In the summer of 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, gave gun rights advocates a notable victory. The majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said the Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms" applies to individual Americans, not simply to members of what the amendment vaguely calls a "well-regulated militia."
The ruling, District of Columbia v. Heller, was directed specifically at cities such as Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco that had banned handgun ownership. The court's decision, however, said that most existing gun regulations do not violate the Second Amendment.
The issues tackled by the high court fall within the mainstream debate over gun ownership and regulation.
Then there's gubernatorial candidate Mike Montandon.
I don't have a good handle on whether Montandon, the former mayor of North Las Vegas, has a realistic chance of winning the Republican nomination for governor. I suspect the best he can hope for is a bronze medal, behind former federal Judge Brian Sandoval and incumbent Jim Gibbons.
But I'm sure Montandon doesn't have such a defeatist attitude. If you check out his Web site, you'll see that he's determined to secure the support of a range of conservative constituencies in Nevada.
His position on the Second Amendment definitely catches your attention.
He argues that the amendment was intended to give citizens the right to possess the weapons needed to "protect ourselves from our own nation run amok."
"Citizens involved can continue to fight the small fights, over ammunition rationing, concealed vs. open carry, etc., but they are just distractions," Montandon says. "They distract us from the big issue. While we may have the ability to defend ourselves against our own ilk gone awry, we have lost the ability to defend ourselves from a federal government gone awry."
It is true that the founding fathers had some cause to be concerned about "a federal government gone awry." After all, the thing was brand new and unproven, and they weren't sure if it was going to work the way they intended. It also was realistic back then for citizens to possess weapons that roughly equaled the arsenal maintained by the government.
This is the 21st century, though. Based on Montandon's line of thinking, citizens today should have the right to own and operate fighter jets, nuclear submarines, helicopter gunships and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. You know, in order to defend ourselves against "a federal government gone awry."
Frankly, I'm fascinated by such a scenario. I wonder: At what point is it decided that the federal government has become so oppressive that citizens must organize an armed insurrection? The founders were enraged by British taxation. Today, what tax rate triggers the revolution?
Also, who gets to determine when the insurrection starts? Can a small group of hot-headed activists make the call, or must they persuade a greater percentage of the population to join the cause before the revolution can be justified?
And let's say a bunch of people do choose to join the treasonous insurgency. Are those of us who refuse to jump on the bandwagon now the enemy, subject to attack and capture?
Now assume the revolution is under way, and the government is compelled to call in military personnel to quell the uprising. Is Montandon prepared to fire on U.S. soldiers, the same people invariably praised as heroes for their efforts to defend this country?
This all may sound a little absurd to some -- it sure does to me -- yet these questions must cross the minds of Montandon and his fellow renegades.
But they are frustrated, Montandon says, because "the law-abiding citizens no longer have weapons as effective as the federal government." Alas, he says, the possibility of revolution has been derailed by laws that do not permit civilians to own RPGs, tanks and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Dang!
This, as a reminder, is the position espoused by a leading candidate for Nevada governor. Trying to keep a straight face, I ask two questions.
First, what exactly does Montandon think he could do as governor to change the situation? The Second Amendment does not fall under the governor's purview. If Montandon wants to legally carry a grenade launcher on his shoulder, he'll have to change federal law and upend judicial precedent to enjoy that right.
Second, since, as governor, Montandon couldn't do much about gun regulation, why is this radical rhetoric given top priority on his campaign Web site? It's odd -- and not a little scary. Just a hunch, but I think the top issue on the minds of Nevadans is the lousy economy, not a fringe perspective on the Second Amendment.
Geoff Schumacher (email@example.com) is the Review-Journal's director of community publications. His column appears Friday.