A People Numerous and Armed

Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it.

James Madison, Federalist 46






In the wake of the Vegas Massacre some Leftists have been calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.  Michael Schermer, in the New York Times, argues that an armed populace is no safeguard against tyranny:


If you think stock piling firearms from the local Guns and Guitars store, where the Las Vegas shooter purchased some of his many weapons, and dressing up in camouflage and body armor is going to protect you from an American military capable of delivering tanks and armored vehicles full Navy SEALs to your door, you’re delusional. The tragic incidents at Ruby Ridge, in Idaho, and Waco, Tex., in the 1990s, in which citizens armed to the teeth collided with government agencies and lost badly, is a case study for what would happen were the citizenry to rise up in violence against the state today.


Go here to read the rest.  The ignorance contained in that paragraph is stunning.  As Afghanistan and Iraq have amply demonstrated, insurgencies are difficult to combat even for the most advanced military on Earth.  A widespread insurgency in this country would pose the same problems for our military on a vastly larger scale.  We have a huge country inhabited by some 330,000,000 people.  An insurgency supported by 40% of the American people, with ten percent willing to take up arms, would produce a potential guerilla force in the tens of millions.  National Guard units and segments of the military would quickly line up with the insurgents in a rebellion supported by 40% of the people they are pledged to defend.

The State in which I live, Illinois, is 26th in size, with 102 counties and hundreds of cities, towns and villages. I can just imagine the military effort necessary to hold down just Illinois in a conflict where 40% of the population supported a war against the government.

Modern militaries have immense logistical tails supporting the fighting units, filled with soft targets, all tempting fruit for guerilla units.  The idea that an armed population would not be a check on a tyrannical government in this country badly misunderstands both the nature of modern warfare and the history of this nation.  Mr. Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote of a right of revolution.  The Second Amendment guarantees that if that right ever must be exercised, the people will have the ability to do so.

The Founding Fathers, in all they did, struggled to pass on the blessings of liberty to their posterity.  Ensuring that the American people would remain, in the words of a British officer during the Revolution, “a people numerous and armed”, was one part of the safeguards that they gave us against tyranny.  It is the last protection between the people and tyranny. This safeguard is just as effective today as it was in 1789.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. I’ve often believed, and perhaps it’s judgmental of me to do so, that much of what passes as enlightenment and principled opinion in our age is merely a thin veil to cover cowardice and apathy.

  2. JSM hit it on the head Dave:

    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice,—is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.

  3. Whenever I see these arguments I want to ask:
    “Ok, let’s assume then the citizens have no hope of opposing the government. What’s then your solution to stopping the tyrant?”

    I’m still waiting for an answer.

    You think they’d have one ready with all their talk about Trump being the new Hitler. I wonder what happened to all those liberals I heard were stocking up with firearms after his election…

  4. Shermer’s statistical sources only consider defensive gun uses in which the aggressor is shot, treated, and identified as having been shot justifiably. Over 90% of defensive gun uses (estimated at 2.5 million/year in 1994; who knows how many now) involve no shooting at all. And there’s no telling what percentage of those where the defender shot, he missed.

  5. Nate,

    You are correct, as usual.

    When I was younger and just out of the military, I was surprised by gun stores selling military-type weapons and high-capacity magazines. I only hunted. After a while, I saw the light.

    Not only to preclude tyranny. We need guns because our corrupt, incompetent rulers, i.e., the worst political in History, cannot/will not protect us. They are allowing unlimited entry to millions of illegals, many are drug cartel and violent gang members; and to unvetted Muslim supremacists. Ergo, we experience millions of gun actions a year.

    I have been saying for months that their eliminationalist rhetoric would get people killed.

    Aside from VA Gov. McAuliffe telling us that 3,00,000 Americans a day are killed by guns, I don’t remember this much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the lying idiots after one of their own (already erased from History) shot up a bunch of GOP Congressmen. Hey, they can’t win elections!

  6. *shakes her head to try to remove the image of a very large slingshot, loaded with a Prius*

    I was obviously not paying much attention at the time– not that the news covered it very well anyways– but weren’t both Waco and Ruby Ridge fewer in number than the officials that were responding?

    The author apparently also missed out on the little issue that agents aren’t robots– at least one idiot in the Bundy Ranch stand-off tried to illegally order his group to shoot, and was told by the guys with the guns they’d take that order in writing, thank you very much. (Illegal order. Didn’t get put in writing, oddly enough.)

    One guy having a bunch of guns– not much of a barrier.

    A tiny town– say, just 300 households– where at least half of them have 20 firearms up on their walls, as display, although they’ve also got ammo? Much bigger problem. (Example from my childhood. Not going to get me to believe that California in the late 80s was that far out there for gun ownership.)
    Heck, you can find all kind of screeching in horror that the “8th largest army in the world” is… deer season in Wisconsin.
    It’s actually even worse than that, because you count army by the number of members– each of those hunter groups is self-supplied, from logistics to ammo to food, so there is at least double that number depending on how you want to figure it. (Supporting a rifleman in the Army you have to have cooks, and a supply chain, and the guys repairing all of that, and….)

