The Second Amendment as a Prophylactic
A common argument from those who are in favor of more stringent gun control laws is that the necessity of firearms in the hands of citizens as a “check” against an out-of-control government is simply not needed in this day and age.
America has a mature, stable government, they say, and the possibility of it suddenly going off the rails and needing to be “taken back” by its citizens is simply preposterous. They cite history as showing that the government has never been that overbearing, and there’s never been a need in over two centuries for the armed citizens to rise up. Therefore there will never be such a need.
This view is very shortsighted and misses out on the prime role of the Second Amendment. I’ll leave it to others to defend the concept that a citizen militia can force an out-of-control government back onto the right track. I want to concentrate of the Second Amendment as a prophylactic.
Merriam-webster.com defines a prophylactic as:
1: guarding from or preventing the spread or occurrence of disease or infection
2: tending to prevent or ward off: preventive
It comes from the Greek words prophylaktikos and prophylassein; to be on guard, from pro- before + phylassein to guard, from phylak-, phylax guard.
The best known use of the word in the general public is probably when it is referred to in birth control. An example would be when a condom is referred to as a prophylactic.
Medical staff use the concept on a daily basis, as many medicines are used as a prophylactic to keep diseases away. A smallpox or measles vaccination is an example. Sterilizing the equipment used for patient treatment is a prophylactic measure, along with washing hands frequently.
The Founding Fathers were very aware of the concept of prophylactics. Their use goes back centuries and are amoung some of the most basic forms of health care and treatment.
And so they built just the same concept into the Constitution with the Second Amendment.
The primary task of the Amendment and an armed citizenry is not to “put the country back together.” It is to keep the country from an aggressive, overbearing government in the very first place. It is a preventative. A guard that wards off beforehand.
Yes, it is absolutely true that the Second Amendment has apparently not been needed in the past 200 plus years to overcome a tyrannical government. That’s because it has been doing its job quietly all along. It has prevented the rise of a tyrannical government. It is far easier for a government to consolidate all power and authority within itself when there is no viable opposition… no “guard” to prevent it from doing so.
No one has really needed to pay close attention to the Second Amendment over the decades any more than one pays close attention to the vitamin pill that is taken each morning. Or the antiseptic that is put on a scratch to prevent infection. They are just “there” doing the job. But as the pill guards the body… as the antiseptic guards the wound… the Amendment has guarded our nation all these years.
It is not a “front of mind” awareness. No politician needs to remind himself of the power of the armed citizens. It is just “there,” always working and always just a thought away.
Unfortunately, because it has always worked behind the scenes, the respect for the Second Amendment has fallen away from many. We have lost sight of the prophylactic nature of the armed citizen against the power of the government, and that is going to lead the nation down a dangerous path.
The man who regularly uses the services of prostitutes who protects himself with a condom can, at some point, wonder why he is wasting his money buying the condoms when obviously he has not come down with any disease. The moment he decides to stop “wasting money” on condoms is the moment he has guaranteed himself a venereal disease at some point in the future.
When the American society weakens or abandons the Second Amendment we are guaranteed that we are going to have a government at some future time that is far more tyrannical that what we can now believe. Those that believe the Amendment is outmoded because it has never been needed or used are no different in philosophy than the person who has quit using condoms with prostitutes because he has never caught a disease from a prostitute yet.
[And yes, if you want to argue the point, I did just compare prostitutes with the federal government. Certainly an apt comparison at times.]
Many of those pushing against the protections of the Second Amendment know full well the prophylactic nature of the armed citizen. That is exactly why they would see the Amendment weakened, or regulated out of business. Some of our leading politicians and journalists have expressed contempt for the American system and have outright wondered why we as a country cannot be more like Communist China, where “things get done.”
At some point in time, there just may be a clash to see which philosophy wins out. I, personally, would bet on the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.
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