Bush v. Kerry on Guns

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Alternet has an interesting piece on the NRA's role in the presidential election and the disenchantment of Second Amendment supporters with George W. Bush. The author, Evan Derkacz, is hip to the distinction between libertarians and Republicans. He even quotes "a writer for a prominent libertarian blog" who sees John Kerry as "the lesser evil" this year.

But Derkacz doesn't quite grasp why gun rights advocates object to the federal "assault weapon" ban, which Bush and Kerry both want to renew. He twice notes that "the AK-47 isn't a hunting rifle," implying that 1) the AK-47 is covered by the ban and 2) the point of the Second Amendment is to preserve hunting.

In fact, although Derkacz claims the law "targets semi-automatic and automatic rifles designed especially for combat," machine guns have been illegal since the 1930s. If you take seriously the idea of the Second Amendment as a safeguard against tyranny (as opposed to a hunter protection measure), you have to wonder how the older ban can be reconciled with the Constitution. Wouldn't machine guns be more effective at resisting an oppressive government than semiautomatics? But in the case of the "assault weapon" ban, the main objection is not that it deprives people of useful guns but that it is utterly arbitrary in its choice of targets, undermining respect for the right to keep and bear arms by restricting it for no good reason at all.

[Thanks to Jeff Schaler for the link.]

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  1. The $200 tax was always that amount, even back in 1934 when the NFA was passed (as a tax measure, to avoid openly clashing with the Tenth amendment).

    In the 1986 reform of the Gun Control Act of 1968, the antis stuck on a rider banning registration of new machine guns.

  2. Wouldn’t armored veicles be more effective at resisting an oppressive government than machine guns? Wouldn’t military aircraft be more effective at resisting an oppressive government than armor? I’m not a big slippery slope fan, but let’s be realistic about what exactly we’d have to arm ourselves with to resist our gov’t if it decided to go drasticaly oppressive.

  3. My problem with gun-bans is that opponents never have any clear solution to gun violence other than tossing out laws and stocking up on ammo.

  4. C, the colonials used cannons and privateers (armed private ships) against the Brits. They never proposed any restrictions on private ownership of military hardware–that only came about in 1934 under FDR.

  5. ” . . . which Bush and Kerry both want to renew.”

    If Bush wanted to renew, it would likely be a done deal already. But Bush has let attempts to renew the ’94 ban die. In fact, he has encouraged the death of the major renewal attempt, asking specifically for a “clean bill”. Kerry, in contrast, took time out from his campaign to go to DC and vote to renew the AWB.

  6. Of course, they’d have to. The British had a world class military, they weren’t going to get chased off by peasants with pitchforks.

    So are we to understand that, under the “resist oppression” argument, that the 2nd amendment protects the right to own any kind of military gear money can buy?

  7. There are a million and one reasons to not vote for Bush (I’m not going to, although I live in TX so it doesn’t actually matter) but trying to argue that he’s been a failure on gun rights is just silly. The Bush Admin has signed no new gun laws, issued no new gun rights-infringing exec orders, and their DOJ put in an ‘individual rights’ upholding amicus brief in a case a couple of years ago.

    Claiming that Kerry, who holds a 100% rating from the Brady Bunch – VPC crowd, would be better with regards to gun rights, is just ridiculous on its face.

    RE AK-47s… The AWB actually had no effect on this much-maligned firearm. In fact, the only real effects the AWB had on anything was to drive up the price of ‘pre-ban’ rifles, since post-ban ones could not be fitted with folding stocks or flash suppressors, and to greatly increase the cost of standard capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. This effect was lessened for common designs (ironically, like the AK type rifle) for which standard capacity magazines were already very common.

    I could go buy a SAR1 semi-auto “AK47” rifle, 10 30-round magazines, ammo to fill them, and a bayonet (bayonet lugs were another thing the AWB had a fixation with – must have been all the drive-by bayonettings in the 80s) for about $500 this afternoon.

