As a young man I regarded the second amendment as the founders’ biggest blunder. As we head into 2022, my position has flipped — I now believe history may well come to regard it as the most far-sighted thing the founders did, not in spite of its vagueness, but because of it. It’s like a mysterious passage from a sacred text that forces living people to interpret it in a modern context. The founders believed the people needed to be able to defend their free state — with deadly force — whether that refers to a geographical state, or a state of being, or both.
It’s not that I don’t see the terrible carnage which comes from ubiquitous guns. I do see it, and I detest it just like every other decent American. I know that a single deranged or careless person can rob us of anyone, at any time. No American is exempt. Not our families, nor our leaders. It is a terrifying realisation. With modern weapons an individual can kill dozens. It has happened many times, and it will happen again.
I find none of this remotely acceptable as a human, or an American. Remember, I said at the beginning that I believe that the liberals are basically right about the staggering cost of ubiquitous guns. Further, I don’t believe the net effect of ubiquitous guns during an average year, or decade, or century is a reduction in harm. It’s a complex picture, but many Western nations have managed crime as well or better than the US without the population being armed. On long timescales, however, I suspect this trend reverses. A nation’s descent into tyranny can kill millions, and it can drag continents, or the world as a whole, into war.
The terrifying carnage that derives from the right to bear arms must, in the end, be compared to the cost of not having that right, not only for the individual, but for the republic and its neighbours at a minimum. If you imagine that tyranny cannot happen in America due to some safeguard built into our system, or by virtue of some immunity residing in the population itself, then perhaps there is nothing left to discuss.
For my part, I don’t believe it. In fact, I believe I know better, both as a scholar and as someone who was falsely accused of racism and hunted in my own neighbourhood — with the police withdrawn in a foolish attempt to appease the mob. And I suspect that if we put the question to a vote, the fraction of the citizenry who believes tyranny could happen here is rising rapidly, even if we don’t necessarily agree on its most likely source.
— Bret Weinstein in The liberal case for gun ownership