After two, high-profile mass shootings over the course of just five days, Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz had an idea: host a campaign event at an Iowa shooting range.
Ted Cruz on Friday offered an impassioned defense of gun rights in the wake of the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack, telling a crowd here at an Iowa gun range, “you don’t stop bad guys by taking away our guns; you stop bad guys by using our guns.”Cruz criticized the media for focusing on gun control in the wake of the shootings, telling his supporters: “Folks in the media ask on behalf of Democrats, ‘isn’t it insensitive to do a Second Amendment rally after the shooting.’ I really don’t view our job as being sensitive to Islamic terrorists.”
In case it’s not obvious, the “sensitivity” argument has nothing to do with being nice to terrorists and everything to do with showing respect for victims of gun violence.
Regardless, there was something else Cruz said that stood out for me. The Washington Post reported that the Texas senator went on to warn of the dangers of “disarming the citizenry,” insisting that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms, but also serves as a “fundamental check on government.”
This may sound like boilerplate rhetoric for GOP presidential candidates, but it’s best not to brush past the comments too quickly.
The idea that Americans can have arsenals of deadly weapons as part of a “fundamental check on government” is predicated on a revolutionary argument – and I mean “revolutionary” in a literal sense. The assertion is that Americans may feel the need at some point to take up arms against America.
ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser explained that “high-ranking federal officials” generally avoid this kind of rhetoric.
In District of Columbia v. Heller, for example, all five conservative Supreme Court justices joined an opinion recognizing that many “weapons that are most useful in military service” may be banned in the United States. Yet it is difficult to see how the Second Amendment could serve as an effective “check” on a government that arms its military with tanks, fighter jets and nuclear missiles if the people who are supposed to do the checking could only fight back with semi-automatic firearms. […]If the Second Amendment is a check on government … that necessarily places the power to decide when government has crossed the line that justifies the use of “Second Amendment remedies” in the hands of gun owners.
Cruz wasn’t explicit on this point, though it’d be interesting to hear the senator elaborate on his argument. If the Texas Republican sees gun rights as a “fundamental check on government,” how should that work, exactly? Under specific circumstances should American gun owners feel justified in rebelling against the government of the United States?