    RE NFA weapons – the National Firearms Act of 1934 made it such that you needed a certain type of license to own full-auto (later amended to select-fire) weapons, silencers, destructive devices (i.e. grenades), or short-barreled rifles/shotguns. Said license requires the signature of your local chief of law enforcement, plus a special tax stamp must be purchased from the ATF for each weapon/device at the time of transfer of ownership. This is commonly referred to as a “Class III License” I forget the exact fee schedules (they aren’t that high, really). The big problem is that since 1984 (?) FOPA, new select fire / full-auto weapons cannot be sold to the public or imported for sale to the public. Consequently, there are a fixed number of Class III weapons floating around the market, and they carry a greatly inflated price.

    I believe the NFA might be trumped by state laws in certain places (like California) where full-auto really is illegal. I know in Texas you can get a Class III in most counties if you jump through the right hoops.

    So, at the end of the day, the AWB served to

    1) drive up the price of standard capacity magazines
    2) drive up the price of folding stocks, bayonet lugs, and flash suppressors

    It had no effect at all on “machine-guns”, “cop-killing bullets”, or any of the other gun-controller buzz-words.

  8. c,

    ” . . . so the arms, the right to keep which is secured, are such as are usually employed in civilized warfare, and that constitute the ordinary military equipment.” – Aymette v. State, 21 Tenn. (2 Hump.) 154 (1840)

    Aymette was cited in the 2nd Amendment portion of UNITED STATES v. MILLER.

  9. ok, the next question would be … Is the right of the public to own ordinary military equipment reconcilable with the idea of a peacable modern state? Do we have any examples of lawful, peaceful modern states where the people have the right to own equipment “used in civilized warfare?”

  10. My problem with gun-bans is that opponents never have any clear solution to gun violence other than tossing out laws and stocking up on ammo.

    Will, I’m not clear if your problem is with gun bans, or opponents of gun bans. Your sentence is exquisitely ambiguous, and applies equally to both gun controllers and their freeddom-lovin’ opponents.

  11. When people talk about banning “assault” weapons I need only point to the effectiveness of banning crack cocaine. As noted by Dorrin, prohibition simply increases the price of an item. Oh, and it also provides a useful income stream for criminals.

    In perfect candor, the so-called assault weapons are easy targets because they look scary, not because they are any more or less dangerous than other firearms.

    As for militia, I am inclined to point out how effective poorly equipped and armed militias have been against powerful armies (including those fielded by the United States). I also note the useful research provided by James Lott on firearms. Allowing persons to carry a concealed weapon may actually deter crime. And aside for the sporting reasons to own firearms, a gun may offer some a sense of protection. If my law abiding grandmother wants to keep a loaded .44 revolver in her nightstand because she feels safer, why should the State intefere?

  12. “This is commonly referred to as a “Class III License” I forget the exact fee schedules (they aren’t that high, really).”

    I don’t believe that a Class 3 is required by federal law to own NFA arms, however some states (such as California) do require a Class 3 for ownership.

    “The big problem is that since 1984 (?) FOPA, new select fire / full-auto weapons cannot be sold to the public or imported for sale to the public.”

    1986. FOPA was a good thing on balance, amending some of the worst provisions of GCA ’68, but the antis included the “no new MGs” part as a rider.

    “I believe the NFA might be trumped by state laws in certain places (like California) where full-auto really is illegal”

    Last I heard, full auto was legal in Cali, at least in theory. In counties like San Diego (not to mention LA, etc.) full auto is very much out of reach.

  13. bayonettes?

    ???

  14. The assault weapons ban was genius because it draws an arbitrary aesthetic line, defines one side to be scary, and dares you to defend ‘putting machine guns on the street’. As c points out, arguing this point, even effectively employing logic, makes you look like a freak. I’ve been there enough times to know. All discussions return to, ‘yeah, it doesn’t make any sense, but why do you NEED X?’

    That said, I’m about to sound like a nutbar again. c is not correct. Guerilla campaigns don’t require tanks. Ask the IRA. The government doesn’t have the option to employ the air force in the way implied against non centralized networks. Control of the ground means boots on the ground, and I feel for any federal body that decided to put boots on the ground in Appalachia if fully automatic weapons were easily available. Armored vehicles per se are not illegal, by the way.

