Gun Rights & Tyranny

Armed Predator drone firing Hellfire missile

Armed Predator drone firing Hellfire missile (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One common approach to arguing in favor of civilian gun rights is to claim that such rights prevent, deter or at least provide a defense against tyranny. In general, the idea seems to be that the people in power will be less inclined and less able to impose tyranny if the civilian population possesses the right to keep and bear arms. In the United States, this is presented in terms of the members of the government deciding to impose tyrannical rule over the people.

On the face of it, this justification does have some appeal. After all, if the government has to overcome armed civilians, then it would obviously be harder than using force against unarmed civilians. Also it could be argued that politicians might fear that they would be assassinated by armed patriots if they started acting in tyrannical ways.

People also point to the American Revolution and claim that the fact that the civilian population was armed was an important factor in the American victory over the British tyranny. Those with some science-fiction leanings also present counter-factual scenarios in which one is asked to imagine what would have happened in Germany if the Jews and anti-Nazi Germans had possessed the right to keep and bear arms (or were at least armed). Stalin and other dictators are also often brought up in this context. The idea is, of course, to appeal to the intuitions of the audience and persuade them that if only the Germans had had their own Second Amendment, then Hitler might have never been able to come to power and the Holocaust might not have happened.

The idea that the cowardly politicians who dream of tyranny are kept in check by red-blooded Americans exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms does have a certain emotional appeal. So too does the thought of armed plucky rebels defending America from tyranny. In fact, such scenarios would no doubt make for successful Hollywood films. But what is appealing and what might make a blockbuster film are not the same as what is, in fact, true.

Naturally enough, the general idea of the role of civilian armaments in deterring tyrants can be debated extensively. This is, of course, a worthwhile debate and would be a rather interesting project for historians to sort out. However, what is under discussion here is the rather specific matter of whether or not the right to keep and bear arms is warranted by the deterrent value of this right against tyranny. This, obviously enough, involves some key matters of fact.

One obvious matter of fact is the issue of whether or not gun rights frightens politicians with tyrannical intentions—that is, whether worries about assassination keep them in check.

As argued above, it makes sense to think that a politician would be less inclined to do something if she believed doing so would result in people attempting to kill her. Naturally, if the population has easy access to firearms, then an assassin could easily acquire a gun. If there were strict controls on guns, then politicians would have less to worry about in terms of assassins drawn from the ranks of the general population. They would just have to worry about the military and police forces (and anyone who could make a bomb or wield a knife). Obviously, even in a state with strict civilian gun control, the politicians would need to win over the majority of the military and police forces to their tyrannical agenda—or their attempts at tyranny would end rather quickly. In the United States, this would require winning over the national forces (the military, FBI, and so on) as well as the state (National Guard and state police) and local forces (police and sheriffs).

Interestingly, democratic states with stricter gun control than the United States, such as the United Kingdom, do not seem to have fallen into tyranny. This suggests that it is not fear of assassination by citizens exercising their guns rights that keeps a democratic state from tyranny, but rather other factors. But perhaps they are just biding their time and the United Kingdom will soon be back under an absolute monarchy.

A second obvious matter of fact is the issue of whether or not civilian gun ownership would deter the military and police forces from imposing tyranny on the people at the behest of the tyrant(s). This, of course, assumes that the tyrant(s) has won over the majority of the military and police forces to her plot of tyranny and that there is no significant opposition from the military and police forces that are not in on the tyrannical take over. That is, the tyrant has won over the American citizens in the military and police forces to the degree that they would be willing to throw aside the Constitution and turn their weapons against the general population—including their friends, family, spouses, and children.

In such a scenario, it would seem that civilian weapons would be of little use. After all, the military and police forces of the tyrant would have military weapons (tanks, attack helicopters, bombers, artillery, ships, nukes and so on). Handguns, rifles and shotguns would be of rather limited use against such forces. Back in the time when civilian weapons and military weapons were essentially on par (muskets) and the most destructive military weapons were very limited (muzzle loading cannons) an armed civilian population would reasonably be regarded as a deterrent. However, it is hard to imagine suburban Americans battling successfully against tanks, Predator drones, and Hellfire missiles using AR-15s and .38 specials. That said, there is something to be said for an honorable death fighting against impossible odds.

