Today, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was a fortunate bystander at the scene of a shooting, in the batting cage when a deranged gunman fired more than 50 rounds and wounded five people. Senator Paul released a statement praising the “bravery of the Capitol Police,” who heroically shot the assailant despite being wounded themselves.
During the administration of President Barack Obama, however, Paul sang a very different tune, trumpeting one of the right’s favorite pieces of bogus Constitutional propaganda: that the Second Amendment was put in place so that citizens could overthrow the government.
.@Judgenap: Why do we have a Second Amendment? It's not to shoot deer. It's to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) June 23, 2016
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has also echoed the sentiment, calling the Second Amendment “the ultimate check against governmental tyranny” in a 2013 email to supporters. That perspective would have made Cruz the odd man out at the Constitutional Convention — and not just because he is Canadian.
It’s true that the Second Amendment guaranteed the right to “keep and bear Arms,” namely for the purpose of maintaining a “well regulated Militia.” The word “militia,” however, held very different meaning in the 18th Century than today. Due to financial constraints and experiences with European soldiers oppressing citizenry, George Washington and his fellow Founders believed that the military should be disbanded in times of peace, and the citizens’ militias would remain intact for purposes of defense — not to overthrow the government.
The Declaration of Independence does assert that right, saying:
“…it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish [the government], and to institute new Government” and “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.”
They believed so strongly in this right that they fought a war 240 years ago so that they could create a government where their fellow countrymen and women would have it guaranteed and would never again be forced to resort to violence to cast off the yoke of oppression. They instituted a system of peaceful overthrow, which they called elections.
It is the misguided conflation of these two rights that has conservatives defending the Second Amendment with logic that both fails to line up with our Founders intent and can be used to justify acts of violence against public officials.
Repeating that line of thinking is not just wrong, it’s dangerous.
There is no indication that the would-be assassin was directly influenced by the Constitutional misinterpretation, but it is irresponsible and delusional to think that words condoning gun violence do not contribute to a culture that is plagued by it.
In this incident, Senator Paul provided a Constitutional defense for a madman who seemed bent on killing him and his colleagues. He would be wise to change his tune before there is another — as would all who actively oppose common sense protections against gun violence.
If this near death experience did not convince him, perhaps a closer read of the Constitution would help.
In 2016, Rand Paul received $29,547 from the NRA and pro-gun groups, second in the Senate to only Cruz’s haul of $36,229.
Sheila Norton is a writer with ten years of Capitol Hill experience. Subscribe to the OD Action email to get all the hottest news delivered right to your inbox every day at www.odaction.com