Anti-police protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of an unarmed teenager after an altercation there. Police have chosen to respond to public anger over this shooting (as well as opportunistic rioting and looting) not with deescalation of a tense situation but by pointing a lot of guns at citizens and using their monopoly on force to disperse protesters. They’ve used tear gas, rubber bullets, sound control and flash-bang grenades. They’ve hidden the identity of the policeman who killed the teenager. Media have been arrested and told to turn off their cameras. A local alderman was arrested for being out and about.
The situation in Ferguson is not great, Bob. And so I found one reaction among liberal journalists to be particularly curious. Let’s look at a few tweets:
Talk about gun rights is ridiculous. If the all the protesters in Ferguson had guns they'd all be dead
— AdamSerwer (@AdamSerwer) August 14, 2014
@AdamSerwer Please do not tell me that people are actually holding this up as an argument for more guns
— Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) August 14, 2014
To be honest, I don’t quite understand this point from BuzzFeed national editor (or is he still at MSNBC?) Serwer. Is he saying that gun rights are a bad thing because they give police officers more reasons to kill us? I mean, it’s one thing to say that this police force in Ferguson doesn’t seem like the kind of police force to respect individual rights and entirely another to say that therefore those rights are “ridiculous.”
I mean, let’s move back from the Second Amendment to the First Amendment and consider press rights. Let’s rework Serwer’s tweet a bit:
Talk about press rights is ridiculous. If more media were in Ferguson reporting this story, they'd be arrested, too.
The response to media being arrested in Ferguson isn’t to say that press rights are ridiculous, even if press rights clearly agitate the police. Or maybe Serwer and his friends actually do think that, I don’t know.
But more than that, it’s impossible to understand what being American means without understanding our belief in self-government. That belief in self-government is laid out in our founding documents. The Constitution, a document Vox’s Ezra Klein has found both confusing and old, begins with the words “We the People.” That’s us. And we the people became a people in the Declaration of Independence, where the authors announced the revolution and explained why we were revolting by writing:
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them 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.
So we have the right to revolt against despotic governments with a long train of abuses. The right to revolution assumes a means of revolution. And that means arms — the weapon kind, not the hugging kind. This is something that our media clearly don’t understand, much less agree with, but their beef is with self-government or logic more than the NRA.
Anyway, that’s what gun rights are about. Read the Second Amendment again with a mind toward recent events:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
People have the right to keep and bear arms because it’s necessary for self-government, something other Twitter users picked up on when observing the media’s typical hate-fest for gun rights. Here were some of my favorite sarcastic tweets attempting to get the point across:
— AmishDude (@TheAmishDude) August 14, 2014
— Arthur Kimes (@ComradeArthur) August 14, 2014
There are people who see an oppressive state and out-of-control police and simultaneously think they should be the only ones armed.
— SunnyRight (@sunnyright) August 14, 2014
The police, and state they represent, are thugs and tyrants. Tune in tomorrow when we explain why this means you should give up gun rights.
— SunnyRight (@sunnyright) August 14, 2014
While being clear that no one has a sufficient understanding of the unstable situation in Ferguson or the events that led to it, if you can’t see the benefit of free people being armed as a curb against despotism — that is, the exercise of absolute power, especially in a cruel and oppressive way — you will likely never see it.
Which, as it turns out, is a good way to find yourself suffering under ever more despotic regimes.