    I know a lot of gun hardliners, and I am mostly one myself. Any proposal to increase regulation in any way over the current situation will transform me instantly from someone who will likely sit at home and cry on election day to someone who will vote against and campaign against the proposer with every spare moment I have. Right now, most gun owners feel safe on both sides of the aisle, and the assault weapons ban isn’t a deal breaker. Further, many people feel that publicly advocating the elimination of the ban is political suicide for the same reasons I mentioned above. Ergo, they reason, Bush is in the situation where he has to sign a new ban if it makes it to his desk and he is counting on the House and Senate to kill the thing with bickering until it sunsets.

    The bill has had many interesting effects when combined with other legislation. The most onerous to the self defense crowd is the 10 round magazine cap. A 9mm with a normal sized grip will hold 13-15 rounds. The legislation drove up the price of those magazines (I have some 13 rounders that now cost about $160 each), and meant that 9mm was not as efficient as it used to be due to the empty space you were forced to carry around. The market responds by producing more big caliber handguns or guns in smaller sizes. Those who carry concealed owe a lot of innovation to this effect. I can confidently say that a company like Kahr Arms owes its entire existence to the magazine cap.

  15. Whatever the merits of privately owned tanks and fighter jets, one immediate problem occurs to me:

    If we take it as an axiom that the role of the police should be to stop people who initiate force against their neighbors, then what sort of police force will we need in a nation of privately owned fighter jets and tanks? It wouldn’t be enough to have a police force with a pistol on every belt, a shotgun in every car, and a SWAT team just in case.

    So there’s the dilemma: Most libertarians would agree that there should be a state to go after criminals, but some also want the citizens to have enough power to take down the state if it gets uppity.

    One could, of course, object that criminals will just get fighter jets and tanks anyway. But, see, it’s pretty easy to hide weaponry that’s smaller than, oh, an SUV. It’s much more difficult for criminals to hide tanks and stealth aircraft.

    Anyway, here’s the dilemma: A state large enough to take down the best weaponry available to violent criminals will also be too large to be overthrown by the citizenry.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of the “revolution rationale” for the second amendment.

  16. c,
    I think Switzerland would be a good example. They have more fully automatic rifles in private hands than the entire US (at about 2-3% of the population). In addition, the government encourages private citizens to buy obsolete hardware such as anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, cannons, and howitzers. A cantonal license is required for the larger weapons and they are registered, but the licenses are pretty easy to get.

  17. c,

    In the US prior to 1934, people were free to own any military weapons they wanted.

    In England prior to 1920, that was also the case. In fact, Englishmen who contributed to the war effort (during the Great War) were rewarded with captured German military arms, including rifles, machine guns, and field pieces.

  18. The private military hardware argument is really a red herring. To my knowledge, there really isn’t a public hue and cry for ownership of F-15s or tactical nukes. I think most gun owners are relatively ambivalent about Class III firearms. If you want to jump through the hoops, you can own a machine gun. The current range of small arms including pistols, shotguns and rifles are enough to satisfy most. Where people get militant (and rightfully so) is when the government erodes the rights of law abiding citizens to own these small arms. Particularly galling is the fact that these myriad regulations have no meaningful effect on criminal behavior… except perhaps, to embolden those who would prey on people.

    And, Thoreau, the issue is not revolution but resistance. The founders of America appreciated the fact that it is much easier to oppress and subjugate an unarmed populace.

  19. Switzerland is a “good example” because it’s representative of the world’s states who don’t have/don’t enforce laws against owning military equipment? Or it’s a “good example” because it supports what you want to believe?

    Don — modernity here is important. Technology, I think, has changed the terms of this debate.

  20. “Anyway, here’s the dilemma: A state large enough to take down the best weaponry available to violent criminals will also be too large to be overthrown by the citizenry.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of the “revolution rationale” for the second amendment.”

    From my perspective, you have it wrong on what the police are for. The police exist to supply a general deterrent, not to chase all criminals. The populace should be able to be as well or better armed than the police at all times. They benefit from coordination of resources and popular acceptance of their mission more than firepower.

