Second Amendment Duties

I don’t own a gun. I have never fired a gun. That means that my safety, the safety of my family, and the security of my country are dependent upon those who, unlike me, are able, trained, ready, and armed. Some of those people are the police and soldiers I pay for through my taxes —soldiers who include among their number my two adult children currently serving in the Israeli military. But some of them are my neighbors, who have armed and prepared themselves at their own time and expense.

Events like the mass killing in Las Vegas stimulate debates about gun rights. But properly speaking, these events should also stimulate debates about gun duties. It is the duty of every person to lend his or her force to the enforcement of the law as they are able and as is necessary. It is a bit late to start getting your head straight about right and wrong when you are sitting in the jury box. Similarly, when you are on the scene, and something horrendous or unjust is happening, you may be part of the problem unless you are willing and ready to respond as needed.

Mass shootings end when shooters are confronted. The faster the shooter is confronted, the fewer the casualties. The more people on the scene, armed and ready to respond, the faster the shooter will be confronted, the sooner he will be stopped. Adjusting for the tactical situation, this is as true in Las Vegas as it was in the Bataclan massacre in Paris or at the Burnet Chapel Church shooting in Tennessee. “When seconds count the police are just minutes away.” In Tennessee the shooting was stopped with one killed, when a church usher, Robert Engle, went back to his car to get the gun that, in retrospect, he probably wishes he had had on his person. If, as in Paris, where ninety died in the Bataclan Theater alone, the only people armed and ready are the police, the killing will continue until the police neutralize the shooter.

James Madison wrote the words: “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 is up to today’s Americans to live up to them. Who is the militia? In almost every state (though not Nevada) and under federal law, the militia is every able-bodied adult resident of military age. What does it mean for the militia to be “well-regulated”? It means that enough able-bodied adults have the weapons and the training to respond when their security or that of the community is threatened. Does this require fewer guns?

The evidence, in the United States, is that it requires more guns, because more guns means more guns in the right hands. Does this require stricter control of guns? Perhaps, but perhaps also in the sense that those of us who do not carry weapons need to pay a little more in taxes to subsidize the training and arming of our fellow citizens who do.

Yes, Las Vegas should make Americans think again about their gun laws. As with the attempted massacre of the Republican lawmakers in Virginia, it should make us think about laws that keep law-abiding citizens from bringing their guns with them when they travel out of state. It should make us think about laws and policies that create “gun-free zones” where nobody but the police are armed to confront a shooter. Americans should think about laws that make learning to shoot as a child, and arming yourself as an adult, more difficult, and replace them with laws that make it cheaper and easier to make citizens armed and ready to defend themselves and their communities. And we should all think about what we can do to ensure we remain the kind of spirited people who don’t cower in fear in the face of a threat like this. We should recall the Black Americans who, during the civil rights era armed themselves and risked their lives for equality and remember that bearing arms is not just a right or a privilege but sometimes also a duty of citizenship. It is a duty more of us need to take seriously and do our best to fulfill, both as individuals and as voters.


About Michael S. Kochin

Michael S. Kochin is Professor Extraordinarius in the School of Political Science, Government, and International Relations at Tel Aviv University. He received his A.B. in mathematics from Harvard and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. He has held visiting appointments at Yale, Princeton, Toronto, Claremont McKenna College, and the Catholic University of America. He has written widely on the comparative analysis of institutions, political thought, politics and literature, and political rhetoric. With the historian Michael Taylor he has written An Independent Empire: Diplomacy & War in the Making of the United States (University of Michigan Press, 2020).

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19 responses to “Second Amendment Duties”

  1. Nice article Mr. Kochin. You view underscores an oft ignored aspect of the 2nd Amendment, that being we have the right to defend ourselves and our property (and as need arise) our neighbors, and even strangers, and certainly our country. If our ability to exercise that right is taken by the state, then we are wholly dependent on the state for our safety and protection. Confiscation of weapons is a prerequisite to subjugation. The political left in this country salivates at the prospect; not to make us safer (as they tearfully claim), but to make us obedient.

    PS: Is “Extraordinarius” for real…? LOL

    • Who’d of though, that somebody who had never fired a gun, would have nailed this topic so succenctly?

      As for proper 18th century usage of the term regulated, about the only modern comparison, also pertains to guns, specifically double rifles.

      When they get both barrles landing shots at the same point of aim, the gun is regulated.

      Anyway, Mr. Kochin got it right.

      • “Double Rifles” are available today for anybody legal to buy them.
        Good for African safari’s, but not mass murder since they don’t have magazines.

  2. If, as in Paris, where ninety died in the Bataclan Theater alone, the only people armed and ready are the police, the killing will continue until the police neutralize the shooter.
    Actually, there were several off-duty policemen at the Bataclan… But none of them had their sidearms on them.

  3. Precisely, Mr. Kochin!
    The Democrat Party and all their faithful, not only want to disarm their opponents, they want Us silenced, also.
    They are actively trying to restrict and prevent any and all Conservative discourse from even becoming audible.
    As We train and elevate Our skills at the gun range, shall We train and elevate Our skills at the Conservative deliberation websites.

    • The muzzle flashes from Paddock’s weapons were visible all over the area. Any reasonably competent rifle shooter would likely have been able to scare him into quitting (or suicide) within a couple of minutes … but no such individual was there and in fact the police said they didn’t HAVE rifles.

      Under 400 yards … Not a very difficult shot against a man-size target. Might not hit him with the first round but you’d sure disturb his concentration.

      • Right!
        And; In this instance, there could have been a booby trapped hallway; He had explosive components and enough knowledge to load that service cart with several pounds rigged to detonate on command or being tripped.
        For a State with some of the loosest restrictions on gun possession and personal carry, they have seriously lax law enforcement training in situations like this.

