A conversation with a libertarian left me fearful of this Bundy fervor

Second AmendmentI recently had a rather hostile debate with a staunch libertarian involving, of course, the Second Amendment. The nature of this heated exchange surrounded the idea of whether the citizenry of the United States had the explicit right to overthrow their elected government by force of arms. I of course argued that no such clause exists for citizens to use arms against their government. This libertarian believed otherwise, and this exchange made me ponder the central question: do Americans have a right to forcefully overthrow the government?

This is not an easy topic, and I already know many will disagree with my assessments. What the libertarian argued was that the citizenry had a right to use arms against the government if that government “defied the constitution.” Whenever I asked what type of government that would be, he only said “sort of what we have now.” Sigh. Needless to say I didn’t get many specifics on the matter.

He claimed that the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, automatically gives legal justification for their use against said government. He claimed the Amendment was set up specifically for the purpose of allowing the citizenry a means to forcefully topple our elected government if it “was deemed unconstitutional by the people.” I continued to ask who are the “people”, and under what legal basis would they decide the government was being unconstitutional? Still no real answers except, “the local voters and their local representatives.” Okay.

For context, this conversation began over an earlier talk about the Cliven Bundy fiasco in Nevada. An armed fervor from right-wing gun nuts is elevating the already strong gun culture of the US. The libertarian, of course, defended what Bundy and his cohorts were doing. I raised objection to that, which caused the libertarian to spurt off about the nature of the Second Amendment and the citizen’s right to use weapons against the federal government. The libertarian even went as far as to say the military has the legal right to remove the president and close Congress, and should probably do so. I asked which part of the constitution permitted a military coup d’etat, but to no avail.

second amendment, bundy
Armed Bundy Supporter

My responses to his assertions were more or less based on my rather centered view on history. I explained that while the Second Amendment does give citizens the right to keep firearms, it does not list any explicit right for citizens to use these weapons against federal or state officials. Nowhere in the amendment does it even hint at such a thing.

The Second Amendment was put in place for several reasons. One major reason was, at the infancy of the United States, there was no standing federal army across the territories of the new nation. Most of the country’s defense came from State Militias, as the idea of large standing armies being a sign of tyranny was widespread. Also, the States viewed themselves as their own sovereign entities, and very few saw the other states as one and the same.

The Union was still fairly loose in this age, and a lack of a standing federal army meant that army citizen and state sanctioned militias were crucial to maintaining a defense network in the new United States. The Second Amendment was also widely supported by slave owners, who desired the right to quickly arm the white populace in case of nasty slave revolts.

The federal government, however, never set up any set of rules to allow its own arbitrary overthrow. Quite the contrary, our system of checks and balances is meant to curtail such events. It was always understood that an armed populace would be part of a State Controlled militia, and not merely individual citizens acting on their own accord. Events like the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 and the War of 1812 revealed major flaws in relying on militias for defense, in which government policy slowly shifted more towards a standing federal army.

In short, the Second Amendment was put in place for complex reasons. There is no clear constitutional justification for an armed overthrow of the US government by its citizens. What Bundy and men like him are doing is absolutely out of bounds from a constitutional standpoint. Yet explaining this to a gun-nut libertarian is very much like teaching a cat how to bark. Good luck my friend. And they call themselves “patriots.”

The conversation did not affect the libertarian much. I am wondering why I even discussed it with him. I have become unnerved by the idea of armed citizens shooting at and/or overthrowing an elected government, without a clear constitutional course for it. I am scared that one day these sentiments will lead to blood being spilled… again. I hope these Second Amendment “defenders” know what they’re getting themselves into when they fire those first shots into the unity of their country.


  1. The right to overthrow a ruling government by any an all persons throughout time and boundaries is not ‘given’ by anyone or anything. It is a natural response to an oppressive and/or failed government to represent its people. Whether or not said government should or should not be ousted is not determined by ANY rules, laws, regulations, documents, etc. In fact, that is ridiculousy absurd thinking. As history has noted throughout the centuries, across the globe, under various forms of government, revolution occurs when enough people have had enough. It is known as, ‘power to the People’. Permission, not required!

  2. I don’t agree with your summary, or many facts there, but I appreciate you taking the time to think and write about this subject. There has been a lot of discussions around this, and I found your blog very well written to your point of view, thanks.

