Over the years, I've asked that question of libertarians and constitutionalists and gun rights purists and other types of gung-ho Freedom Lovers many times. I've never received an answer of any kind, from anyone.
Given history, however, I proposed the following motto for those self-same Freedom Lovers: "I demand the Liberty to impose my Authority on you."
Yes, well. That's basically what it is all about, which we can see quite clearly in the whole gun rights debate these days.
To many of these rightists, the Second Amendment is not only sacred, it is the only part of the Bill of Rights, and almost the only part of the Constitution itself that matters. The rest being dross in their eyes, the long-winded scribblings of dead white men...
After all, wasn't it Mao who said, "power grows out of the barrel of a gun"? Thus the primacy of the Sacred Second: it is the ability to impose one's authority on others ("power") that is the chief rationale behind the fervent desire of gun rightists to maintain their nearly unfettered access to firearms.
We see it a lot in New Mexico, though I'm sure it's worse in neighboring Texas and Arizona.
Just the other day, there was announced another Coyote Shooting Contest by yet another New Mexico firearms dealer. The Grand Prize for the most coyote heads brought in by the deadline (so to speak) being one of those AR-15s that are so popular for mass murder these days. I have no illusions that these "hunts" are anything more than modern-day posse/vigilante excursions. They used to be focused on Indians and Negroes and various designated Outlaws, but now, of course, the hunters include plenty of the formerly hunted castes, so it's (once again) the turn of the various wild animals to be slaughtered for prizes -- or just because.
Why did Americans slaughter the buffalo in such gargantuan numbers in the 19th Century? Because they could. It felt good to have such power over Nature. I can't find it now, but I saw a magazine article from about 1915, in which "sportsmen" in California showed off their one day's bag of geese shot along the Pacific Flyway. There were hundreds and hundreds of dead geese piled up around them as they posed with their dogs and their guns in the marshes of the San Joaquin Delta, and this one team of hunters said they averaged some 300-500 kills a day. Even then, conservationists and others were questioning such immense slaughter, and the excuse was the same as you hear now: the animals were feeding on or spoiling crops, and we can't have that! Civilization! What's so obviously idiotic about these claims is that there are far more people living in the area today, and there is far more intense farming going on -- and there are far more birds roosting along the flyway because after being mindlessly slaughtered to near extinction, they are now protected in most places and are thriving. And hardly anybody objects to them, not even farmers and ranchers.
Coyote kills (and wolf kills and mountain lion kills and buffalo hunts and so on) these days are said to be justified because of all the damage these animals cause to livestock and crops. "Everyone knows..." Except they don't. And the farmers and ranchers often wildly exaggerate their losses. The real point of these killings is not to protect livestock and crops, it is to assert life and death power over the Other, in this case, the Natural World.
Gun rightists don't care a whit about preventing "tyranny" in any rational sense. By and large they were either silent or actively cheering on the gutting of the rest of the Bill of Rights by Congress and the Executive during recent times, most being "patriots" and all who don't believe in such luxuries as "rights" when it comes to other citizens and terrorists -- who are often one and the same in their view. While a modern form of tyranny was being imposed and consolidated even before the advent of the Glorious Global (and Forever) War on Terror. In other words, throughout the abrogation of what remained of the Bill of Rights, Sacred Second believers either paid no attention (as long as no one tried to grab their guns!) or they were in the vanguard of the cheerleaders, where most of them still are.
They don't want to prevent tyranny, oh no. They just want to be sure they're the ones to impose it.
"I demand the Liberty to impose my Authority on you."
That is the whole of the Law and the Prophets.
In gun rightist cant and rhetoric, it doesn't matter how many people are killed every year by firearms -- never mind all the animals. According to statistics, most of the firearms deaths are suicides anyway, and who are we to stand in the way of such Liberty? As for the rest, well, too bad for them; most of them probably "needed killing" or just had bad luck, and who are we to stand in the way of such Liberty?
As for all those other abrogated "rights" Americans once had, or thought they had, so?
Most of them were interferences with the public or private and personal imposition of tyranny in any case, annoying restrictions on what could be done to impose public or private authority on others at will.
I've repeatedly pointed out that the Sacred Second is ultimately derived from the gun rights provision of the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the point of which was to ensure that one British faction was armed while another was disarmed (in the case of the Glorious Revolution, the objective was the disarmament and political neutering of British Catholics). So it has been throughout the history of gun rights advocacy. In America, of course, the objective of the Sacred Second was the private arming of the (white, male) militias, and the disarming of Negroes, Indians, and whatever designated Outlaws were being persecuted at the moment.
It is ever thus.
Liberty for whom? To do what?
As it is, the American firearms casualty numbers are close to those one would expect from an ongoing civil war, and in some sense, that is what has been taking place in this country for many a long year, with periodic spikes and lulls to be sure, but more or less constant over the long term. Arms merchants profit from it, of course, and they are eager to keep it going by any means necessary. It is the nature of their business. They need and want the public fear and suffering, the drama of the many gun incidents, the clamor both for control and unfettered access to firearms. All of it leads to more sales, more profits, more death and destruction. It's a vicious cycle.
Government is right on board with it, too.
Bringing an end to the ongoing civil war Americans are immersed in will be the key to curbing or ending the gun culture. But in order to do that, power will have to be re-distributed from a tiny minority of killers and exploiters to the rest of us. That can be done once the rest of us refuse to be cowed by the handful of killers and exploiters who rule.
So far, there is no common understanding of how to do it, and it may be generations before anyone figures out how. But history shows it can be done.
Liberty for whom? To do what?