It appears we’re going to engage in some sort of impassioned public debate about the possession of firearms. This debate, while unlikely to change anything, is long overdue.
One of the talking points trotted out by the gun huggers is the idea that ownership of a gun is what allows ordinary citizens to stand up and oppose their government. Gun ownership is seen as a way to prevent tyranny.
Just to be clear: I’m as concerned as anybody about the assorted tyrannical abuses perpetrated by our current government. You and I might not agree in every instance about what’s a tyranny and what isn’t — I happen to think Obama didn’t go nearly far enough in the direction of socialized medicine — but I think we can all agree that the federal government is a hella dangerous mess. The point I want to make is simply this: Guns do not offer you any effective protection against tyranny. That idea is nothing but a fantasy. Gun ownership was probably effective 225 years ago, when the United States was a small, sparsely populated nation with a new and uncertain form of government, but a lot has changed since then. Opposing tyranny today is not nearly as easy as owning guns!
Thinking gun ownership provides you with some sort of political autonomy is right-wing bullshit in an especially naked and stupid form. Fortunately, crushing this argument is not difficult. It might even be fun. So let’s give it a shot.
The first thing that needs to be asked, since there’s already quite a lot of gun ownership in the United States, is, “How’s it working so far?” Now, I’m not fond of the way our governments (state and federal) operate, and I’m sure a lot of other people aren’t either — perhaps for different reasons. Conservatives tend to feel the government is trampling on their sacred rights far too energetically, while liberals tend to feel the government ought to be doing a lot more than it’s doing to rein in certain abuses.
The conservatives, of course, are the ones with the guns. So … how’s it working for you, guys? Is the fact that you own guns keeping the government off your backs? Are you enjoying your wonderful freedoms? No? If you already feel the hot breath of government encroachment on your neck (and I’ll bet a nickel that you do, or think you do), then we would have to conclude that, as a preserver of freedom, gun ownership is pretty much a bust. It’s not working.
Second point: I’m more than a bit curious about how exactly gun ownership is supposed to provide the expected benefits. Eldridge Cleaver, whom younger people may never have heard of — he was a big wheel in the Black Panther Party, an activist group that the government stomped to death back in the ’60s — was at one time fond of quoting Mao Zedong, who said, “All power comes from the barrel of a gun.” Cleaver was promoting the idea that the Black Panthers should be allowed to arm themselves with, you know, assault rifles and such paraphernalia, as allowed by the Second Amendment.
Somebody should have pointed out to Cleaver that, to the extent that Mao was right (and we could have an interesting discussion about that), he — Cleaver — ought to be very quiet about it, because the government had at least 10,000 times the number of guns the Black Panthers did. The Panthers were angry about a lot of things, and quite rightly so, but their insistence on the right to arm themselves was not only a bunch of stupid macho posturing, it got them killed. By the government.
Of course, that will never happen to you, Mr. Right-Wing Gun Owner, because … well, why? Maybe because you’re white. But the fact remains: The government can take you down any time they feel they need to, because they’ve got a LOT more guns than you do. They’ve got stockpiles of munitions from here to Chicago, and thousands of men who are trained to use them. Oh, and also, the people who give the orders to use those munitions to get rid of troublesome dissidents are almost entirely free from accountability. They can do whatever they like, congratulate themselves, and then go home to a nice dinner with the wife and kids.
How exactly is your pathetic little stockpile of AK-47s going to withstand the firepower of the United States government? The drones? The phosphorus grenades? The armored vehicles? The high-tech surveillance gear? The infiltrators and provocateurs who join your little band of militiamen while on the payroll of ATF? You have no hope of protecting yourself against any of that stuff. You’re just having a bullshit fantasy because you love your guns.
Or what about Waco? There are no good guys in that story. From what I’ve read, it seems clear David Koresh was a psychotic menace. On the other hand, Attorney General Janet Reno’s handling of the situation was a raw and heinous abuse of power — tyranny on the hoof. If the feds had used less aggressive tactics, a lot of innocent children wouldn’t have died. But if Koresh had had enough sense not to start stockpiling weapons, it’s a good bet he and his sad bunch of acolytes would still be alive today. They died because they were convinced they needed to stockpile guns to protect themselves from the government. Didn’t work out so well, did it? And was Reno inconvenienced, even for a moment, by the Branch Davidians’ weaponry? Silly rabbit, do you even need to ask?
Third, let’s look at the real-world evidence of how terribly the powerless citizens of a nation suffer when they aren’t allowed to own guns. Let’s look at Sweden. Or maybe New Zealand. Or Belgium. Wikipedia is not always reliable, but if these statistics are off, they’re not off by a whole bunch. According to an article on Wikipedia, the United States leads the world in guns owned per capita (88.8 per hundred residents). Sweden has a mere 31.6 guns per hundred, New Zealand 22.6, and Belgium a pathetic, emasculated 17.2.
Those nations are all in the grip of evil tyrants who wantonly trample the citizens’ liberties, right? Well, no. Wrong. Dead wrong, in fact. All three are thriving democracies whose citizens enjoy a high standard of living. Also, and not by coincidence, the citizens are far less likely than folks here in the U.S. to die in gun violence. I’ll leave you to learn more about conditions in Sweden, Belgium, and New Zealand at your leisure. I’m sure all of them have domestic problems and power struggles. Also an occasional murder by gun. There is no paradise on Earth. But still, they’re doing pretty well — and without the alleged benefits of gun ownership.
In sum, the notion that guns protect the citizenry of the United States from tyranny is just a lot of hooey. Please stop trying to use this argument on us, guys. The rubber on it is so thin there’s no tread left. You’re just spinning your wheels.