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Does the gun lobby threaten the democratic institutions safeguarding individual liberty in America?
The NRA steadfastly maintains that the 30,000 gun-related deaths and 300,000 assaults with firearms in the United States every year are a small price to pay to guarantee freedom. As former NRA President Charlton Heston put it, "freedom isn't free."
And when gun enthusiasts talk about Constitutional liberties guaranteed by the Second Amendment, they are referring to freedom in a general sense, but they also have something more specific in mind—freedom from government oppression. They argue that the only way to keep federal authority in check is to arm individual citizens who can, if necessary, defend themselves from an aggressive government.
In the past decade, this view of the proper relationship between government and individual rights and the insistence on a role for private violence in a democracy has been co-opted by the conservative movement. As a result, it has spread beyond extreme "militia" groups to influence state and national policy.
In Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea, Josh Horwitz and Casey Anderson reveal that the proponents of this view base their argument on a deliberate misreading of history. The Insurrectionist myth has been forged by twisting the facts of the American Revolution and the founding of the United States, the denial of civil rights to African-Americans after the Civil War, and the rise of the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler. Here, Horwitz and Anderson set the record straight. Then, challenging the proposition that more guns equal more freedom, they expose Insurrectionism—not government oppression—as the true threat to freedom in the U.S. today.
Copyright © 2009, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.
Watch: "Guns and Liberty" on C-Span, Horwitz and Anderson at Hartford University | 6/17/2009
Read: Author Blog | Washington Post | 10/06/09