Of course, the civilians could turn to the sort of tactics used by insurgents and terrorists to resist the military and police of the tyrant—but this would not be a case of the right to keep and bear arms deterring tyranny. However, the main thing that seems to defeat tyrants is a lack of support-without that a tyrant is a just a single man.

Naturally, it can be pointed out that civilian arms could be used to resist a small scale tyrannical incursion (perhaps a takeover in a small town). However, in such a scenario the tyrant would soon be dealt with by the police or military of the state. Also, the main deterrents against American tyrants grabbing American towns would seem to involve not guns but other factors—like an unwillingness to go along with a tyrant.

It would thus seem that civilian gun ownership would be little, if any, deterrence or defenses against a serious tyrant. It is also interesting to note that if such armaments provided considerable power against the state, there would be the fear that they would be used by a segment of the population to impose their own tyrant on others.

In light of the above, the defense against tyranny argument would seem to provide little in the way of justification for civilian gun rights. This should not be terribly shocking—after all, the second amendment does not justify the right to keep and bear arms in terms of having an armed population ready to shoot it out with other armed citizens.

There are, however, good reasons for gun rights, but these are beyond the intended scope of this essay.

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22 Comments.

  1. There’s a good case to be made that the NRA is a tyrannical organisation bent on controlling its view of how a democracy should be run, by undemocratic means: lobbying with power beyond their democratic proportion of the population, the not so subtle threat of revolution, implied, or even made explicit by some of the crazier members.

    Currently the political stuff is working, so not so much the need for direct action. But do you think the US is somehow free of Taliban like crazies? Do you think there aren’t enough latent terrorists?

    The odd thing is that the biggest threat from government tyranny in the US comes from the extreme conservative right. The fundamental religious, the greedy military industrialists, are all more likely to pose an anti-democratic threat to liberty; and the brainless gun totting bozo underclass is easy for them to whip up into a frenzy. How else would they come to equate liberal democratic politicians with Stalinism, Fascism and Islamic terrorism in equal measure? It’s the political right that makes a big fuss about patriotism for political ends, while doing everything they can to stall a democratically elected government; and are so often caught telling outright lies in the process.

  2. The NRA/Teaparty always treat the “tyrant” as an individual who rises without popular support, and then tyrannizes with the aid of an alien faceless state (Bond villain style henchmen).

    But this is not so.

    Hitler rise to power was through a movement so similar to the American Teaparty as to be nearly indistinguishable. The same authoritarian anti-democratic rhetoric dressed up as patriotism and “freedom”. Although there were tighter gun laws in Germany, because of political instability and popular support for the extreme right, Hitler’s Teaparty thugs were easily able to acquire guns. Guns, which they used to intimidate and murder political opponents – they even went as far as attempting an armed revolution in Munich in 1923. These thugs saw themselves just as the Teaparty; patriots defending their country against tyranny – against the enemies within.

    The reality of gun control in Germany in the 1920s. Hitler at all times was able to parade around with fully armed militias of paramilitaries – his SS, among others. They were tolerated by the German state as they were seen as bulwark against the possibility of a communist revolution. Both communist and fascist activists were armed and did kill each other. The availability of guns contributed to the political instability, which then contributed to the availability of guns.

    The German fascists were more tolerated by state, in the same way the Klu Klux Klan (an earlier formulation of the Teaparty), were able to murder hundreds of people, pose for photographs in front of burning bodies with their smiling faces uncovered for popular postcards sold all throughout the south, without fear of prosecution by state authorities.

    Funnily, the NRA never use the Klan as an argument for the right to bear arms. As for the argument of Jews being able to defend themselves against the German Teaparty if only they had had the 2nd Amendment, why were the hundreds of people lynched in America, who did have the 2nd Amendment, unable to defend themselves. The simple reason, like the Jews in Germany, they were out gunned by both the thugs and the state.

    Was an armed resistance possible in Germany. Well there initially had been by the communists but as the Horst Wessell Lied goes Kam’raden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen , they were mostly shot. The first concentration camps were for political opponents not Jews. And back to the myth of the tyrant acting alone. Hitler’s state relied on the help of ever vigilant patriots for its’ defense. People were able to have their next door neighbours sent to the concentration camps simply for being un-German. It wasn’t the Gestapo you had to worry about (they were bored silly – they had the public doing all their investigating and terrorising for them). Who you had to worry about was your next door neighbour, the ever vigilant (and armed) patriot who was staunchly defending your “freedom” and “liberty”.