    SWAT teams already see themselves as military anyway. They have .50 BMG sniper rifles, automatic rifles and SMGs, helicopters, armored vehicles, and so on. The firepower disparity they currently enjoy hasn’t stopped them from pressing for more toys. It is our job to keep them in check.

  21. “Anyway, here’s the dilemma: A state large enough to take down the best weaponry available to violent criminals will also be too large to be overthrown by the citizenry.”

    We (we the people, that is) already have the power to overthrow the state, despite its advanced weaponary. For example, the people of San Diego could sieze the USMC air base at Miramar, if they so wished. Better weapons in the hands of civilians suggest lower casulties or fewer “enraged citizens” required to succeed, but given enough “enrage citizens” success is a done deal.

  22. c, the point is that England and the US were healthy modern states back when they still allowed citizens to own whatever military equipment they wanted (and in some cases encouraged private ownership). Higher levels of tech are irrelevent to the issue, since that tech has increased the costs of owning military equipment, and consequently reduced the ability of civilians to amass such equipment.

    For example, I suspect more Englishmen could afford Fokker Dr-7s, SPADs, etc., back in 1919 than can afford F-16s in 2004. That’s to say, if England doesn’t have a problem with privetly owned military hardware in 1919, it isn’t likely they would have problems in 2004, either.

  23. “The private military hardware argument is really a red herring. To my knowledge, there really isn’t a public hue and cry for ownership of F-15s or tactical nukes.”

    And few could afford such hardware in any case.

    Frankly, I think that it is cost and technical issues rather than laws that prevent private ownership of things like tactical nukes.

  24. Absolutely disagree. The fact, which you cite, that top-of-the-line military hardware was within the financial reach of wealthy individuals in 1919 made it conceivable that they could get together and put up a reasonable fight against a state. That’s not true now. In fact, it’s absurd considering the doomsday nature of the only weapons that really deter our government from doing whatever it wants, militarily. And I’m not AR-15s.

  25. … not talking AR-15s.

  26. c,

    “Switzerland is a “good example” because it’s representative of the world’s states who don’t have/don’t enforce laws against owning military equipment? Or it’s a “good example” because it supports what you want to believe?”

    Seems it’s a good example of what you were asking for, a modern peaceful state that allows citizens to own the equipment used in “civil warfare.” If not, please say so rather than rephrasing the question.

    Don,

    If what you say is true about enough enraged citizens could overthrow the government at any time, then why didn’t Iraqi citizens overthrow Saddam (among other examples)?

    To all,

    Does suicide terrorists change the nature of the debate? Sure, lawful citizens don’t give a damn about owning a nuke, and neither do criminals out to make a buck. But Jihadists…? That’s a different story! Of course, that still has little bearing on the debate over the means to individual self-defense, except for the question of where to draw the line, particularly if you’re using the (ahem) resistance rationale.

  27. My point was that I don’t think Switzerland is really representative of pretty much anything, gun policy or otherwise. But if you’re looking for counter-examples, then fine: Albania. Your turn.

  28. Thoreau said:

    Anyway, here’s the dilemma: A state large enough to take down the best weaponry available to violent criminals will also be too large to be overthrown by the citizenry.

    Well, it’s already illegal for violent criminals to own firearms, so if laws worked against criminals then civilians can own machine guns and the police can successfully patrol the streets with whiffle bats.

    Frequently violent criminals disobey the laws and obtain all kinds of weapons anyway, then use them against the public and the police.

    Then there is the rare case when a citizen goes nutty and becomes a violent criminal. This happens with all sorts of weapons – cars, guns, knives, clubs, fists.

    To me, the best solution is to allow armed citizens to protect themselves and each other in cases of violent attack. Most state legislatures agree and this concept and as a result 46 states allow concealed carry of a firearm.

    Police should never need weapons more popular than the general public unless their aim is to control the general public.

    Against a small number of criminals, police have equal firepower, numbers, and training in coordinated tactical situations.

