WASHINGTON — It’s a given that every Republican presidential candidate will run for president as a strong supporter of gun rights.
But Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is arguing that the Second Amendment includes a right to revolt against government tyranny, a point of emphasis uncommon for mainstream presidential candidates.
“The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn’t for just protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny — for the protection of liberty,” Cruz wrote to supporters in a fundraising email on Thursday, under the subject line “2nd Amendment against tyranny.”
This “insurrectionist” argument, as Second Amendment expert and UCLA law professor Adam Winkler calls it, is popular among passionate gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association. But major party candidates for president don’t often venture there.
“Most presidential candidates who support Second Amendment rights focus on self defense. In the past many have also emphasized hunting,” said Winkler, author of the 2011 book Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. “It’s pretty rare for a presidential candidate to support the right of the people to revolt against the government.”
Nor has the Supreme Court recognized a Second Amendment right to revolt against the government, Winkler said. In the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court established an individual’s right to possess a gun for lawful purposes like self-defense.
Fiery rhetoric is a trademark for Cruz, who is battling to win over Republican voters in a crowded primary field where he has trailed Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor, and Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, so far in early polls.
Cruz declared that he’s “the only candidate running for President who not only believes in the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms — but has the record of fighting for it, tooth and nail.”
Winkler said the modern origin of the anti-government-tyranny view of the Second Amendment dates back to the Black Panthers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and gained traction in the following decades. Some less mainstream presidential candidates like former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) have echoed it, while 2010 Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) raised eyebrows when she floated “Second Amendment remedies” to protect against an out-of-control government.
“I don’t recall George Bush or Ronald Reagan ever saying the Second Amendment protects your right against tyranny,” Winkler said. “It’s like saying, ‘Elect me president of your country so that you can revolt against me.’ It’s an odd way of thinking about government.”
A screenshot of Cruz’s email is available below.