There are approximately 80 million gun owners in the US. If just 10% rebelled they would outnumber the combined active and reserve military 2.5 to 1. That's assuming that none of the military rebelled as well, in our last civil war a large fraction of the military joined the rebelling side, including some of the best generals. Unlike that civil war it's unlikely that a modern civil war would be anything but a guerrilla war, much like when we occupied Iraq.

  2. Good point about the distinction between the terms "conservative" and "Republican." I was using the term conservative generically, just as people often use the term liberal.

    It's hard to fathom a guerilla insurrection in the United States. Part of the reason the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan are effective is the willingness of insurgents to target civilians. Would that happen in the United States? Of course, you also have to wonder what kind of firepower the military would be willing to use against American insurgents.

    As you said, an effective insurrection would have to gain support from elements of the military. There are lots of gun owners, but the average citizen does not have access to the overwhelming technological power of the military. The only question is whether a rebellion by the military would be an effort to uphold American principles or to overthrow them.

    My gain goal here was to counter the argument that liberals are engaged in some sort of conspiracy to control people by confiscating weapons. It's part of the reason why I used the term conservative so generically.

  3. Media hype aside the percentage of "Liberals" who are interested in wholesale confiscation of firearms is every bit as tiny as the percentage of "Conservatives" who are interested in formenting rebellion in our country. :)

    Ironically I consider myself very liberal in the sense that I believe in the importance of individual liberty and equal rights for all. I am also a gun owner and have a concealed carry permit.

  4. Thank you. That was kind of the point that I was trying to make.

  5. It seems to me that there are a significant number of gun owning democrats. I think of all the union plumbers, electricians, teamsters etc that routinely vote a populist line while maintaining great gun collections. I just returned from Nebraska where a good weekends recreation might be fishing or bird hunting. In California it might be difficult to imagine that a gun is just a tool used and cared for like a fishing rod.

  6. That's why it's funny to hear people who are paranoid about anti-gun Democrats. The stereotypes often don't hold up.

  7. I think that there are 100s of push-button issues, so any one person is never 100% liberal or conservative on all of them - thus we're all hybrids.

    Like Anonymous, I am a civil libertarian, so I'm conservative on some things and progressive on some others. I'm fiscally conservative, but I'm bordering on an anarchist or individualist when it comes to individual rights and individual responsibilities.

    On the 2nd Amendment, it was always unclear what it meant to have an armed populace. If it was to check the power of the federal government, then individuals should have flamethrowers and nuclear weapons. If it was to have home defense, then individuals should have pistols and shotguns. There has to be a middle ground. My nephew (history major) summed it up pretty well - he said that the local populace should have the same weaponry as the local police force - so shotguns, rifles, maybe machine guns if you include SWAT as local police.

    Anonymous correctly stated that locals don't have to win against the military in a stand-up fight. Instead, then can harry the military, similar to the French Underground, to eventually win in the long run. And make the government (whether federal, state, local) take pause before they attempt to use force to get what they want.


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