One can make an historical argument that the founders wanted Americans to possess firearms as a check against an overbearing government. (But it is really, really hard to say what eighteenth Century Americans thought it meant when they ratified the Bill of Rights. Certainly it wasn’t something the founders of the Constitution thought important because they left it out.) So, the argument that gun advocates want to possess arms to be able to defend themselves from the government isn’t entirely crazy.
But (you knew there was going to be a “but,” didn’t you) consider the two situations: then and now.
Then: There was no standing army, not much of a navy, etc. Most of the arms were in the possession of individuals and there weren’t huge stockpiles of weapons available to the government. If the government really pissed off the people and there was a general revolt, there would be no stemming the tide and the revolters would win that argument.
Now: Let’s put up some serious survivalist/gun nuts on one side, some substantial militia somewhere, maybe from Michigan. On their side they have quite a few semi-automatic weapons, piles of ammunition, a few four-wheel drive vehicles and trucks, maybe a few contraband hand grenades or some dynamite, some food stores, some bandages and medicine, etc.
On the other side, the government can throw up, say, the Fifth Cavalry. No need for nuclear weapons or saturation bombing with bunker busting bombs, or any equivalent nastiness. Just the Fifth Cavalry with Apache helicopters with fully automatic weapons capable of ungodly sustained fire rates of thousands of rounds per minute, and rockets, etc. Let’s see, oh, they have tanks, field artillery, and mortars, thousands of men with semi-automatic weapons, stockpiles of ammunition, weapons, food, medical facilities (full field hospitals, med-evac services, etc.), command and control involving satellite surveillance, high altitude plane surveillance, radar, night vision, etc. Oh, and a complete command structure of officers and staff with communications systems, etc., oh, and training, lots of training.
Okay, do the revolters win now?
When you stop laughing, consider this. For the fantasy of being able to oppose our current government by force of arms, we pay a cost of thousands and thousands of lives wasted at the point of guns every year. Yes, guns don’t kill people, but “mentally unstable people with easy access to high power assault weapons kill more people easier and faster.”
Guns for hunting I am okay with. Guns for sport shooting I am okay with. (I used to own a shotgun and shot trap.) But people stockpiling pretend military weapons to be able to repel an overzealous government is fucking crazy.
That idea is dead and will be dead as long as we keep a standing army.