The US Supreme Court is considering what could be a landmark
decision on individual gun rights. An unspoken argument is that
armed citizens would make any usurper think twice before subverting
More than 10,000 words were spoken during this week's historic
oral argument over gun rights at the US Supreme Court. But one
potentially significant word was never uttered during the hour-long
Long a focus of debates between gun control advocates and gun
rights supporters, the issue was not discussed by lawyers attacking
Chicago's ban on handguns or the lawyer for the city defending local
gun regulations. No member of the court mentioned it either.
(Monitor analysis of the Chicago case here.)
But the idea is there, just below the surface of what analysts
expect to become the high court's second gun rights landmark
decision in as many years.
IN PICTURES: The debate over gun rights
The basic contention of many gun rights advocates is that the
Second Amendment was designed to preserve a large, well-armed, and
highly proficient community of gun owners that would make any
usurping politician or military commander think twice before
attempting to subvert the nation's constitutional framework.
Founders' intent with Second Amendment
"The Second Amendment ... stands as the Founding Fathers' clear
and unmistakable legal statement that an armed citizenry is the
bulwark of liberty and provides the fundamental basis for law-
abiding Americans to defend themselves, their families, their
communities, and their nation against all aggressors, including,
ultimately, a tyrannical government," wrote Daniel Schmutter in a
friend of the court brief on behalf Jews for the Preservation of
Mr. Schmutter said the Second Amendment is "the very last line in
the defense of American liberty."
To gun control specialists this argument is deeply troubling.
They worry that any armed person with a beef against the government
will look to the Second Amendment for encouragement to lock and load
and then rain down armed force in the face of what he or she
perceives as "tyranny."
How to define 'tyranny'
"In a world in which 'tyranny' means many different things to
many different people, it is of paramount importance that the court
choose its words carefully when discussing just what is, and what is
not, protected by the Second Amendment," wrote John Schreiber in a
friend of the court brief on behalf of the Educational Fund to Stop
"The Framers plainly did not envision ad hoc groups of armed
individuals beyond state control (i.e. a 'citizens' militia') as a
constitutional check on tyranny," Mr. Schreiber wrote. "They saw
them as unruly mobs that must be quelled."
Although it was not discussed during oral argument in the Chicago
case, Justice Antonin Scalia addressed the issue briefly in his
majority decision in the high court's 2008 ruling striking down
Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban.
"If ... the Second Amendment right is no more than the right to
keep and use weapons as a member of an organized militia [and] the
organized militia is the sole institutional beneficiary of the
Second Amendment's guarantee - it does not assure the existence of a
'citizens' militia' as a safeguard against tyranny," Justice Scalia