Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Dallas is what a '2nd Amendment remedy' would look like


Here's what Ben Carson had to say Friday on Fox News:

"Now is definitely not the time to get political. Now is the time to use logic and ask ourselves, why do we have a Constitution? Why do we have a Second Amendment? They’re always saying you don't need a high-powered weapon to hunt deer. The Constitution is not about deer hunting. It's about people being able to defend themselves from an overly aggressive government or an external invasion."

I'd like to make a few points about that, using the logic that Carson asks us to apply to such situations.

1.) No, the Second Amendment is NOT about people being able to "defend themselves from an overly aggressive government," as Carson puts it. No federal court has ever interpreted it that way, which is why it is perfectly constitutional for the government to ban or heavily regulate ownership of fully automatic weapons, bombs, tanks, mines, bazookas, missiles or other military-quality devices that would be required to overthrow the government of the United States of America. You do NOT have a Second Amendment right to violently overthrow the government, nor do you have the right to kill government employees in the pursuit of that overthrow. Any suggestion otherwise is irresponsible.

2.) However, I'm pretty sure that Micah Johnson, the suspected gunman in the Dallas shootings, saw himself in exactly the terms described by Carson, defending himself and others like him "from an overly aggressive government." He saw white police officers as the agents of that overly aggressive government, and he acted out in real life the type of anti-government fantasy that Carson and others like to indulge themselves in.

3.) I'm not by any means suggesting that Johnson was motivated by the romanticized Second Amendment nonsense spread by Carson and others. He clearly had a very different agenda. However, what we saw Thursday night in Dallas is exactly what "Second Amendment remedies" would look like, and as Carson indicates, he is horrified when he sees it in real life. And if you repeatedly tell people that they have the right to such remedies as a means to settle their grievances, if you tell them that the Constitution envisions and justifies them doing so, and if you give them the means to do so, then you trod very dangerous ground.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.