The Volokh Conspiracy

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Is the Right to Armed Self-Defense Obsolete?

When the government refuses to stop looting and rioting, armed self-defense is the only deterrent.

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Gun control advocates argue that to the extent the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms was meant to ensure people can defend themselves, that concern is anachronistic in modern times when we have professional police. I couldn't help but notice that this past Summer the police, often on direct orders from mayor and public safety chiefs, often stood by while looting and rioting gripped American cities. This abdication of basic policing responsibilities rather weakens the argument that people should just rely on police, as do calls to defund the police.

So I decided to write an article about it, which is forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy. In the article, I describe the argument that the right to armed self-defense is obsolete, go into the most detail of anything published thus far about this past Summer's violence and the anemic law enforcement response, and then provide examples of individuals and groups that countered the violence with armed self-defense.

I just posted the article on SSRN Saturday night, and it already has over 2,300 downloads (already my second-most downloaded article ever!), so there's obviously a lot of interest in the subject. One thing that struck me in researching this article is that the major national media outlets barely reported the violence and why local governments didn't stop it. The vast majority of the footnotes in the article cite to local media sources, which did a much better job.

I should note that I am not conflating the violence with the peaceful demonstrators. One thing I don't mention in the article, but will put in the next draft, is the increasing evidence, as reported by the New York Times, that much of the violence was planned and coordinated by organized leftist (and overwhelmingly white) anarchists, who used the the cause of racial justice and police reform to promote their own violent agenda.