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Argument: An individual right to bear arms helps protect against domestic tyranny

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Supporting evidence

One common form of domestic tyranny may be a prejudiced or selective form of law enforcement, in which certain protections are denied to some groups, and which justifies a "right" to self-defense that extends beyond police protections:

  • Nazi Germany police denying their protective services to Jews has been cited in support of this argument: [1] Hermann Goring (A German military leader[2]), said in 1933: - "Certainly I shall use the police and most ruthlessly whenever the German people are hurt; but I refuse the notion that the police are protective troops for Jewish stores. The police protect whoever comes into Germany legitimately, but not Jewish usurers." The reason for citing this quote was that universal gun-ownership diminishes the potential tyrannical power of police.
  • A very similar experience for African Americans during the Civil Rights struggle in the United States is also cited by some sources as an example of the deprivation of police protections, and an illustration of the need for a "right" to own weapons to provide for self-defense.[3]
  • American Libertarians are particularly keen on this rationale for gun-rights.

Kozinski, Circuit Judge, dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc in Silveira v. Lockyer, 2002. [4] - "The majority falls prey to the delusion — popular in some circles — that ordinary people are too careless and stupid to own guns, and we would be far better off leaving all weapons in the hands of professionals on the government payroll. But the simple truth — born of experience — is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people... A revolt by Nat Turner and a few dozen other armed blacks could be put down without much difficulty; one by four million armed blacks would have meant big trouble. All too many of the other great tragedies of history — Stalin’s atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few — were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. ... If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars."

Supporting quotes from the founding fathers

James Madison

Madison was considered the "Father of the Constitution," and was the primary author of the Bill of Rights. - "The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for the common liberties and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the late successful resistance of this country against the British arms will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments of the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." --James Madison, Federalist No. 46, 1788

Tench Coxe

Tench Coxe was a Delegate to Continental Congress, Oct. 21, 1787 - "The militia, who are in fact the effective part of the people at large, will render many troops quite unnecessary. They will form a powerful check upon the regular troops, and will generally be sufficient to over-awe them."

Tench Coxe, Federal Gazette, June 18,1789, A friend of James Madison, writing in support of the Madison's first draft of the Bill of Rights - "Whereas civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as military forces, which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms."

George Mason

Virginia's U.S. Constitution ratification convention, June 14, 1788[5] - "[W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually. . . ."

Patrick Henry

  • "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitabley ruined." --Patrick Henry, Virginia's U.S. Constitution ratification convention, June 5,1788 [5]
  • "My great objection to this government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights or of waging war against tyrants." --Patrick Henry, Virginia's U.S. Constitution ratification convention, June 5,1788 [6]
  • "[W]here and when did freedom exist when the power of the sword and purse were given up from the people?" --Patrick Henry, Virginia's U.S. Constitution ratification convention, June 9,1788. Elliot, Debates of the Several State Conventions, 3:169[6]

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