There’s a public argument phenomenon that gun rights defenders and Second Amendment defenders are quite familiar with: “gotcha” questions written by the ill-informed. Step into any on-going debate over gun rights, and you’ll almost invariably find the pro-gun people figuratively “armed to the teeth” with information, logic chains, history, and empirical data, arguing against people whose views are… well, the equivalent of libertarian podcaster Eric July’s NSFW response regarding the muh roads trope lobbed at those of us who oppose taxation.

As in, the anti-gun questions are grade-school gotchas that aren’t even going to get to first base against your typical 2A defenders.

But, petulant outrage and taunting are common stuff in public debate nowadays, so such behavior persists.

My Quora feed (follow me!) is littered with questions of this sort, in response to federal law enforcement activity in Portland, Chicago, and presumably elsewhere:

Why doesn’t the Oregon Governor mobilise the local militia, armed as per the 2nd amendment, to fight and evict the federal troops? Wasn’t that the whole idea of an armed militia?

Where are all the “good guys with guns” in Portland? I thought you wanted to protect us all from tyranny?

Is sending federal agents to Chicago, in effect, the very reason the Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms (citizens taking up arms against a tyrannical government)?

My social media feed looks about the same.

Make no mistake, these aren’t 2A and gun rights defenders angry at their fellow citizens for not standing up to jackbootery. They’re people who don’t believe in individual gun rights who think that what they see as a failure to violently resist the Feds in these cases obviates a pro-2A argument that rights defenders put forth.

And, as usual, they’re grade schoolers playing against professionals.

The answer to these questions starts with its own question:

It depends on what they’re being sent there for.

One of the most fundamental roles of government, whether it be the big government progressives apparently want, the small government that conservatives supposedly want, or the minimalist government that libertarians actually want, is the protection of individuals’ rights.

Normally, that’s a job best handled at the state and local level – there’s a reason police departments are local, that state police have limited purview, and that the feds don’t get involved, generally, unless things cross state lines (or federal crimes are alleged).

If local law enforcement fails – look first to the politicians to figure out why, they’re the ones in charge, after all – or, for that matter, is “stood down” by those people in charge, then state-level law enforcement has a legit reason to intervene. More germanely – those state level politicians have an obligation to fulfill that fundamental role of government.

Obviously, that applies to the feds as well. If citizens’ rights, liberties, and safety are being threatened by the lawless and criminal, and state/local law enforcement isn’t getting the job done to an egregious (or deliberate – again, look at who’s in charge) degree, then there is an obligation to do something.

That said, this isn’t a carte blanche for federal thuggery. The job, as always, is to serve and protect, not to dominate, intimidate, and control.

As I noted, it depends on what they’re being sent there for, and it depends against whom they act.

Resistance to tyranny is indeed the core purpose of 2A, but public safety and tyranny are two different things. Are peaceful citizens being goon-squadded, or is it just the violent and destructive? Remember – 1A protects our right to peaceably assemble, not run riot in the streets, vandalize or burn down other people’s property, and attack others.

I’ve reserved judgment as to the actual goings on, because I’m still data gathering. Despite social media seeming to demand it, one doesn’t need to have an instant (and forever cemented) opinion on every issue and event, and the core question as to whether the feds are picking up for local failure or goon-handing citizens who’ve done nothing wrong is an evolving matter separate from today’s commentary.

Many times, questions like this boil down to whether the asker likes or hates the person in charge, and involve closing eyes to inconvenient facts. That works both ways – if the feds are there to fire-hose peaceful marchers, you’re certain to find defenders of the current leadership coming up with some twisted rationale for not criticizing them. But, if local politicians fail to use the tools at their disposal to separate out the violent and destructive from the peaceful, the other citizens of that locality deserve an intervention from higher-ups.

As another responder noted, ‘Good guys with guns’ are not in the habit of defending or protecting criminals who infringe upon the life, liberty, or property of others, ‘gotcha’ gambits notwithstanding. Quora responders have pretty thoroughly thrashed this line of questioning.

There’s an election in the offing, and it’s probably the most contentious one in the memories of most of those alive today. To many, this is justification for the wildest accusations and assertions, no matter absence of facts to support them, as if such histrionics are going to win the hearts and minds of those not already convinced. They do no one any good. So, if you’re among those eager to call gun rights defenders poseurs who don’t practice what they preach, just take a moment and figure out for yourself whether you think that what you are calling for is itself legitimate.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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