How Gun-Enthusiasts got 2nd Amendment Tunnel Vision

© Josh Sager – July 2013


People have a tendency to get tunnel-vision when they have strong beliefs on an issue and see it as important to their general welfare; this is true for many areas of policy, but none more clearly than the fight over gun rights.

Many gun enthusiasts see their gun as a defense against government overreach and a check against an out of control government. They have latched onto the revolutionary words of some of our founding fathers—including Thomas Jefferson’s quote about watering the tree of liberty with “the blood of patriots and tyrants”—and have grown to believe that, as long as they are armed, their government wouldn’t dare become tyrannical.


Personally, I find the beliefs of these gun-enthusiasts ridiculous, if only because the monopoly of force remains with the government when private citizens are armed (citizens have guns, but the government has jet fighters, ICBMs and nukes). Due to this balance of power, real change must come from the ballot box, not bullets, and the revolutionary rhetoric of these gun-enthusiasts is simply not productive. In addition to being unproductive, this view of gun rights is very dangerous because it promotes the idea that people should violently attack politicians if they see them as overreaching (ex. Gabby Giffords getting shot) and has made it virtually impossible to address the gun-violence epidemic in the USA.


Unfortunately, gun-enthusiasts have let their desire to have guns become an end unto itself and have become willing to overlook terrible infringements upon the Constitution, just as long as they are allowed to remain armed. In effect, they have let their desire to have a gun become so overpowering that they focus upon protecting the 2nd Amendment to the exclusion of protecting their other rights.

In recent years the US government has instituted several extremely unconstitutional and repressive programs, both against citizens and people who are accused of terrorism abroad.

The Patriot Act and several secret interpretations of the law have led to the creation of a massive digital surveillance infrastructure which aims to record everybody’s online activity in order to identify threats to the country. This surveillance apparatus operates virtually without oversight and uses classified warrants, ordered by a secret court, to justify their massive information dragnets.

Starting in the Bush Administration, the USA has indefinitely detained and tortured numerous people, several of whom were citizens of the United States or our allies. We have denied these people trials, access to legal counsel, basic civil rights, and contact with their families, even after we realized that some of them were completely innocent. To further compound this abrogation of the Constitution, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 has language which would allow this kind of treatment on American citizens if they are suspected of terrorism (although President Obama has said that he will not use such a program on Americans).

The United States has utilized an illegal campaign of drone-strikes to kill “suspected terrorists” in countries which we are not at war with—most of these victims have been innocent and many have been children. On two occasions, these strikes were used to kill Americans citizens (Anwar and Abdulrahman al-Awlaki) who were not granted any legal process before their summary execution via missile.

Despite these terrible overreaches in federal power, most gun-enthusiasts have remained relatively silent on these issues. Whenever anybody begins talking about the possibility of new background check laws, gun enthusiasts get up in arms about protecting their constitutional rights (or, what they perceive as their rights), yet they remain silent as their 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment protections are eviscerated.


As far as I can tell, gun-enthusiasts have let their fear over losing their 2nd Amendment rights blind them to attacks on all of their other constitutional protections; they see their guns as a barometer of their freedom and fail to grasp that their constitutional protections are being pulled out from under them while they do nothing.

To illustrate the dangerous absurdity of the gun-enthusiasts’ tunnel vision on this issue, I have written the following poem, based upon the one written by Martin Niemöller during WWII (I am not drawing a parallel between the situations and am merely using the poem’s format to make my point).

First they attacked democracy by giving wealthy individuals and corporations the ability to legally bribe politicians

…and I did nothing because my guns protected my rights and repelled tyranny.

Then, they shredded the 8th Amendment by instituting a torture program on “suspected terrorists” and using non-touch torture on American whistleblower Bradley Manning

…and I did nothing because my guns protected my rights and repelled tyranny.

Then they attacked my 4th, 5th and 6th Amendment rights by claiming the power to collect all of my digital information without probable cause, indefinitely detain me if I am suspected of terrorism, and even extra-judicially kill me via drone-strike if I am suspected of terrorism while traveling outside of the USA

…and I did nothing because my guns protected my rights and repelled tyranny.

Then they violated the 1st Amendment by spying upon and attempting to intimidate the media into not reporting on things which the government didn’t like known                  

…and I did nothing because my guns protected my rights and repelled tyranny.

Now, I live in a country where my government is controlled by wealthy interest groups, everybody is spied upon, the media is cowed into submission, and my 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendment protections have been curtailed                                                                                          

 …but I still have my gun and am glad that it has prevented my government from overreaching and becoming tyrannical.