    Against a large number of criminals, the police are overwhelmed and citizens are left to defend themselves (just look at any riot for a example).

  29. c,

    Who said I was looking for counter-examples? 🙂 My only point was that your question was answered and so rather than admit that you changed the question, apparently to include “besides Switzerland.” And now you’ve changed it again, to one of competing examples. I make no claim to be an expert on the subject, so I’ll pass on the exercise.

  30. Don, do you really think that citizens could easily take over an Marine base?

    I remember reading that in the first Iraq war, someone had figured out one U.S. soldier was worth around 8 Iraqi soldiers in terms of killing power. Then in Afghanistan, that number had gone up to something like 20 to 1?

    So I’m not buying that citizens armed with pistols could take over a U.S. military installations *unless* the soldiers at that base simply refused to fight the citizens, in which case the guns are unnecessary anyway (?)

    I’ve always liked the idea that we could defend ourselves against a tyrannical state, but I don’t think any amount of firepower could give us that nowadays.

  31. Machine guns and other weapons covered under the National Firearms Act (NFA) are more properly referred to collectively as “Title II firearms”. The transfer between individuals (not dealers) and registration of NFA firearms is taxed, usually at the rate of $200 per firearm, although there is a class of weapons, including sawed-off shotguns, called “any other weapon” for which the tax rate is $5.

    No Class 3 FFL/SOT is required to own an NFA weapon, however, several states further regulate or ban the private ownership of machine guns, short barrelled rifles, destructive devices, and/or suppressors separately.

    To obtain an NFA firearm one first has to find one for sale, and pay the current owner the asking price (it’s a seller’s market, with used M-16s going for between $10,000 and $17,000 currently. For comparison, an M-16 would go for about $3500 around 5 years ago. Compare this to the actual cost of a new M-16, ~$750 to a police department, which is unavailable to those who are not licensed Class 3 dealers in NFA firearms).

    Secondly, one sends a check for $200 to the BATF, along with several sets of his/her fingerprints, two recent photographs, a declaration of U.S. citizenship, and a BATF form 5320.4, filled out in duplicate. One then waits about 4 months for the FBI to perform a background check, after which one is either approved to receive the firearm or is disapproved. During that time, the value of the firearm has appreciated approximately 10%-20% in value. Because of this, many machineguns are being priced out of the market, and are affordable only as big-ticket investments.

    The value in machineguns is in their legality, as ones that were not registered prior to May, 1986 are unlawful for private citizens to own or posess. Since unregistered posession is good for a $250,000 fine and a 10-year trip to Club Fed, and because machineguns are just so damn fun to shoot, many people are willing to pay the premium for legal ownership.

  32. fyodor,

    There isn’t a nation on earth where a majority (or even a large minority) of the people couldn’t take over the government if they wanted to. Saddam(and Stalin, etc)implemented state terror to prevent this from happening. Basically, you terrorise the people into compliance, so that they don’t band together to overthrow you. The kiddie movie “Bug’s Life” and the relationship between the ants and the grashoppers makes the point pretty well.

    c,

    We have two arguments going, as I see it:

    1) can private arms topple repressive governments

    2) is civilized society possible when private citizens have access to military arms?

    My examples (and that of Switzerland, and, indeed, Finland as well) make a point for 2 above, but don’t necessarly address 1. However, there isn’t any state in the world where the citizens couldn’t gain control if they really tried. This applies to the US as well. The better armed civilians are, the easier it is to accomplish, and the smaller % of citizens would be required in the uprising for it to be successful.

  33. linguist,

    If the people near the USMC airbase at Miramar had the will, they could storm it and take it over armed with garden implements. The only way the Marines could prevent that is to take off in aircraft and flatten the surrounding area, including the homes their families live in. But assuming they were willing to do that, they would have to have enough warning to arm their aircraft and get them up into the air.

  34. c,

    It’s nice to know that you have discovered the root cause of Albania’s problems: private ownership of military arms.