    By 1938, the German guns laws were relaxed to the point nearly everyone (apart from Jews) could own a gun. By the end of the war, even Pope Bernard, who was a child at the time, had a gun.

    The easy availability of guns in Germany did far more to lead to tyranny than it ever did to protect against it.

  3. “After all, the military and police forces of the tyrant would have military weapons (tanks, attack helicopters, bombers, artillery, ships, nukes and so on). Handguns, rifles and shotguns would be of rather limited use against such forces.”

    All the Taliban have is AK-47s, RPGs, and improvised explosive devices. They have not been defeated by the tanks, attack helicopters, drones, and other expensive hi-tech weaponry.

    The aim of an insurgency is not to win through overwhelming force, it’s to keep the greater force pinned down to the point they give up. It’s asymmetric warfare. The side with more resources may have more resources, but the insurgents with small inexpensive sporadic raids can deny them complete control. Batista always had the larger force, Castro only had a small band – but Castro could defeat Batista.

    A popular insurgency can always get their hands on guns, but they may not even need that many to be effective. Simply disrupting the functioning of the state they’re trying to overthrow may be enough. I knew a woman who had been involved in the Irish war for independence. She was a waitress by day, working in a hotel where British officers were stationed – here she gleaned intelligence. By night she would go on raids, where without guns, they would set off the trip wire alarm bells around barracks to give the illusion the soldiers were about to be attacked – if nothing else, this would keep the soldiers awake for a few hours – but through a cumulative unarmed disruption the much larger force was eventually paralysed.

    In the early days of the Vietnam war, American military intelligence believed the North Vietnamese were supplying the Viet Cong with their guns – the Ho Chi Minh trail. They later came to the astonishing realisation, that they were in fact the main suppliers of the Viet Cong’s weaponry. The American backed South Vietnam military, had been infiltrated to the point two thirds of the force were Viet Cong – guns, rockets, were literally being handed to them by Americans, who they then used them against.

    “As argued above, it makes sense to think that a politician would be less inclined to do something if she believed doing so would result in people attempting to kill her.”

    Yes, this woman did exist. Margret Thatcher. The IRA made several attempts on her life, including blowing up the hotel she was sleeping in. This in fact made her less inclined to accommodate their demands.

    Voltaire may have said “The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination.”, but he may not have been absolutely serious.

    There are countless examples where tyrannies have been overthrown with and without arms. The NRA’s arguments never stand up. But what is stranger, is how the NRA can continuously repeat the same weak arguments, and frequent outright outrageous lies, without much challenge from the American media.

  4. JMRC:

    Counter-insurgency techniques have advanced quite a bit since the days of Fidel Castro.

    I think that counter-insurgency techniques do not work well in a culture where the insurgents are at home and the counter-insurgents are not at home, as in Afghanistan or in Viet Nam or with the French in Algeria. “They all look the same” to the occupying counter-insurgent force.

    I live in Chile and during the Pinochet dictatorship, the attempts at armed struggle against the dictatorship were not overly successful, partially because they were infiltrated by the secret police, who knew the territory and the culture as well as the insurgents did and were a lot less scrupulous in their methods.

    However, counter-insurgent methods have been less successful against armed Mapuche Native-American groups in the last few years because their tight communities are impossible to infiltrate and because no one knows their territory as they do.

  5. swallerstein,

    “Counter-insurgency techniques have advanced quite a bit since the days of Fidel Castro.”

    Well, Cuba is different for lots of reasons. But the Taliban play a very similar game – they’re always just out of reach, somewhere in the mountains. The psychology is very important – Batista was never going to fight to the bloody end.

    “I think that counter-insurgency techniques do not work well in a culture where the insurgents are at home and the counter-insurgents are not at home, as in Afghanistan or in Viet Nam or with the French in Algeria. “They all look the same” to the occupying counter-insurgent force.”

    There are a lot of factors. The French were very barbaric in Algeria – a figure I’ve heard is they killed 250,000 Algerians. As there is a cross pollination in insurgency theory, there’s a similar cross pollination in counter-insurgency theory. The American, British and French all copied from each other. Some of the “enhanced” interrogation techniques used by the Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq, seemed to be straight out of a British training manual from the 70s.

