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The Mythic Meanings of the Second AmendmentTaming Political Violence in a Constitutional Republic$
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David C. Williams

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780300095623

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300095623.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
The Mythic Meanings of the Second Amendment

David C. Williams

Yale University Press

This chapter describes the influence of constitutional stories to tame political violence that shapes the lives of the people, and uses two different stories to mark out the poles of a continuum of attitudes. The first story narrates the creation of United States of America in 1776, an act of great political violence against the British Empire. The second narrates the Murrah Federal Building bombing, committed by Timothy McVeigh—which he viewed as an act of resistance against the oppressive central government. The narratives show that America holds an ambivalent relationship with political violence: the people generally accept it, but there are times at which they do not. This mindset is apparent in the English language itself: revolution generally connotes legitimate resistance to an illegitimate government, and rebellion constitutes an illegitimate resistance to a legitimate one.

Keywords:   political violence, revolution, rebellion, United States, legitimate resistance, illegitimate resistance

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