    • If The Government Abandoneds The Constitution And Attacks It’s Own People They The People Have Every Right For A Armed Confrontation Tyranny Is What We Have Today The Libiterian Was Right Our Rites today Are Being Taken Away Slowly With Executive Orders And Same Day Passed Bills

  3. Ironic. In the “Our Principles” section of this very website, I found that the staff of quietmike.org reserves the right to censor “hate speech”. OK. Fair enough – it’s their website after all. However, in this very article upon which I’m commenting here we find the pejorative condemnation of “right wing gun nuts”. If THAT isn’t “hate speech, what is? (It’s also painting with a VERY broad bush.) I’d suggest that the author of this article attempt to acquire/develop at least some minimal capacity for intellectual subtlety, discernment, and discrimination. (I suppose that would be self-contradictory on his part though – since all “discrimination” is inherently evil in all forms according to “Progressives”. ) So to be fair, I must at least grant him credit for effecting at least a modicum of genuine, albeit, unintentional, consistency.

  4. “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”
    — Thomas Jefferson

  5. I think if the government is so terrible that people decide it needs to be overthrown, it will not really matter if we technically have the right to do so. The government most likely will not uphold that right and people would probably revolt even if they didn’t.

  6. If it has been determined that the 2nd Amendment gives all citizens the right to arm themselves for the purpose of overthrowing the government, that would mean that every US citizen has the right to own nuclear weapons. I believe there are laws against that, but based on this logic they would be unconstitutional.

  7. While the right of the people to alter or abolish “their” government was placed in the Declaration of Independence, which was the cornerstone for establishing the constitution, which was followed by a Bill of Rights; the “government of the elected” decided to draft and ratify a law (18 U.S.C. §2385) which prohibits the overthrow of the government. You and I can go to prison if we attempt or make provisions for overthrowing the government, regardless of how right we think we are. And this is regardless of whether or not we would choose to use a firearm.

    “We The People” was a phrase used by a few to provide weight to their views placed as a definitive statement on the Independence declaration… and did not actually represent the sentiments of the population by way of a collected vote. Likewise, the so-called government Of, By, For (All) The People has never been established by way of a tallied national vote. The larger population of people, outside the small group of elected persons, rarely if ever get to vote on any social issue in any collective Way. Even the election process of a President is undermined by the usage of an Electoral College… and is why a person can be elected without having obtained the popular vote. Hence, people can be elected by a rigged system instead of by the collected opinion of a majority.

    It should be needless to say that we need a New Government… a Cenocracy. If we are truly going to have a government Of, By and For All The People, then we need to practice a formula of governance which Constitutionally respects and protects the Right of the people to alter, abolish and administrate the government as they collectively see fit, without being subjected to a mangling of their views by way of vicarious forms of Representation.

    The people should and must have a guaranteed Right to practice an Actual Democracy so that it reflects an Actual “Peoples Government.”. Every single person needs to speak up and call for a Cenocracy (New Government), so that the process of developing one will begin by way of discussing the different variations we can come up with. Others of course will be thinking of the processes by which such changes can be implemented, hopefully without the violence(s) of destruction and death.

    Most of us do not want to have to resort to needed governing changes by way of a civil war or revolution. We prefer calm and rational alterations… knowing all to well that fear of the unknown, away from the comfort of familiarity can breed apprehensiveness.

    The needed changes can not take place by a simple change in the replacement of one politician for another, because they too will have to constrain themselves to established rules-of-thumb. Changes in the magnitude to which must be addressed will require a New Constitution and a New Bill of Rights.

    Limiting the power of Government only works when the government practices a limited form of Democracy, like that of the America, Britain, Canada, China and elsewhere. None of these nations practice the needed advanced expressions of Democracy that the present era of humanity needs.

    However, to call for a downsizing or limitation in government, if we are to hold by the view that the people represent the government; is the call for a further reduction in the practice of Democracy. If you want to limit government, and the people truly represent the government, then you are calling for a reduced practice of Democracy. Such a view should not be tolerated by any Democratic people.

    The people should have the Right to discuss and then vote on any and all social issues, whereby the result of the vote becomes the law of the land. The view of the people should not be subjected to a political process designed during an era of voter discrimination was the accepted logic, which permits their view to be altered to fit the disposition of an elected few whose perspectives are often bought and paid for by self-serving entities.

    We The People need a new formula of Governance. It is past time to start the deliberations for such.