    The counter-insurgency techniques the British were using in Northern Ireland in the 80s, were very different from the early 70s. They were more effective, but also complicated and incredibly expensive. Ultimately, the insurgents were able to adapt to these techniques – so while they were effective, they didn’t end the conflict.

    If there is a strong political reason for an insurgency, counter-insurgency will just put off the inevitable for a few years. Like America in Afghanistan – they haven’t been defeated, but they haven’t really achieved anything in the last ten years. They have walked away from the Panjshir Valley – which is an effective defeat. Ten years of blood and treasure with no achievement.

    With Vietnam, the American government really did not know why they were there. They really didn’t. This can happen because the government administrations change, so it’s not all that clear why the last administration were involved – there’s a little debriefing but that’s it. If you read Robert McNammara’s book on the war, you can see, they never had any idea why they were there. They were trying to retain a French colony although the French were long gone.

    “I live in Chile and during the Pinochet dictatorship, the attempts at armed struggle against the dictatorship were not overly successful, partially because they were infiltrated by the secret police, who knew the territory and the culture as well as the insurgents did and were a lot less scrupulous in their methods.”

    Pinochet was able to use extreme and overwhelming force. Many of the people he had killed couldn’t be described by any measure as insurgents. Insurgencies can take decades to find their feet. Infiltration is one of the early counter-insurgency techniques. But the IRA in Northern Ireland combated this by having cell structures – the cells would be small, and the members of each would be unaware of the membership or activities of another. The cells in fact could be infiltrated and still function. And there was a complicated tit for tat – if the British soldiers summarily executed an IRA man, the IRA would respond with a similar atrocity. When it gets to the stage of a carefully measured tit for tat, it’s a deadlock and that’s the time for a political negotiation.

    Had Pinochet been in power longer, although the level of surveillance was at East German Stasi levels, the insurgency may have adapted.

    But every situation is different. In Spain there was an armed resistance, and although they assassinated Franco’s anointed successor, they still waited for Franco to die, who at this point was very unpopular in everyone’s eyes.

    But there are so many examples to draw on, and each is different. The British did not hand over India peacefully because they were impressed by Gandhi’s non-violence. They knew they were about to get a royale ass-whoopin’ with cheese, if they did not.

    “However, counter-insurgent methods have been less successful against armed Mapuche Native-American groups in the last few years because their tight communities are impossible to infiltrate and because no one knows their territory as they do.”

    If they cannot be beaten, after several hundred years, it has to be accepted that they cannot be beaten.

  6. JRMC:

    They had compartimentalized structures in Chile too.

    The resistence was very young, very romantic, very idealistic, very innocent. They underestimated how ruthless and especially how intelligent the Army was. They read too many books. They trusted the common people too much and they trusted the Cubans much too much.

    The dictatorship tortured and tortured, successfully discovering the leaders of principle underground groups and then disappearing them.

    Pinochet had to accept the results of the 1988 plebiscite because he had lost the support of the U.S. government and hence, of the Chilean Air Force.

    One successful case of a guerrilla movement is the Sandinistas in Nicaragua overthrowing Somoza.

  7. swallerstein,

    “They had compartimentalized structures in Chile too.”

    To compartimentalise is not enough. IRA cells could be as small as one person, who has no communication with the main organisation. They do not engage in activism. They may have a mission (dummy bombs – planting fake bombs every so often – or some other kind of disruption they’re tasked with), or it could just be to run a safe house (someone turns up at their house and they don’t ask questions – permanent safe houses will always be found out). If these people are captured, they won’t have any information anyhow. They can be tortured or killed, but that will likely have a counterproductive effect.

    A cold, calculating insurgency will even invite these atrocities.

    “The resistence was very young, very romantic, very idealistic, very innocent.”

    And that is precisely the kind of thinking that gets you killed in an insurrection.

    “They underestimated how ruthless and especially how intelligent the Army was. They read too many books. They trusted the common people too much and they trusted the Cubans much too much.”

