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Answering the ‘Why’: Part 2 – The Fail-Safe


“Why do you even need a gun like that?”

Whenever I find myself answering that question, it seems my argument is strongest when I walk the audience through my three key reasons for wanting guns: sporting, self-defense and the “fail-safe.” In the first segment of this article, we discussed how to explain the sporting and self-defense justifications.

The final reason, that fail-safe, is the insurance policy on our Rule of Law. And this is the part that can be the toughest to explain and the easiest to distort and lampoon. Remember that the gun-control proponents are trying to paint you as an anti-government radical in order to marginalize you, so don’t give them more ammo through careless wording.

The Last Bulwark

Our Constitution was written by a bunch of people who had just taken up arms against their government. You can read throughout the biographies of the Founders and in their own words in The Federalist Papers how they toiled to balance power between the rich and the poor, the cities and the farmlands, the branches of government, the federal government and the states, and the government itself and the citizens. They built in many layers to protect the Rule of Law, including an election cycle to enable a constant bloodless revolution, an amendment process and a Bill of Rights, even at the risk of limiting those rights by bounding them. In that Bill of Rights, they wrote, “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.” Awkward wording and punctuation that have vexed some for centuries, but to a lot of us — and to the U.S. Supreme Court post-Heller — the meaning is pretty clear: The people get to keep and carry arms.

Illustration By: Brian Fairrington

Illustration By: Brian Fairrington

Reasonable minds differ on the meaning and purpose. To me, an armed population is an ultimate fail-safe against foreign invasion or a government gone totally and genocidally crazy. Now, just because I say that doesn’t mean I advocate for the violent overthrow of the government or that I want to “shoot that feller when he comes to take our guns.” It means that if the Rule of Law breaks down — if we can’t protest, impeach, elect someone else, petition in a classical sense — and things have gotten so crazy that people are getting dragged off into the darkness, I want some sort of last-ditch option.

Do I think that day is coming soon? No, I don’t. Do I think that day is coming at all? No, I don’t. I believe in this country. I believe in the Rule of Law. I believe in my fellow Americans and government officials to do the right thing. But do you think it is impossible that such a day could come? How many totalitarian and genocidal regimes have we seen emerge in just the last 100 years? The trouble with the really bad guys is they don’t generally announce their intentions decades in advance.

There are counterpoints worth considering. What can a bunch of yahoos armed with AK-47s do against a modern military? Well, having seen a bunch of yahoos with AK-47s in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Chechnya cause real problems for modern militaries, I would say more than you might think. But an armed population gives us a choice and a chance; it gives us something better than being herded into the darkness. Force isn’t — and should never be — a first resort. Some extremists and domestic terrorists may think they are justified in committing violence under this fail-safe logic, but for the most part, Americans have been extremely hesitant to resort to violence en masse. Were that not the case, you’d have noticed by now.

Don’t Disenfranchise on Me

I don’t want a gun so I can shoot whoever is going to “come for my guns.” I don’t want a hunting rifle. I want a gun so that I can compete in a sport I enjoy. I want a gun so that when the home-invasion robbery crew starts up the stairs, I can put something other than my pink squishy body between them and my daughter. I want a gun so that if, heaven forbid, I see you getting dragged into the darkness, I can do something other than beg them to take me instead.

If that makes me a “gun nut” to you, I wear the label proudly.

While we answer questions like these without coming across as hostile or radical, we need to emphasize that in a free country, the burden should never be on the people to justify having a right. That burden should always fall on the parties trying to curtail a freedom to explain why that right must be limited. To gun-control advocates, that proof is self-evident: “Guns kill people.” Don’t let them gloss over their need to prove their case. Yes, guns are sometimes used to kill people, but prove to me that your proposed restriction is actually going to help that. “Why do you need to take my guns?”

USCCA Membership - Peace of Mind

Jim is a concerned citizen and gun-rights advocate. His opinions are his alone and do not reflect the official policy or position of his or any other agency. References and links to other gun-advocacy sites do not imply endorsement of those organizations. You can reach him at

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