…and not just Jefferson. What about Adams and Franklin and the like? Or Madison? The Second Amendment starts out by talking about militias, and addresses gun ownership in that context. In The Federalist #46, as Pat Lang points out, the initial discussion was about gun ownership first, as a countervailing power to kings, and only later as a component of a militia.
This was in an era when the way kings controlled the populace was by sending troops and cannons, quite rightly feeling that a whiff of grapeshot would settle all but the most hardened revolutionaries, particularly ones armed only with cobblestones. Madison’s thought was that an armed citizenry is the final defense against dictatorship, hereditary or sequential.
It’s a compelling argument, but it’s as obsolete as bayonets.
You see, the tool of choice for suppressing the population is no longer the national army, at least, not in the developed West. It’s information. It’s propaganda. It’s surveillance. It’s acquiescence to a police state.
What’s happened in the last ten or so years is that the population has been convinced that the existentialist threat to the US from terrorism is so bad that we need to give up some of our liberties to obtain more security. What’s wrong with that last sentence is that it should read a lot of our liberties to obtain a minuscule amount of security. This destruction of our rights to be secure in our persons has been aided and abetted by our elected representatives, and carried out by Presidents of both parties.
So the illegal wiretapping of American citizens is given ex post facto approval by Congress. The collection, retention and analysis of data on American citizens is formally approved by the Attorney General. DHS is paying cities and towns to install surveillance cameras, and will soon pay for systems to record conversations on buses. Precedents are established for seizure of data, all data, from a hosting provider because one of the provider’s customers has been accused of a civil offense. The police don’t need a warrant to track your cell phone. New technology is being developed or deployed that will turn your cell phone or your DVR into a surveillance tool.
Think about that last. In 1984, the government of Big Brother installed monitoring devices in every home. In 2014, you will be paying Microsoft and Verizon to allow you to install the equipment yourself.
Once the government knows what everyone says, where everyone is, what everyone’s Google searches look like, it becomes impossible to create a viable revolution. That’s what we should worry about, not whether or not the rifle in the closet is legal. Somehow, I think that Jefferson and Madison would find that troubling, and that were they to write a new Second Amendment today, it would say “Congress shall pass no law limiting Internet access…”