  8. – What about the ruling of ‘District of Colombia v. Heller’?
    “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

    – The Declaration of Independance

    i just simply asked some of my companies lawyers what they thought and they all generally agreed that, however vague, the American people have the right to overthrow the governemt. They also said the 2nd amendment alone does not give “you” the right, it’s the combination of the 2nd, declaration of Independance, and SC cases that “give” you the right. Basically the answer I left with was, “the act of tyranny has to be so great and so profound that overthrowing the government would be the solution supported by the majority of the American people.” So Cliven Bundy is a lunatic redneck who should pay his damn fees, but let’s see the 9/11 conspiracy theorists are right then that would warrant overthrowing, I would think. Thoughts Anyone?

      • Plain and simple, this government and constitution was formed by the people and for the people. If the government dares to change the constitution on its own or without the popular vote, there will be an overthrow of the sitting government and yes, guns will have a role and always will. Just read the history of every major socialist country and its leaders who brainwashed the people into giving up their guns, then quickly went communist when the timing was right. Socialism works in little crap countries like Sweden, has never worked in large countries where there is never enough money, nor will it ever work. There will never be enough money, even after they wipe out millions of people intentionally. In theory, communism is beautiful, in reality, the government has too much power and control. And if you are so gullible to think it will always remain Socialist, don’t forget, you gave up your guns, and now the government is out of money. You think they won’t switch to a dictatorship?? Who has the power! Wake up! Read history, it’s right there. A Republic with a strong Democratic form of government is still the best the world has seen.

  9. The Second Amendment also states “a well-regulated militia…”. Something Libertarians who have never read the Second Amendment (that is most of them) conveniently ignore. Guess they hate the Constitution and it does not get any more unAmerican than that! 😉

    • How many times does this talking point have to be shot down?

      The Second Amendment is not an empowering clause. The authority regarding the federal government and the militia is already laid out in Article 1 Section 8. What the Second Amendment is saying is that in order to have a well regulated ( in good working order ) militia, the right to keep and bear arms cannot be infringed.

      • Well “well-regulated” meant more than just in good working order. In the federalist papers, many arbiters of the 2nd Amendment specified that well-regulated meant controlled by “offical offices” of the States. Meaning that the militia was to be a State-Run institution, run by a government. They did not mean average citizens forming their own militias independent of State control. In fact the founding fathers found that idea quite perplexing, and it showed itself in both the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 (When a federal army had to be assembled to defeat rebel militias) and in the War of 1812 (when independent militias proved unpredictable and fell outside of the national military command). Well-regulated meant more than just “well-trained.” It also meant under the command of State and/or Federal offices.

        • The line between what is a militia and what is an armed mob of rebels can become quite blurry so there was some language put in there for that. That does not mean that the 2A is some sort of “collective, state right to pick and choose who gets to have a gun in the National Guard/Militia”. If it was, there would be no reason to put it in the BOR. It could have just been another section of Article 4.

          The militia must still operate within the guidelines set by the COTUS, even if those in our government are not.

          It’s kinda’ messy and these arguments tend to get circular a lot.

        • As a confirmed progressive, I don’t trust your arbiters.
          Look up the dictionary meaning of militia.
          Has nothing to do with a govt run entity.
          So technically the nra is a militia.
          Sorry if your arbiters are liberal pussies.

          But if the founding fathers wanted any form of govt commanding the militias, it would be in there.

          Cause I’m SURE they wanted the British king to run their militias when they were trying to fight for their freedom.

          You “progressives” are brain dead to the fact that the founding fathers were getting away from govt.

          Why would they impose govt control on the entity that gave them freedom, a militia?

          You and your “arbiters”, sorry, pro govt hacks, need to do something with your life.
          Let me give you a start…
          Stay the fuck out of mine.

          • They were not trying to get away from having a government. Almost the whole constitution is about the structure and details of the new government the constitution brings. People are just pulling bits and pieces of a complex paper to fit their simple minded narrow understanding of this document. Only a few parts describe the few rights that individuals have. It also says about the limitations of the states

            • There is a difference between “rights” and “Constitutionally protected rights.” We have a lot of rights, most of which are derived from common law, but few Constitutionally protected rights as set forth in the Bill of Rights.

              The Second Amendment prevents the government from infringing on a person’s common law right to own and bear arms in order to serve in a well-regulated militia. It does not create a Constitutionally protected right of self defense or any other Constitutionally protected right to “own and bear arms.” That doesn’t mean that a common-law right to self defense doesn’t exist. It does, but it can be infringed consistent with the so-called police powers reserved to the States.

              I disagree with Justice Scalia who wrote the majority opinion in Heller, another 5-4 decision.

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