    Thing is, Wisconsin isn’t even the biggest hunting season. It just came up because they had a year when nobody got dead while hunting, and it triggered howling on the left because the hunters aren’t good foot-soldiers who will jump when told to.

  7. The problem with the gun control discourse is that it has flat nothing to do with actual crime control. The success New York City had with containing violent crime simply does not interest the main body of politicians in this country at all. Those accomplishments were had without any change of note in New York state’s gun laws. If anything, liberal politicians and activists are hostile to the authors of that accomplishment. (So are members of the alt-right, for a different set of reasons without a doubt).
    And, of course, no more than 3% of the homicides in this country are committed with long guns.

    The gun discourse is an attempt to impose the consumer tastes of the PBS audience on the rest of the country and to stick the blame for urban crime on subcultures and social strata the PBS audience despises. Barack Obama is the exemplar of this mentality, and he could hardly be more transparent about it.

    A small subset of the gun control lobby are not complete poseurs. They want something they will not admit to and make quite ugly statements about others when they do admit to it: they want mass gun confiscation. That’s about the only measure that would prevent something like the Newtown massacre.

    Massacres by strange people were almost unknown in the United States prior to 1966. The world of 1925 was (on the whole) as violent as the one we live in now, but we had almost none of this. (Not absolutely none. Some bizarre person blew up a schoolhouse in 1927 killing scores of children). Understanding where this odd phenomenon came from is likely the work of psychologists rather than sociologists.

  8. “Massacres by strange people were almost unknown in the United States prior to 1966.”

    My theory is that the deinstitutionalization movement made it almost impossible to involuntarily commit the insane, and even if we could involuntarily commit them there is no place to warehouse them for life as in the days of mass insane asylums, especially with shrinks actively engaged in the myth that these types of problems can be solved with medications that the most dangerous insane will not take long term voluntarily. We also have much fewer families that will take care of insane people and make certain they do no harm to others. In the case of the Sandy Hook murderer his poor mother was left to her own devices with the kid, following divorce and a fairly useless bout with public education. We are a much more atomized society than we were before, with a far greater tolerance for outrageous behavior in public and with extremely violent entertainment. Mix in with an absence of religion in many lives, and we have a perfect storm to produce the occasional mass killer.

  9. That’s a passable hypothesis. The trouble is, I don’t think many of these people would have been candidates for institutional care. James Holmes in Aurora, Colo., yes. Jared Loughner, perhaps (Loughner was insane. The question would be had he yet hit enough tripwires for a civil commitment hearing. To the people around him, he was just odd). In Newtown, Nancy Lanza actually was taking steps to have her son institutionalized. Charles Whitman, who massacred people at the University of Texas in 1966, was discovered to have a brain tumor. No one familiar with the case is quite sure if that’s explanatory or not.

    Clayton Cramer has written a great deal about this. I suspect Cramer’s visceral assessment of schizophrenia is colored by the fact that his brother was quite violent. Most schizophrenics are not.

    Again, there were 850,000 people housed in asylums in 1955. IA comparable number today would be 1.5 million. I don’t think you can justify that sort of asylum census today given various alternatives. (Nursing homes for the senile, group homes for the retarded, outpatient supervision for many schizophrenics, &c). Also, there have been some improvements in public health. (Tertiary syphilis has disappeared, as has the post-encephalitic population Oliver Sacks wrote about). There’s no reason the asylum supervisors have to be public employees, either.

  10. Don, a thought: does not a repeal of the 2nd amendment simply repeal Congress’ authority to regulate the militia? It’s impossible to abolish the militia, that’s like abolishing the citizenry, correct?

  11. Repealing the Second Amendment would toss future gun control issues into the hands of the Federal courts. Considering that this was the institution which recently imposed gay marriage on the country, I would make no predictions about what they would do since an institution that can read into the Constitution the requirement that gay marriage must be imposed on all the states is an institution that can do anything.

    If they did not suddenly find that the Constitution requires gun control, it would only be, because of what Foxfier pointed out, that such a decision might be the one that was completely ignored by most of the people, and which they would lack the power to enforce. Such a decision would de-legitimate the Federal courts in the eyes of most people, a process that has been underway for some time now.

  12. What always bugged me about Shea’s insistence on techonolgy solving the “gun problem” is that it’s hilariously stupid from an engineering standpoint. (His usual reply: “[sarcasm] Give up. Won’t work. We put a man on the moon but let’s all be self defeatist about this.”)

    Guns are incredibly simple machines. It would be the equivalent of him saying that the Xbox will phase out seesaws. Yes you can probably invent an Xbox that will get most children to come inside and play, but you’ll never be able to invent an xbox that will prevent people from making their own seesaws.

    That’s what is usually so insulting in these gun debates. One side is incredibly ignorant, and then mocks the other side for not being ignorant.

  13. Oh right, what prompted the above was from the link Foxfier provided:

    Australian police are reporting that about 10% of the guns they seize from criminals are homemade, including submachine guns. (Look, if you know anything about how guns work, you’d realize that an open bolt submachine gun is one of the easiest repeating arms to make.) Want to know how to make your own gun using commonly available materials? Check out any number of videos on Youtube or get the army training manual TM 31-210. It’s available online. I have it in PDF.


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