The Corner

‘Second Amendment Remedies’

Sharron Angle has taken flak in post-Tucson commentary for her notorious comment about Second Amendment remedies. Here’s what she told talk-radio host Lars Larson:

“Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, ‘My goodness what can we do to turn this country around?’ And I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.”

There are a couple of things to say about this:

1) She’s right about the Founders, and right about Jefferson. Here’s Madison in Federalist 46 discussing the barriers that local government and an armed populace present to tyranny:

Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

As for Jefferson, he’s been justly called “America’s first and foremost advocate of permanent revolution” (why some conservatives are quite so fond of this revolutionary Romantic is another question).

2) To raise the prospect of armed revolt in contemporary America, as Angle appeared to do in her Larson interview and in other, similar comments, is outlandish and wrong.

3) There is, of course, no evidence that anything Angle or anyone else said in any way influenced Jared Loughner, and Angle’s critics should have the honesty to note that she at least partly walked back her remark. Via the Weekly Standard, here’s the Las Vegas Sun last year:

Only once did she flatly admit her pre-primary language was too strong, when asked to explain her comments that the citizenry will  resort to “Second Amendment remedies” — referring to the right to bear arms — if conservatives didn’t win this election.

“I admit it was a little strong to say,” she said. “That’s why I changed my rhetoric to ‘defeat Harry Reid.’ ”

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