If gun enthusiasts ever really wanted guns in order to dissuade the government from becoming tyrannical and infringing upon Americans’ constitutional rights, they have failed. In focusing upon keeping their guns to the point where they ignore other issues, these people have lost sight of their original goals—they have, in effect, given their rights away in order to protect their dangerous toy/hobby/device of male compensation.

16 thoughts on “How Gun-Enthusiasts got 2nd Amendment Tunnel Vision

  1. When i first started reading this post i thought you were going to bash on gun owners as being paranoid and ridiculous. As i read on in the post i found myself starting to agree with you. All rights must be fought for equally. Holding on to the 2nd amendment while the other ones are being destroyed is counterproductive but the inverse is also counterproductive. Fighting for all the other rights while letting the 2nd amendment be destroyed is folly also. Nice post though. I as a gun enthusiast never looked at it this way.


    • I think that Sandra Bornstein summed it up pretty well: YES!!! And would only add that it is encouraging to know that communication, and a useful debate, are possible, when both sides are willing to be reasonable.


      • Is this the same Sandra Bornstein that posted a comment on 07-13-13 in response to Mr. Sager’s article “The Real-Life Politics of White House Down?”


  2. I don’t disagree with much of anything in this article, but the premise of it assumes that gun nuts are actually genuinely concerned about the Constitution…or that they are aware that it has anything to do with things not related to the right to bear arms. I have seen not a shred of evidence that this is the case. They didn’t “get” tunnel vision. Most of them have only became aware of and interested in the constitution when they heard that the black muslim President was coming to take their guns away.


  3. I think I know what your problem is. You just don’t have enough life experience. I have no doubt that Boston University is a fine institution and that you were an excellent student. However, no college can teach you everything that you need to know. I suggest that you collect a few more birthdays before you formulate your opinions.


    • You are making the logical fallacy of assuming that experience always creates good ideas–in some cases it does, but, in others, experience is entirely irrelevant or can even result in the perpetuation of illogical biases. I do not claim to know everything, merely more than enough to make a coherent and logical argument on issues of policy.

      If you would like to comment further, I suggest that you try to refute my argument, rather than simply falling back to the “inexperienced youth” cop out.


  4. Very well. Here it comes.

    I have questions. First, please explain exactly why you placed that cartoon in your article. Are you afraid of gun owners so you are trying to ridicule them by implying that the government will protect you from them? Or are you trying to scare EVERYONE by implying that it is futile to resist tyranny because it could end in death? This evening, I have read several of your articles and the various comments that accompany them. It has already been made clear to you that the government is in for a rude awakening if it expects the military to attack their own citizens. It is true that the government does have jet fighters, ICBMS and nukes. However, you forget that these weapon systems are maintained, guarded and operated by members of the US military and are useless if the military refuses to follow orders. In case you are not aware, drones are not robots. They are operated by a flesh and blood member of the US military.

    When someone has stated this to you, you counter by claiming that they prove your point that guns are not needed to resist tyranny. Have you ever wondered how oppressive countries such as the former Soviet Union and China have been able oppress their population? The members of their military grew up in poverty with no freedom and felt powerless. When they became old enough, the government forced them into military service. Suddenly, they had sharp looking uniforms, shiny boots, decent food, money and weapons. They liked having this power and would blindly obey their goverment to keep this status. Even if it meant killing their own countrymen. This does not happen in the US. The second amendment keeps the government in check by empowering the people. Because of this, you grew up free and were able to get a college education.

    You are alarmed by wealthy individuals and corporations being granted the ability to legally bribe politicians. It has always been a fact that money talks. You are alarmed by the government using torture on terrorists and suspected terrorists to gain critical intelligence. You are alarmed by the government using surveillance and spying on suspected terrorists and monitoring the Internet to intercept information leading to the arrests of terrorists and other criminals and the use of drones. However, when a horrific crime such as the Sandy Hook shooting occurs and instead of focusing on the real problems (mental health treatment, school security and self defense), certain politicians exploit this tragedy and shamelessly use it as an excuse to disarm law abiding patriots under the guise of public safety, you are not alarmed? Whether they decide to do it immediately or to wait, eventually all tyrants must disarm their servants at some point.

    During your time at Boston University, didn’t anyone teach you that it wasn’t until after the colonists rose up and resisted King George III that there were ballot boxes in America? What good is a ballot box if the candidates can just be bribed later?

    You appear fearful of both gun owners and the government. Who exactly do you consider allies? The unarmed and ever dwindling minority of gun control advocates? You have allowed your overconfidence to cloud your judgement. Common sense provides clarity. However, this is a skill that comes with age.


