“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce [the People] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” — Preamble, Declaration of Independence, 1776.
In a sternly worded letter, Montana Secretary of State Brad Thompson, along with several Montana state legislators, recently advised the Supreme Court that a collective rights interpretation to the Second Amendment in a controversial case would be “unwise.”
Though it never explicitly said, the letter could reasonably be interpreted as an offhanded threat of secession. Some would say such a promise is childish politics. I would tend to praise Montana officials for bringing to light the very real implications of what D.C. v. Heller could have brought upon this nation — civil war.
Though the specifics of the case centered around gun rights in the District of Columbia, the greater issue is the true meaning of the Second Amendment and encroachment by the federal government on both individual and state rights. Montana’s gripe lies in its own state constitution’s provision for an individual right to keep and bear arms — which was approved and ratified by the federal government upon admission to the Union in 1889 — being summarily tossed aside.
Commentators in the blogosphere like this scenario to a breach of contract that would give Montana a legal right to secede. Others claim the state has no right under any circumstances to leave. While the citizens might not have a legal right to secede, they do have a human right to personal liberty sofar that they do not infringe upon the liberty of others.
A collective rights interpretation would have effectively repealed the Second Amendment without going through all the bother of ratification by the states. We live in a nation where the ideals of federation are being eroded day by day as the central government usurps more and more autonomy from individual states. We live in a nation where lawmakers are so far removed from the needs of common people, and are so ignorant of the tenets and spirit of our Constitution, that they have no business dictating propriety to a misrepresented constituency.
History has demonstrated that in the same way as a criminal who only targets unarmed victims, a government without fear of its own people is one free to impose its unbridled will upon them. A disarmed America breeds a more belligerent federal government.
When our populace is so divided along partisan lines and overwhelmingly against the current administration and its business-as-usual politics, a volatile political climate emerges. A strike against the Second Amendment, inevitably followed by a ban on weapons and their subsequent confiscation, would be a very dangerous spark in this developing powder keg.
True patriotism is not blindly following our leaders, but rather the courage to stand up for an ideal at the risk of one’s own personal life, fortunes and prosperity in the face of social unacceptability. I laud the Montana lawmakers for making the hard decision to verbalize what many more are thinking. While a critic might say their threat would never have come to pass, I would say that more states — many more — would follow Montana’s seditious lead. The right to arms is one taken, not given, to protect us from the tyrannies of evil men. Even in states whose electorates refuse to participate in secession, citizens from across the nation would stand tall in open rebellion with arms to deliver themselves from an oppressive government whose aims are to a strip of their means to defend both themselves and their way of life.
Jefferson once wrote that the tree of liberty must be occasionally nourished with the blood of patriots and tyrants. While I can see our nation’s need for revolution or reform, I’d rather see our bloated government reduced to its former magnificence through use of the system, rather than slaughter between brethren. Montana’s incendiary words serve as a stark reminder to our leaders that their power is derived from the consent of the governed and is not absolute. Those who can truly appreciate liberty can appreciate the daunting but necessary duty as the Montana legislature was forced to perform in preserving the U.S. and sparing its people from a bloody revolt.
Brandon Lohman is a graduate student in physics. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.