  35. Regarding question two, I’m not so much interterested in whether peace is “possible” with an armed populace. Clearly only one counter-example is good enough to prove “possibility.” Better question is “Is peace likely with an armed populace?” The Swiss pride themselves on being an exception to almost every rule, and I don’t see a difference here. Looking at more of the world, the collection of nations where people are free to arm themselves with whatever they can afford is not a pretty picture.

    Regarding your answer to question one, I first have to wonder whether enabling a smaller minority of the populace to topple the government is an admirable goal. But again we’re talking “possibility,” and of course it’s possible. But we live in a nation with — not to put to fine a point on it — the greatest military the world has ever known! What would it vs. this “minority of the population” look like, whether or not the rebellion were armed with machine guns, “assault” rifles with bayonettes, or whatever? If we’re serious about the revolution rationale, it leads us to public policy that we’re not ready to accept.

    PS: It is likewise good to know you’ve discovered the root of Switzerland’s enduring peace — old military hardware collectors.

  36. c,

    An armed populace posed little problem historically in England and the United States–the culture of cocearn to us.

    The “collection of nations” that don’t afford “a pretty picture” represent places where there is a greater underlying problem than just small arms proliferation. In fact, the latest UN data showed that, contrary to what you might think, it is countries like the US, Findland, etc., where there are more privetly owned firearms, not places like the Sudan or Somolia or Afganistan. The “problem countries” actually have low rates or firearms ownership compared to places like France.

    Our military is good largely based on its high technology. In terms of the actual fighting ability of our soldiers absent a technology advantage, it would fall short of, say, the Germans of WW2 or the Romans in quality. Furthemore, much of the tech works well for “reaching out” at long range point targets, but wouldn’t work so well in a messy free-for-all of a major uprising. Our military has a speer with a very sharp tip, but behind that tip it also has a very large and soft belly. The few success stories of the Iraqis (eg, Pvt Lynch’s unit) was against the soft belly. Domestically, our military is mostly soft belly. If the political climate was such, it is possible to attempt to harden the belly somewhat, but the fact is our military is configured to handle remote threats and is not well situated to handle domestic uprisings.

    The real issue isn’t the power of our military, but the will and resovle of our people to maintain freedom.

  37. c,
    To which countries are you referring that are violent despite being “free to arm themselves?” I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think Albanians have anything comparable to the Second Amendment. Many people in Albania got guns in 1997 to protect themselves from a situation that was already very violent. The death toll in Albania was nowhere near that of countries such as Rwanda where few civilians are armed. Knowing potential victims are likely armed has a way of discouraging thugs.

    By the way, Don would hardly the first person to attribute Switzerland’s peacefulness to the abundance of weapons in private hands – although I don’t think he was making that argument. Switzerland has much in common with the former Yugoslavia, with divisions along language and religious lines. The Swiss have learned to be fairly civil toward each other and the rest of the world despite (because of?) all the weapons.

  38. PS: It is likewise good to know you’ve discovered the root of Switzerland’s enduring peace — old military hardware collectors.

    Switzerland hasn’t been invaded in a long time–and this is in large part due to a well armed citizen army that historically was willing to fight to the death.

  39. Leaving aside the question of whether the totality of real world examples backs c’s contention that arms freedom is detrimental to peace, he makes a good point about the concepts of possibility versus likelihood, and it was the one I was already preparing to make to Don about his contention that storming a marine base is possible. Furthermore, best as I can tell, Don contradicts himself by explaining just how Stalin and Saddam succeeded in keeping such popular revolution from happening. And then he uses a children’s cartoon to back his position. Hmmm. Well, yeah sure, as Patti Smith says, people have the power, and it’s nice to spread that idea to kids. But a ruthless enough dictator can make exercising that power unlikely enough that such proclamations may be no more than rhetorical exercises. I’d like to think otherwise myself, but experience pretty clearly shows that tyrannical states more often than not succeed at lasting many years. That said, I’ve just made myself realize that tyrannical states don’t seem to generally enjoy quite the same shelf-life as representative states, do they? Hmmmm…..

