Soldiers arrested for plotting assassination, coup d’etat: the problem with the 2nd Amendment

AP reported today that four U.S. Army Soldiers were arrested in a plot to assassinate President Obama and overthrow the federal government. While this operation remained in the planning stage, the group did actually kill a fellow soldier and his girlfriend to eliminate the possibility they’d leak the group’s plan.

Ok look, no one else seems to be saying it, so I’ll just come out with it: This is part of the problem with how freely we throw around our Second Amendment rights—it blurs the line between patriotism and terrorism.

I’m not going to blame the extreme right for inciting this kind of plot with their talk of taking up arms the way Rush Limbaugh managed to blame Obama for the Empire State Building shooting on Friday. No one made these guys kill their former comrade and his girlfriend, and the blame for their craziness is theirs alone.

But it’s impossible to ignore how close their rhetoric is to Republican calls for civil war should Obama win re-election. And I’m not talking about Michele Bachmann’s old quote about being “armed and dangerous” on taxes. Last week an elected judge in Texas madie it clear he wasn’t talking about metaphors: “I’m talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator.” And the Virginia Republican Committee recently voiced similar sentiments.

Not to blame these people for the arrested soldiers’ actions, but the Second Amendment creates the question: where’s the line between “taking back the country” and actual treason?

This group called itself F.E.A.R., or, “Forever Enduring Always Ready.” One can infer from their name and the details of their plan to overthrow the government that they were also of the mindset to “get rid of the dictator.”

The group had assembled $87,000 worth of guns and bombs, and planned to assassinate the president, take over Fort Stewart in Georgia, and presumably start a new governing body operating outside the U.S. rule of law.

Whether you call this an act of insane terrorism or patriotic valor is an question of judgement. And not only is judgement subjective, but it’s apt to change over time. John Brown, the abolitionist who joined a slave revolt in 1856, was widely seen as a terrorist then and is remembered largely as a hero.

Sure, in theory the Second Amendment is great—if a government stops representing the will of the people it should get overthrown. But we don’t live in Egypt. We haven’t had anything remotely resembling a dictatorship since this country started. Perhaps we should all cool the jets a bit about the militias and the uprising.

Then again, we do live in a still-pretty-racist country with its first black president. It’ll be interesting to see if the Second Amendment feels less culturally urgent if Romney wins the White House.