03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What is the "Message" Behind Increased Gun Sales?

In a November 3 Washington Post article about increased sale of guns and ammunition since the election of President Barack Obama, Wayne LaPierre, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rifle Association, said something curious. Asked to explain this buying spree, he stated, "I think it's Katrina. I think it's terrorism. I think it's crime. And I also think that it's people worrying about [whether] they'll be attacked by politicians. They're suspicious, and justifiably so."

Americans are stockpiling handguns, assault weapons and ammunition because they are going to be "attacked by politicians"? Attacked how? And exactly what kind of "defense" are these individuals planning?

LaPierre's quote would have been unfathomable not too long ago, but in the wake of a summer where gun-toters showed up regularly at political events across the country, it has an ominous resonance to it.

The American public got a clear view of this type of "activism" when William Kostric appeared outside of President Obama's town hall meeting in New Hampshire on August 11. With a loaded semiautomatic handgun strapped to his leg, Kostric held a placard that read, "IT IS TIME TO WATER THE TREE OF LIBERTY!" Six days later, Chris Broughton appeared outside a presidential speech in Phoenix openly carrying an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a semiautomatic handgun. In a video recorded at the event, he declared, "We will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote. Just because you sick a government on people doesn't make it morally OK to steal money from them."

Visitors at an online poll that accompanied the Washington Post article mentioned above made similar-sounding remarks. Asked "Does it worry you that guns and bullets are selling at a record pace?" one individual commented, "Maybe this is sending a message to Obama that people don't trust his policies and the direction of the United States?" Another stated, "I will argue that a population not trusting their government is not a bad thing. You are in good company: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, etc. I will further argue that the guns and bullets are not meant for fellow citizens, but for an opperessive [sic] government." A third commenter explained that he joined the NRA and bought an assault rifle because Obama's "crazy ideas make me very wary."

The NRA leadership's constant dissemination of "insurrectionist" propaganda has been an inspiration for such statements. In his 1994 book, Guns, Crimes and Freedom, LaPierre writes that, "The people have the right, must have the right, to take whatever measures necessary, including force, to abolish oppressive government."

The NRA's thinking on insurrectionism was further expanded in their amicus brief in the District of Columbia v. Heller case: "In adopting the Second Amendment, the Framers guaranteed an individual right to keep and bear arms for private purposes, not a collective right to keep and bear arms only in connection with state militia service ... This individual right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right; the Second Amendment on its face describes it as essential to a "free State"--a democratic state free from government tyranny ... The Framers sought to effectuate their purpose of guarding against federal overreaching by guaranteeing the right of the people to keep and bear arms ... As an initial matter, while an oppressive federal government might seek to raid militia depots as the British attempted at Lexington and Concord, arms dispersed among the people would prove far more difficult to confiscate."

Then there was LaPierre's oft-quoted quip from the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference: "Our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules."

When bandied about on private internet discussion boards, these ideas serve as a valuable recruiting and fundraising tool. When taken to the streets in a show of force, however, they are revealed as disturbing and radical. The notion that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to use firearms to take violent action against a "tyrannical" government is serious business, particularly when thousands of individuals on the right wing of American politics have made it patently clear that they consider the current Obama administration to be "tyrannical."

To clarify the record, we would therefore ask Wayne LaPierre the following questions:

Do you believe that the Second Amendment provides individuals like William Kostric and Chris Broughton with a right to shoot and kill government officials when they deem our government has become "tyrannical"?

If one or two individuals who believe our government is "tyrannical" are not enough, how many individuals does it take to make political violence against our government legitimate?

Finally, how would the NRA define government "tyranny"? Does having to live with health care reform that one disagrees with constitute being "attacked by politicians"?

In his Farewell Address, George Washington said, "This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government."

Well, you concur?