Young on the Second Amendment

In his Oct. 23 letter (“Second Amendment protects unalienable rights”), Greg Young argues that the Second Amendment is still valuable, even if it only covers personal firearms, because “ordinary, civilian-style weapons” are still capable of overthrowing a government with much more advanced weaponry.

He cites historical examples of weaker defenders resisting better-equipped invaders, but these are outdated and unconvincing. Twentieth century military technology has given far more power to the offensive than the defensive side, as illustrated by recent events in Serbia and Afghanistan, where the weaker defender did not prevail and probably could not have prevailed against advanced technology.

Nevertheless, Young’s initial claim is correct, though for the wrong reasons. Civilians can often overthrow a better-armed government, or at least force policy changes, when they can assemble and organize their resistance. In the last 30 years this occurred, among other places, in the United States, France and the Philippines.

But this fact undercuts Young’s main point, for such resistance is often effective without the use of any weapons at all. The First Amendment is much more effective here than the Second Amendment.

In a truly revolutionary situation, guns will be available if needed simply because many military personnel who have them will join the resistance.

The real question is what we should do in the meantime: Allow unfettered access to unregistered killing machines or admit that civilian arms should be “well regulated” in a way that, for example, might make it easier to trace the gun currently being used by the Washington-area sniper from the bullets it fires?

Scott Forschler, graduate student, philosophy