Defining “Keep and Bear Arms” in the 21st Century
“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15”
– Beto O’Rourke, September 12, 2019
Coming from a native son of Texas, O’Rourke’s statement reflects just how much some parts of Texas have changed. Only a few years ago, before the political map of Texas became dappled with a critical mass of blue and purple districts, such a remark would have been unthinkable.
In 1835, Texans fought the Battle of Gonzales, where the local militia in that town refused to give back a cannon to the Mexican authorities. “Come And Take It,” sewn onto a battle flag by these Texas rebels, is the phrase that launched the Texas Revolution.
“Come and Take It” is now embedded in Texas history and culture. It is a defining element of their heritage. In the original Constitution of the Republic of Texas, written in 1836, the Fourteenth Article in their Declaration of Rights reads as follows: “Every citizen shall have the right to bear arms in defence of himself and the Republic. The military shall at all times and in all cases be subordinate to the civil power.”
But today, in the 21st century, we must ask ourselves: come and take what?
Congressman O’Rourke claims that weapons like the AR 15 should be excluded from 2nd Amendment protections because “the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield.”
O’Rourke apparently hasn’t studied what a Revolutionary War era musket ball, 3/4 of an inch in diameter, would do to the human body.
The other argument against the AR 15, its rapid rate of fire as a semi-automatic weapon, ignores the reality of semi-automatic handguns, which are also capable of launching deadly projectiles at a rapid rate of fire. But these arguments for and against the right of U.S. citizens to keep and bear conventional small arms ignore a more urgent question in these changing times – what is a small arm?
As an effective defensive weapon, the AR-15 is rapidly becoming obsolete. While it shall retain its defensive utility for some time against random intruders or even organized but relatively unsophisticated gangs, against a swarm of weaponized drones or a disabling energy pulse a conventional firearm is worthless.
One may argue that a drone can be shot down with a shotgun. That’s true, but can someone wielding a shotgun shoot down a swarm of dozens, or hundreds of drones, each of them autonomously guided and all of them smaller than a fly? Drones, along with disabling energy pulses, are the future of law enforcement and counter-insurgency.
Which begs the question: Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee U.S. citizens the right to defend themselves with their own personal swarm of weaponized drones, or counter-drones, or radar sensors that monitor drone intrusion onto their property, or electronic gadgetry that can fry the avionics of encroaching drones?
This is a legitimate question on many levels. It won’t just be governments that deploy weaponized drones and energy weapons. It will be corporate security operations, as well as every criminal who can build or buy one of these types of new weapons. A new take on an old phrase may go something like this: If weaponized drones are outlawed, only outlaws will have weaponized drones.
An uncomfortable and often unspoken motivation of gun rights advocates is the notion that an armed populace is a guarantee against government tyranny. This is a legitimate principle but in the 21st century becomes muddled by unprecedented new factors. The first is the asymmetry of weaponry today.
A thousand years ago, a terrorist armed with a spear might manage to kill a few innocents before someone would crack a rock over their head, or stab them with their own spear. A hundred years ago, a terrorist armed with a submachine gun might kill a few dozen people or more before they ran out of ammunition or were stopped by someone who was also armed. But today, a terrorist can release a toxin, detonate a dirty nuclear device, or spread a deadly pathogen. It is theoretically possible today for a terrorist to kill thousands if not millions of innocent victims.
For this reason, governments themselves have to be able to effectively identify and counter these threats. Despite the very real threat that massive government surveillance represents to American freedoms, and despite the potential for misuse, it is a necessary evil. To prevent terrorism in the 21st century, more than ever before, governments require the tools of the tyrant.
The second factor muddling the principle of an armed populace serving as a deterrent to government tyranny is even more problematic. What about corporate actors? Multinational corporations with no allegiance to any particular country now wield power comparable to most nations. Even America might have a tough time fighting an unconventional war against a determined alliance of high tech corporations. Aren’t we already in a cold war with these corporations, fighting to preserve our way of life? Haven’t they already nearly completed their takeover of American institutions?
How does a population armed with conventional small arms defend itself against the creeping imposition of globalist Leftism, an advance being waged by nearly every Fortune 500 company on Earth? As an aside, when will the corporate leftists realize that to the extent they weaken America by suppressing energy development and fragmenting our culture, they’re just handing the world over to Chinese fascists?
If the primary motivation for the 2nd Amendment was to guarantee American freedoms, how does a patriot respond in the 21st century? How do they recognize the need for a powerful central government to prevent mass killings by terrorists, yet continue to rely on the 2nd Amendment to deter government tyranny? How do they respond to high tech corporations which themselves are dominated by globalist leftists from the boardroom all the way down to the AI engineer who programmed a swarm of slap drones?
It would be rational to suggest that defenders of the 2nd Amendment arm themselves with slap drones and drone zapping ray guns of their own. But if American patriots are not well represented in the engineering labs of Silicon Valley, and they’re not, then it’s still an uphill battle. Buying things you cannot make yourself is sort of why Middle Eastern nations will never win a war against a serious adversary. They can buy jet fighters, and they can train pilots to fly them. But they’ll never build one, and they’ll never fly the latest model.
Robert Francis O’Rourke did us a favor, however. He made it very clear what the Left has in mind. Hopefully his candor will stimulate more creative thinking among those Americans who are determined to never compromise on their 2nd Amendment rights, and ensure these rights extend to innovations that use, shall we say, post-gunpowder technology.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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