Armed revolution can be a political community’s use of lethal force to collectively defend its members from an oppressive government. Like acts of individual self-defense against criminals, acts of collective defense against tyranny must be guided by certain universally applicable principles, including necessity and proportionality. Armed revolution is a last resort warranted only under dire circumstances, where a government’s egregious and widespread abuses threaten to inflict serious harm on the natural rights of its citizens and the normal democratic processes for addressing these threats reasonably appear to be foreclosed.
It is just as unwise and reckless to view armed revolution as a solution to every perceived injustice as it is to take a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to individual self-defense. And, just as those who use lethal force against criminals must be capable of justifying their actions in criminal or civil court, those who would use guns against their government should remember that their actions will be judged by both their contemporaries and by posterity—if not also in a court of law.