    In the 60s and 70s, the Provisional IRA had the cultural memory, and some of the people who had fought in the Irish war for Independence in the 20s. They were well informed. They were far more brutal and efficient in dealing with paid informers. In the 20s, the British literally made people rich for delivering information. The Provos had no qualms in torturing and killing people they believed to be informers.

    But crucially. These people were not naive in the slightest.

    “The dictatorship tortured and tortured, successfully discovering the leaders of principle underground groups and then disappearing them.”

    And this is where they had their structure all wrong. With the IRA, the identities of the leadership were known, but the structure of the organisation was such, that to decapitate the leadership would just result in a more ferocious leadership taking their place, with no real damage to the organisation. In 1922, the leadership of the IRA were able to walk around Dublin in full tunic (full uniform) – the police and soldiers just ignored them. And the same with the IRA leadership in the Northern Ireland in the 70s, and 80s. The British knew who they were and could kill them, but who do you deal with then?

    “Pinochet had to accept the results of the 1988 plebiscite because he had lost the support of the U.S. government and hence, of the Chilean Air Force.

    One successful case of a guerrilla movement is the Sandinistas in Nicaragua overthrowing Somoza.”

    I don’t know. It could take a very long time to really understand what happened. Like in Europe. There’s never really been that discussion about Spain. One night the Spanish went to bed in a right-wing dictatorship, and the next morning they woke up as part of the liberal democratic family of European nations. Even the mid-eastern-Europeans are quite open to discuss the past, but with Spain it’s “I had so much Sangria last night, I can’t remember a thing”. And the past isn’t really the past – it is the nature of the present.

    And Mike LaBossiere’s next essay will be “The economics of atrocity; the double-entry book keeping of political and social violence” ….Though, that may have him up before the board of his college and threaten his tenure, but I’m sure if he can rally a few radical students in his defense, and with the threat of assignation – or even a pre-emptive assignation, he should be fine.

  8. The insurrectionist argument for the 2nd amendment is interesting to me because it verges on paradoxical. The point of setting up a state is to create reasonable agreements that allow us to overcome the “state of nature” or “might makes right” that we otherwise find ourselves stuck in. But this way of understanding the 2nd amendment is based on pointing out that actually in the end, might still makes right… Which is in one sense indisputable, just in terms of concrete outcomes, but which seems at odds with the purpose of constituting a state…

    Basically, I would say there are two problems: first, this amendment would only become important after every other part of the constitution has been destroyed. The point of a self-governing state is that it can fix itself through democratic means, so it is only in complete failure that insurrection makes sense. Second, who decides when that point is, or which group of external patriots is on the right track? Since they are not behaving democratically or according to constitutional norms anymore, the originary document can have no jurisdiction – we’re back to a state of nature. So the usefulness of the 2nd amendment, if it’s really for protection against the government as insurrectionists suggest (and not for supplying the national guard with troops, or for guarding against slave rebellions, or some other theory) is to destroy itself.

    Of course, there are already people on both the left and the right making claims about the need to overthrow the government:
    http://www.newyorkdailysun.com/only-rebellion-can-save-america/1490
    http://www.alternet.org/has-america-become-authoritarian-state
    This is more evident with contemporary interactive media, but there have always been people suggesting that the government is tyrannical. Yet to say that people can actually follow through and bear arms against the government is not going to be supported by a court of the government.

    In the end it seems simple enough to read it as a right to belong to the national guard, and then consider that the national guard/military would have a major claim in whether the standing army would turn against the people or stand up for them (this allows for both patriotic defense and some level of weapons regulation). Anything further is just apocalyptic fantasy.

  9. “There are, however, good reasons for gun rights”

    In general, I don’t think this is so. There are surely exceptions, but they are far from universally-applicable, IMO.

    P.S. it’s eight hundred years or so since we British started to move away from absolute monarchy. We finished off that move around 1650. I don’t think we’ll be going back there soon. ;-)

  10. Miranda Nell,

    “The point of setting up a state is to create reasonable agreements that allow us to overcome the “state of nature” or “might makes right” that we otherwise find ourselves stuck in.”

    Not necessarily. You’re going from two extremes; the modern liberal democracy to early hunter gatherers clubbing each other over resources. There is a lot of variation in between. In a right-wing dictatorship, a powerful group exploits a less powerful group – and the agreement is mediated with the threat of, or naked, violence. It’s not the state of nature – and these states are still common. Syria is an example. Burma. Turkmenistan. Belarus. Apartheid South Africa. Antebellum slave states would be another example – the slaves did not pick cotton in return for meager rations out of some gentlemanly agreement they had with the owners of the plantations – The Antebellum world was not as genteel and civilised as some would like have you believe.

