The Second Amendment is a remarkable piece of the Constitution. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” it reads.
Set aside for the moment questions about its practical interpretations today and its usefulness as a legal tenet—the provision presents a starkly revolutionary moral and political theory. Written by the powerful men in charge of the nation, the amendment expressly preserves the right of individuals to protect themselves against the future tyranny of the powerful men in charge of the nation. In fact, it enshrines this as a moral obligation, mixing into the very core of American civics the expectation that uncivil disobedience might be a necessary patriotic duty should the government cease to serve the people.
That amendment is again front and center today, as the country continues to grapple with serious questions about gun violence in the wake of the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This particular incident seems to have shaken the public consciousness more than some previous shootings, and people on all sides of the political spectrum appear primed to at least consider solutions. Unfortunately for students, the solutions that appear to be gaining traction so far include further arming school police, arming students, and even giving schools drones. Not only is the efficacy of these measures dubious, they run counter to the ideals of the Second Amendment that are often invoked to justify them—extending the power of a militarized state at the expense of individual liberty.