  5. Joe, the example in your second paragraph utilizes a false association. Just because that situation happened in the USSR and China does not mean it would happen in the US. Hailing the Second Amendment as being the sole protector of people’s personal freedoms is a deliberately over-simplification. Especially since, for example, in Canada we don’t have a gun obsession, yet still we ‘grow up free and get a college education’. As do most other modern, civilized nations. Unless you prefer to be compared to the uncivilized ones.

    Saying that ‘money talks’ is a symptom of a corrupt system which abuses its weaker members, but that’s another discussion. Are you saying you’re NOT alarmed by the government using torture on terrorists and suspected terrorists, or spying (not JUST on suspected terrorists, as you conveniently ignored from the original point, but on everybody, including you)? You are quick to defend these acts as being necessary, but according to whom? The difference between a tyranny and a free nation is in oversight and transparency. If the government could REALLY get away with everything, of course it would. There are SUPPOSED to be checks and balances against it doing so. Quite clearly and obviously, several of these checks have been removed in recent years, which is the whole point of the article. Is this not a symptom of incipient tyranny? What has the right to bear arms done to prevent it? Nothing at all.

    Yes, violent upheaval has been useful in the past. Certainly violence is part of humanity’s legacy. Your candidates ARE being bribed, and your senators and congressmen are being both bribed and threatened by special-interest groups, so you tell me, what good ARE your ballot boxes? This is another failing of your system, and the only possible thing guns could have to do with it, is the threat of armed insurrection. Now, are you going to seriously tell me that that would work? For all your talk about how the military wouldn’t fire on its own citizens, I believe it WOULD if its citizens started firing on their elected officials. Especially since, with the curtailing of your other rights (which again, your precious guns have not deterred) all uprisers could be conveniently branded as terrorists in the aftermath, with the media hushed up about it.

    But the real point of all this is common sense. The author of the article isn’t dividing the world into allies and enemies, as you seem to think he is. THAT is a perspective that comes from entrenched mentalities. He was talking about how hey, look, other rights ARE being curtailed. Forget about your stupid guns, they’re not helping. They’re not hurting either.. except in that they’ve become a flag around which right-wingers rally, patting themselves on the back, saying ‘They may have taken my privacy and my rights, but AT LEAST I STILL HAVE MY GUN!’


    • Adrian. You in Canada can “grow up free and get a college education” because Canada borders the United States. Most other civilized nations allow civilians to own guns. Communist nations of course do not except of course their Olympic shooting teams and even their guns are owned by the government.

      Because of the American Revolution, the British learned a valuable lesson and did not try to oppress Canada or Australia. As a result, Canadians and Australians never had to fight the British for their freedom. You’re welcome by the way. It is probably for this reason that private gun ownership isn’t such a major issue in Canada and Australia as it is here. Although it is estimated that there are approximately 9,950,000 guns in private homes in Canada and 3,500,000 owned in Australia.

      You SERIOUSLY under estimate American patriotism. I can assure that the members of our military most certainly WOULD NOT fire upon other US citizens if it was apparent that the orders to do so were unlawful or given by a tyrannical government. You have a very different definition of patriotism in Canada. Some of you think that you are British, some think that you are French and want to form your own individual country and a silent majority of you probably wish that you were Americans.


  6. It must be noted that our gun-huggers are disingenuous about their devotion to the Second Amendment. They only care about the second half of it — the part that the Supreme Court has said gives them the right to own all their beloved firearms. The first half, the part about the well-regulated militia? Meh. As if the Framers just had a leftover clause lying around and stuck it there in any old place.


  7. You know, it’s not just the gun lovers that have had their rights stripped from them… ALL America has become fat and lazy, and because of it, ALL Americans are responsible for this horrid loss. Not just the gun lovers. You make it sound like this is the fault of one group when it clearly isn’t. Sure, if ever there was a civil war again, the government could play a video game that kills us (drones), but that is why gun lovers are so adamantly defending their right to defend themselves. Not just from the government, but from the common bad guy that threatens their life. They are FULLY aware of all the rights that have been stripped from them from a government who’s extreme actions suggest the tyranny they are suspecting with solid evidence and reason. We need this precaution, because when it hits the fan (all reasonable professionals are saying our economy definitely will and is a matter of when) the government will OWN anyone dependent on it. Bye bye rights. Guns will be the last resort and will give us a chance (however small) to survive and maintain immediate (in effective practice) freedoms. Now go report on how several cities from the Times newspapers have reported dramatic decreases in crime (39% or close to it if memory serves me right) in the cities that have reported high gun purchases in response to our government’s new anti-rights laws.


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