    “But this way of understanding the 2nd amendment is based on pointing out that actually in the end, might still makes right… Which is in one sense indisputable, just in terms of concrete outcomes, but which seems at odds with the purpose of constituting a state…”

    The deterrent effect is a concrete outcome in itself. BUT – who is trying to deter what?

    “Basically, I would say there are two problems: first, this amendment would only become important after every other part of the constitution has been destroyed.”

    No. It can have the purpose of legally arming and irregular army of paramilitaries who are an extension of the state’s regular military. An occupying force can, and will, tear up the constitution – under the Geneva convention those paramilitaries would still have a legal status if they refused to disarm, and continued fighting.

    In an insurrection. The insurrectionists are first criminals, then terrorists, then insurgents, and eventually as the conflict comes to its’ end; statesmen.

    Law like the 2nd Amendment is not unique to the US. Northern Ireland for most of its’ history was ostensibly a liberal democracy, in reality it was a protestant dictatorship. The UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) first an illegal organisation, then legal recognised after the foundation of the state of Northern Ireland. It was a civilian militia of volunteers who could be legally armed – it’s purpose, to defend the protestant state….From the Catholic nationalists, who could not be legally armed.

    “The point of a self-governing state is that it can fix itself through democratic means, so it is only in complete failure that insurrection makes sense.”

    This is essentially the story of Northern Ireland.

    “Second, who decides when that point is, or which group of external patriots is on the right track?”

    And this is where very serious problems arise, as civilian militias have a tendency to go off the rails.

    “Since they are not behaving democratically or according to constitutional norms anymore, the originary document can have no jurisdiction – we’re back to a state of nature.”

    In that instance, you simply change the law. In Northern Ireland, the UVF and other legal paramilitary “defense” organisations did not like the democratic direction the state of Northern Ireland was taking. So they engaged in violent pogroms. Their status was changed from legal to outlaw. At this, they became fully fledged illegal terrorist organisations.

    The reality of the 2nd Amendment is it’s anachronistic law. It was common in many countries to require citizens to keep arms, and train regularly for the purpose of civil defense – and to be ready in case of a war for conscription – this was mandated by law or decree (which is law). Large standing armies are a relatively new phenomenon. Even old European universities would have a charter somewhere requiring their students be armed (carry swords) to defend the university from attack.

    Large regularised police forces and armies are a feature of the 20th century. Modern states fully monopolise violence under the rule of law.

    We didn’t suddenly jump from the state of nature to Belgium. Building the institutions and laws was a very long process. The process is not over – we have not reached the end of history yet.

  11. First, I must apologize for my tardiness. This semester is beating me like a pinata: 4 classes (one new hybrid class), 7 committees and a program review, plus my usual administrative and advising duties.

    Miranda,

    Your points are excellent-the idea that people have a legally guaranteed right to be armed against the collapse of the legal framework that grounds the legal right does seem a bit of a paradox.

    The idea that it is a collective right has some appeal-presumably this point was made to distinguish between an army beholden to a king and an army beholden to the people. However, the other writings of the authors of the amendment would indicate their support of individual rights. I am generally inclined to take it as an individual right-it would seem somewhat odd to say that a state has a right to a military in the bill of rights.

    I tend to think that it is not the plucky patriots packing peashooters that keeps democracy going, rather it is mainly the non-violent political processes and the value placed on not having a tyranny.

    Steve,

    The self-defense argument seems to be the most compelling for gun rights in general. After all, if I have a right to self-defense, then without a right to the means, then the right would be useless. This does, of course, have to be weighed like any other right against potential harms. As such, we could still agree on banning guns while also agreeing that in doing so we are violating a legitimate right (for the greater good).

    In the United States, there is also the acceptance of gun rights based on hunting right (and protection from wild animals). Being from Maine, I’ve run into bears. Fortunately, the incidents were all resolved peacefully (the bears elected to run away rather than to see if I was as tasty as a blueberry or salmon). I also know folks who live in the real wilds and use their guns to provide food (no McDonalds, grocery store or Starbucks in the area). There are also folks who enjoy target shooting. This seems on par with folks who enjoy having cars in that people getting hurt is part of the price of allowing the right of a citizen to own a machine that can do terrible damage by accident or intent (a car or a gun).

