A Hobbesian note on guns

The continuing discussion on guns has been fueled by the question of race from this article. In a discussion on his Facebook page, Charlie Clauss notes

I agree with the idea that gun ownership rights is centered in the need to protect the people from the over reach of civil authority, stemming from the practice of the British taking guns from the colonists.

Still, any assertion of Second Amendment as protection against tyranny is misplaced, and in fact is contradictory to the act of writing and binding oneself to a constitution.

The Hobbesian question is what to do about anarchy, the war of all against all. How do we forgo the use of political violence to secure our advantage? And perhaps more importantly, how do we secure or bind the powerful? the act of mutually agreed government, of constitution, seems to be a fundamental rejection of direct, political violence. If that hypothesis is true, then the notion that the Second Amendment provides this guard against tyranny (especially expressed in the private holding of guns) would be internally contradictory. One cannot bind oneself to a constitution while reserving the right to violence as well, the former forbids the latter.

In any case,  the turn to political violence  always remains as a potential option; it is not a right so much as a fact.  So then the question must be that of justice or righteousness: under what circumstances is the act of rebellion permissible? This is the same question that John Calvin wrestles with in the Institutes. The generallyt agreed answer is that it absolutely cannot be determined by an individual (see the book of Judges), but only by a community with its locally officers. Thus, the Second Amendment can only function in the context of existing, local civil authority: militias.

 

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