  4. An absolutely sound article, Mr. Kochin! It captures the thinking behind the 2A and why we have it in the Bill of Rights. You could further develop this and explore why Congress has abrogated its responsibilities to develop and nurture this sense of civilian martial responsibility.

    One suggested start is looking at what happened with the state militia units in the latter part of the 19th century, and why they were almost entirely replaced with the National Guard concept in 1916. You’ll discover a sordid tale of imperialism, progressive thinking, and abrogation of the states’ rights concept. One could argue that such neglect was deliberate in order to follow a different ideology that that of the Founding Fathers.

    If Congress established a “Dept. of the Militia” today, you’d see local units comprised of exactly the kind of Americans you are describing in your article. And more importantly, you’d see a funding resource to maintain the professionalism of these units, a dearth that mainly caused the collapse of the 19th century state units.

    Much like the Swiss have discovered with their local units, it’s also another way to bond citizens with their community and establish personal ties that last for years. My National Guard unit in Virginia back in the 1980s era had the same comradely and led to friendships outside the unit. Anyone who has served in a good US Armed Forces unit can tell you the experience is more than warfighting; it’s also personal development and maturity. We could use a truckload of that today in American society.

    Think of these local units as a way to not only train Americans in citizenship and military science, but also a subtle way of discovering who isn’t up to the task. Guys like Paddock would never have been unnoticed.

    “The Rise of the National Guard: The Evolution of the American Militia, 1865-1920” by Jerry Cooper is a good place to start your education about what happened to the 2A and why it has evolved into what it is today: missing the responsibility aspect of the 2A right.

    • BIG mistake to put your faith in Congress for ANYTHING.
      Keep them as far away from Our 2nd Amendment Rights as possible.

  5. It is exactly the responsibility I perceived in reported mass shootings that prompted eventual purchase and carry of concealed handgun to stop the carnage as soon as possible if I ever happened into one. I have always been an accomplished marksman with long guns, but had to overcome the discomfort of knowing that extra effort and attention was necessary for the safe handling of an handgun. It was sickening to hear of the awful shootings, the pain and suffering of victims, survivors, family and friends. But I eventually forced myself into CHL course and certification, followed by acquisition of an automatic pistol. I think that many CHL holders are similarly motivated out of interest in contributing to the peace and order of society. There’s a reason that Texas has fewer such attacks in the CHL sector.

  6. I liked this article very much. It was well reasoned and well written. It is easy to forget that with rights come responsibilities. This goes for both 1A and 2A. I’d like hear more from you when you can spare the time. Thanks.

  7. All the discussion about gun control and the rights of the 2nd Amendment are OK, but nowhere is the discussion held regarding the evil that resides in a person’s heart that cause them to do horrendous things. Guns are just one vehicle a person can use to do harm. What about explosives, cars, trucks, knives, acid, gasoline, etc. Any one of these can be utilized to create terror and killing. For many reasons, Americans have lost the will to punish people with pain for those that inflict pain. Our prisons have become places of incarceration that are just like apartment living without the capability to go to Starbucks and get a latte whenever they want. Those that kill and murder should be treated the same way with pain and agony before they are terminated. I like hanging, but any form of execution that creates pain before death would be totally acceptable to me. It is not the means that needs to be curtailed, it is the person. Perhaps with the knowledge that pain and suffering will be their fate, fewer deviants will reconsider their actions and try and resolve their problems another way.

  8. The state run public education system in America has so effectively dumbed-down the population that when discussing firearms and gun rights, we have folks talking about self defense, hunting or expostulating that the founders were unable to envision the development of weapons in advance of the musket.
    Both sides of the argument frequently miss the reason for the 2nd Amendment, yet its need was determined in the seminal act of the American Revolution: A despotic tyrannical government sent its agents to seize the firearms belonging to the citizens of Concord and Lexington, MA by force majeure in order to remove opposition to its continued repression and subjugation of the colonies. That is the reason for, and continuing rationale to preserve the Second Amendment: Protection against despotic repression by an out of control government.
    Liberals, who abhor personal freedom and pine for an all powerful, all intrusive government (as long as they are in charge), decry the existence of the very firearms that ensure liberal collectivism can’t be imposed “by the barrel of a gun” as it has been everywhere else government has revoked personal freedoms and declared itself the arbiter of rights, life and death.

  9. Mr. Kochin’s argument is unusually sound for a member of the “academy”, with one exception: he does not practice what he preaches, having never owned or fired a gun. Instead, he argues that persons like him should pay more taxes to finance training of those who do own guns.
    Having the government involved in civilian training would be a colossal mistake. The State already makes far too many rules about guns. With financing of training costs (and ammunition?), it would not be just the camel’s nose that gets into the tent — it will be the whole camel!

  10. Hopefully, one of his friends will take him to the range and introduce him to a well-mannered .22LR and some safety instruction so that maybe he’d like to try some others, as well…sporting clays anyone (etc.)?

    • In addition to my comments, previously made, I do take a little exception to someone telling me it is my responsibility to protect them when they seem to refuse to take even the basic steps to protect themselves.

  11. While I praise the author for having some common sense, I must remind him that while he may think it is my duty to protect him, the government has other ideas. In Hawaii, a concealed permit is unobtainable unless you are a former police officer or can clearly demonstrate that your life is in danger. 99.9 percent of the people who try to claim the latter are not approved.

    Therefore while i might consider protecting you in certain circumstances, I am unable to as my gun is at home locked up in a safe.

    Having said that, I do have certain reservations about assuming the responsibility to protect someone who refuses to own a firearm simply because he or she may not really believe in the second amendment. I mean if Hillary were right beside me, and I had a gun, I most certainly would not go out of my way to protect her.

  12. Drivel. A stupid article advocating an unjustifiable position.