The 1984 film Red Dawn is a classic in the genre of paranoid Cold War guns fantasy, where a group of armed high school students fend off an invading Soviet army and eventually “g[i]ve up their lives… so that this nation shall not perish from the earth.” Rep. Steve King (R-IA), however, seems to believe it is a manual for federal firearms policy:
King said during a debate last week in Orange City that the original purpose of the Second Amendment was not to assure hunting rights or allow people to provide for self-protection. The purpose was “to guard against tyranny because our Founding Fathers understood that if we did not have an armed populace, an armed tyrant could take over America,” King said.
When asked whether such a threat was legitimate in 2012, he said, “We don’t have that threat now because we have an armed populace, and we don’t have to worry about that because of an armed populace.” . . .
When asked if the “armed tyrant” was an outside threat or even the U.S. government, King said, “I don’t see it as our own federal government. I wouldn’t rule it out down the line in a generation or two. I wouldn’t say that’s not part of it. I don’t see it today, and I don’t anticipate that that’s the case.”
Setting aside King’s suggestion that invading armies have thus far steered clear of American soil because they fear reprisal from a ragtag band of civilian Wolverines, there are potentially serious policy implications to King’s interpretation of the Second Amendment. A foreign army would certainly deploy the tools of modern warfare if it chose to capture American soil, so a misfit band of patriotic teenagers would need to arm themselves with similar weapons in order to provide a meaningful deterrent to such forces.
Needless to say, this is not what the Second Amendment provides. As conservative Justice Scalia explained in District of Columbia v. Heller, “dangerous and unusual weapons” are not protected by the Constitution. More recently, a federal appeals court explained in an opinion by a George W. Bush-appointed judge that “[s]hort of bombs, missiles, and biochemical agents, we can conceive of few weapons that are more dangerous than machine guns,” and thus all of these weapons can be banned under the Second Amendment.