  40. I’m having a bit of trouble following the thread of the “c” argument. I’m not a cultural anthropologist, but the “peace” of a society seems less about firearms and more about the cultural values. Put guns in a relatively homogeneous culture (minimal religious, racial or ethnic divisions) with a strong cultural history of peaceful existence (rule of law)… and you have Switzerland. Put guns in a hetergeneous culture with longstanding religious, racial and ethnic rivalries with a culture of conflict (rule of tribe)… and you have the artist formerly known as Yugoslavia.

    I am reminded of a line from a science fiction novel, and I paraphrase, when the bombs, missiles and bullets are gone, they’ll go on fighting with rocks and sticks.

    To me, the macro-question of “armed resistance” of a despotic government is less interesting and relevant than the micro-questions. Let us set aside the legitimate uses of firearms like hunting, sport and crime deterrence. I believe that if the State wishes to deny an individual the right to possess a particular thing, the State has an extraordinary burden of proof. In all my reading on firearms, I have failed to find a single compelling argument that justifies the removal of small arms from the personal ownership of law abiding citizens.

  41. Hold on a sec – why are you so certain that the government this plucky rebellion will install (provided that they succeed, against all odds) will be more “free” than the one we’ve got? I mean, there are paramilitary groups all over the world proving that folks have the “will and resolve” to die for all sorts of godforsaken visions. Armed rebellion, as our country’s backup plan to ensure liberty, is a fool’s game. You want to talk about the constitution not being a suicide pact!

  42. lot’s of comments here…

    Don, regarding Switzerland not getting invaded: We’re not talking about the justification for amend. 2 being “protect us from foreign enemies,” we’re talking about “protect us from oppressive gov’t.”

    Kent: The Sudanese are not being run down by the Janjaweed because they don’t have the freedom to own weapons, but because they can’t afford to arm themselves.

    Jose: I agree that the chance for peace in a country is more about culture than about the right to bear arms. But, if a people are inclined to kill each other, they’d be a lot better at it with rifles than sticks.

  43. Jose,
    I agree with you concerning the peacefulness having more to do with cultural values than whether people have guns or any other weapon. However, I have to take issue with your contention that CH is a relatively ethnically and religiously heterogeneous society. Switzerland had at least two civil wars between Catholics and Protestants and the country is still divided along religious and ethnic lines.

    c,
    I think the idea is that the threat of armed resistance limits what the state is willing to do. The resistance may not take the form of overthrowing the government. What if a significant number of Jews in Nazi Germany had been armed and willing to resist? Carrying out the final solution would have had much less appeal, don’t you think?

  44. c,
    My point concerning Rwanda, Sudan, et al. was that out of favor unarmed populations don’t fare as well as out of favor armed populations. The state’s preventing such groups from having arms has exactly the same effect as if arms ownership is prevented by poverty.

  45. Does the threat of armed resitance really limit what the state is willing to do? I kind of see the threat of rebellion as an all or nothing sort of thing — I don’t get the sense that the PATRIOT act would have been ever so slightly less bad if only we had bayonet lugs on our rifles.

    Jews arming themselves against the Nazi party? They were willing to invade Russia, but armed civilians would have dissuaded them? I guess, maybe.

    Places like the Sudan are in a state far more recognizable by the authors of our constitution, where the kind of weapons an individual could have could make a real difference in what the government is willing to do. But what sort of weapon would an American need to have to deter our government?

  46. “Furthermore, best as I can tell, Don contradicts himself by explaining just how Stalin and Saddam succeeded in keeping such popular revolution from happening. And then he uses a children’s cartoon to back his position.”

    I actually liked “Bug’s Life” handling of the issue. And I don’t see any contradiction in my previous discussion, as I never claimed that resisting tyranny was a “probable” thing.

    Consider, for example, the Texian Rebellion. Santa Anna had previously allowed his troops to rape and sack at will in Zacatecas, after crushing the federalist forces there. This was an attempt to imtimidate his enemies in a manner similar to that of Stalin, yet it did not work with the Texians (who were well aware of his treatment of Zacatecas), who rebelled and defeated him in battle at San Jacinto. Arms are not sufficient, you have to have backbone and a desire for freedom to make good use of them.

