Defense against tyranny

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” –Not Thomas Jefferson (cf)

We are not supposed to talk about tragedies in anything other than the most treacly way for some undetermined period of time after they occur. I’m going to violate that unwritten rule of society today, because of something that happened yesterday, not too far from me. Some guy in College Station, Texas shot six people, killing two, before being killed by police gunfire. One of the deceased is a Brazos County constable named Brian Bachmann, who was reportedly serving eviction papers on the gunman when he opened fire from inside his house. The other victim was a 43 year-old “civilian bystander” named Chris Northcliff, who was the shooter’s landlord. You can look elsewhere for the shooter’s name. His family told the media that they knew it was just a matter of time before he snapped, but they never told authorities. He also loved guns a lot.

I am a vehement supporter of sane and reasonable gun rights. I’m not sure how many people actually want to ban all guns, but those people have zero chance of succeeding in today’s America, and that would be a terrible idea anyway. But people who advocate for unrestricted, or near-unrestricted, gun rights, have some issues to address. The right to bear arms is often cast in terms of the right to defend oneself, to defend one’s home, or as a defense against tyranny. It is entirely possible that the College Station shooter believed he was doing all three, or some combination thereof, in his possibly-warped mind (I’ll buy into this mental-health-treatment-not-gun-control argument when someone actually does something beyond talk about it). When you cast something as a struggle between liberty and tyranny, you cannot count on anyone interpreting “tyranny” the same way as you.

Police, in large part due to the First Rule of Policing, get rather wide discretion on the use of force in a specific situation. As the law currently stands, civilians do not. Whether or not this is fair is a debate that will likely rage on for years. What happened yesterday seems to be exactly what the more hardcore gun rights advocates, in promoting defense of self, home, and liberty, are talking about. It was also, by all accounts, an unspeakable crime and tragedy. See the problem?

Will College Station police now send SWAT teams to serve legal documents? It would not be unprecedented. Hopefully a revolution will not be started by gun-toting mouth breathers who can’t see past their own front door.