First Amendment weakens gun rights advocates’ insurrection argument

Many gun rights advocates have asserted that the Second Amendment – which protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms – serves a collective interest in deterring and, if necessary, violently deposing a tyrannical federal government.

“The strength of this assertion is significantly weakened by the power of the First Amendment,” says Gregory P. Magarian, JD, constitutional law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.


“We have spent almost a century developing the First Amendment as the main vehicle for dynamic political change. Debate and political expression is preferable to insurrection as a means of political change and our legal culture’s attention to the First and Second Amendments reflects a long-settled choice of debate over violent uprising.”

Magarian discusses the relationship between the First and Second Amendments in “Speaking Truth to Firepower: How the First Amendment Destabilizes the Second,” published in the current issue of the Texas Law Review.

“Embracing Second Amendment insurrectionism would endanger our commitment to protecting dissident political speech under the First Amendment,” he says.

“Sound consideration of the Second Amendment alongside the First leaves the individual right to keep and bear arms with questionable legal force.”