    These might fall under the exceptions you note, though.

  12. Steve Merrick,

    “P.S. it’s eight hundred years or so since we British started to move away from absolute monarchy. We finished off that move around 1650. I don’t think we’ll be going back there soon. ”

    And now Britain is ruled by a tiny pool of people who all attended Eton – what are the odds of that, it’s nearly like having a cabinet full of lottery winners. Hurrah for democracy!!! Hurrah!!!

  13. “…it makes sense to think that a politician would be less inclined to do something if she believed doing so would result in people attempting to kill her.”

    There is also the concern that this power could be abused. After all, a politician could be in danger simply for having a different opinion than some citizen or assassin. e.g. Lincoln or Kennedy

  14. JMRC,

    I’m not claiming we’ve achieved democracy, only that we’ve moved away from absolute monarchy. ;-)

  15. The Department of Homeland Security is only allowed to work within the US borders. Now it needs 7,000 “personal defense” weapons. Who would they be using these weapons on?

    http://www.thedailysheeple.com/why-are-ar-15s-personal-defense-weapons-for-the-dhs-but-assault-rifles-for-citizens_012013

  16. The Truth,

    Who? he legally armed citizens acting illegally (or armed insurgent illegal aliens), when they have to.

    One reason British police can remain largely unarmed (given the political decision that they should be unarmed) is that they meet armed resistance infrequently. If all UK citizens were free to arm themselves legally then the police would have to arm full time. The police have to deal with many non-criminal events in which unstable people need to be restrained, for their own benefit and that of others. The police do this quite well and with relative ease because the situation does not generally include firearms. And when it does they try to isolate and negotiate; and armed response units may be called if needed.

    Once an arms race, or heightened arms equality, or MAD, is in place then it pretty much defines what other parties have to do (including the peaceful Sam Harris justifying being armed himself).

    Homeland Security would not be providing much security if they were less well armed than the perceived threats.

    The gun toting bozo citizenry are heading to fulfil their own prophecy. That’s the madness of MAD.

    If you can avoid an armed citizenry, then do so. If you’ve got a deeply engrained one then take small long term steps to wind it down. Obama is currently pretty much cornered by the crazies and their gun suppliers.

  17. Truth,

    Presumably some of the same sorts of people the police do.

  18. Ron,

    It saddens me greatly that the US refuses to look at what is working for the rest of the first world. We’re so Ethnocentric. Convinced that we know what’s best when so many other countries are doing it so much better. Meanwhile we fall further and further into debt, social and political division and general inequality.

  19. The ethnocentrism is only a part of the problem. A bigger part is the commitment to benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the general good. For example, Finland has a top notch education system that uses no standardized tests. In the US, a typical student takes 12 standardized tests by the time s/he is a senior. The main purpose of these tests is to make money for the folks who own the companies that sell the tests. They have little or no educational value.

  20. Gun Rights & Tyranny: A Coda | Talking Philosophy - pingback on January 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm
  21. Mike LaBossiere,

    I like giving the rich a kicking as much as the next man – it helps build their character. But there are rich people in Finland, who have businesses, and it is not a communist country. Per capita it is even slight wealthier than the US. The real difference, is the middle-class, who are the real power, don’t swallow all the free enterprise nonsense and draw the line at their children.

    In the US, if you suggest mind altering breakfast cereals (sugar is the methamphetamine for kids – artificial colours the LSD) should not be marketed to small children, you would be called a communist. By people who have small children – they’re protecting something ephemeral; the American way of life. You can blame the rich, but a lot of this John Bircher lunacy wells up from underneath.

    And the rich are not as diabolically intelligent as they appear. Wealth and power often gives that illusion. Reading an Ayn Rand quote recently, she said a conspiracy cannot destroy a country, only an ideology can do that. And though Ayn was crazy as fox in a spring meadow, she did have a point.

  22. Your argument that superior weapons of the military make is useless to arms the civilian population is ridiculous. Otherwise we would have a stable situation in Afghanistan.

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