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Guns and the Tyranny of American Republicanism

Summary: Violent threats to the stability and sustainability of the American republic will persist until the country confronts the economic inequality that lies at the heart of American republicanism.

  • Bertrall Ross Bertrall Ross
Published: June 29, 2021

This essay is part of the series Protests, Insur­rec­tion, and the Second Amend­ment.

ABSTRACT: On Janu­ary 6, 2021, men and women, some of them armed, stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to undo a fair and legit­im­ate pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. For the insur­rec­tion­ists, the elec­tion results meant some­thing more than one candid­ate winning and another one losing. It repres­en­ted a tyran­nical threat to their racial­ized concep­tion of Amer­ican repub­lic­an­ism, one that Pres­id­ent Donald Trump promoted and sought to legit­im­ate. For those Amer­ic­ans, guns reem­erged as an instru­ment of self-defense against tyranny, just as guns have through­out U.S. history. Yet those indi­vidu­als’ actions — ones that they under­stood as resist­ing tyranny — in fact threatened to destabil­ize Amer­ican demo­cracy through viol­ence.

The racial­ized concep­tion of Amer­ican repub­lic­an­ism has histor­ic­ally served as psycho­lo­gical ballast for many poor and work­ing-class Amer­ic­ans, includ­ing many of those involved in the insur­rec­tion. Under­ly­ing that concep­tion is an extreme economic inequal­ity that has left many of the insur­rec­tion­ists margin­al­ized and alien­ated — and that itself repres­ents the real tyranny that threatens all poor and work­ing-class people’s abil­ity to parti­cip­ate fully in demo­cratic processes.

This essay explores the economic inequal­ity that lies at the found­a­tional core of Amer­ican repub­lic­an­ism. It then argues that viol­ent threats to the stabil­ity and sustain­ab­il­ity of the Amer­ican repub­lic will persist until we confront economic inequal­ity. Other­wise, extreme economic inequal­ity will lead to a future in which the margin­al­ized increas­ingly resort to guns and viol­ence, and the govern­ment is forced to turn to repres­sion to ensure the repub­lic’s survival.

Guns and the Tyranny of Ame… by The Bren­nan Center for Justice