|On August 17, 2009, Chris Broughton brought a handgun and AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle to a health care reform rally in Phoenix and declared, "We will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote."|
The media has focused on the public safety risks associated with such shows of force, and overlooked the radical agenda underlying this "exercise of Second Amendment rights." Armed political action against the Obama administration reflects a deeply developed ideology that has been actively promoted by the National Rifle Association and other gun lobby groups for the past 30 years. It holds that the Second Amendment provides individuals with the right to commit acts of violence against our government should it lapse into "tyranny." As NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre put it at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference, "The guys with the guns make the rules."
The problem is that there are thousands of well-armed Americans who already believe the Obama administration is "tyrannical." Far from furthering democracy, these individuals have fostered fear and made important political debates impossible, thereby limiting the rights of all those who disagree with them.
A commitment to political equality is our most sacred American value, and one that should be protected against all attempts at intimidation or violence. This was well understood by our nation's early leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, who famously declared, "Among free men, there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet."
When angry protesters call for "the blood of tyrants," we should remember that our country's founding was a revolution in favor of government. If we value the remarkable system of government our Founders bequeathed to us, we must reject the notion that "the guys with guns make the rules" and defend our democratic institutions—peacefully but determinedly—against attacks by those who would dismantle them.