  47. Yes, armed resistance (or threat thereof) deters the state (as it deters criminals). Exhibit A: if my memory of history is accurate, ten guns in the Warsaw ghetto made the Nazi occupation far more costly and difficult that it otherwise would have been. That didn’t change the outcome, but it demonstrates the enourmous leverage of arms. Exhibit B: virtually all US gun control laws have a prohibition against gun registration (the gimmick that enabled the Nazis to effectively disarm the population), and also a “grandfather clause” that exempts all weapons already possessed. If our 2 million police officers started going door to door collecting our 100 million firearms, I’m not saying that every citizen would shoot, but I’m quite sure that all the police would be gone before all the guns were gone. Our tyrant politicians recognize that there are some boundaries.

  48. The Warsaw ghetto uprising began with an even dozen guns, most of them obsolete handguns. The jews had trouble obtaining guns from the Polish resistance, since the Poles figured that the jews were going to just hand their guns in to the Nazis rather than using them. Had the jews fought back hard in the beginning, the Nazis would have had significant casualties and would probably had to give up on their efforts to relocate them and transport them to the camps. The key, as usual, was intimidation, as well as the idea that all would be alright if you did what the authorities demanded. Consequently, guns alone would not have helped the jews–they would have turned them in to the Nazis anyway. But the jews could have made a significant difference if they had guns AND the will to use them.

  49. If the people near the USMC airbase at Miramar had the will, they could storm it and take it over armed with garden implements. The only way the Marines could prevent that is to take off in aircraft and flatten the surrounding area, including the homes their families live in. But assuming they were willing to do that, they would have to have enough warning to arm their aircraft and get them up into the air.

    Although I agree with your general point, I think that the specific example you chose is more than a bit misleading. Why choose an air base? That’s probably the easiest kind of military base to take over without massive casualties. Try marching on Fort Benning, or Camp Lejeune, or Camp Pendleton, where they practice the fine art of infantry combat. Machine guns are designed to kill large numbers of people. Witness the First World War, and the dominance of defense there. The only limit would be ammunition supplies, and both Lejeune and Pendleton could be resupplied by sea; all of them by air. I’d sure hate to be among those facing machine guns. If the civilians had machine guns themselves, that would even the odds somewhat, but unless they had someone to take care of tactics, not much would be accomplished. It’s hard to push people forward when a thousand of their buddies just died in the first second of machine gun fire. If the grunts could hold out long enough to get some sort of fire support, the mutiny would be over. Sad but true. I think that it can easily be argued that any modern warfare requires tanks and artillery, even against infantry, if only because of the factor of machine guns.

    Second, and this makes a slightly different point . . . I’d still hate to try to take a Marine air base. All Marines have infantry training, even aircraft mechanics and cooks. They may not have the constant practice the grunts have, but it’d still be a bitch to take Miramar, even if the pilots couldn’t get their planes off the ground. I’d go for an Air Force Base (not to say anything against the Air Force ? hell, yes, it is to do so ? in that case the Air Force would be a cakewalk by comparison).

  50. If it comes to a revolution, methinks it would be more tactical hacking, military desertions and mass-produced killdozers that would win the day.

    http://www.killdozer.us/

    I want a killdozer.

  51. “Why choose an air base? That’s probably the easiest kind of military base to take over without massive casualties. Try marching on Fort Benning, or Camp Lejeune, or Camp Pendleton, where they practice the fine art of infantry combat. Machine guns are designed to kill large numbers of people.”

    Yes. In a sense, this really brings into focues the value of private arms in such circumstances–MGs can be taken out with accurate rifle fire. Tanks and even more so IFVs provide a more serious threat–and imply a civilian need for something along the lines of an RPG or other handheld antitank weapons.

  52. Personally, I’d opt not to march on any base, in favor of hitting them “where they take their breakfast” – literally (as in, at the breakfast table, at their homes, while they’re in robe and slippers on leave, f’r’nstance). I’d opt for unconventional warfare using “asymmetric” techniques (including opportunistic applications of the castor beans, the foxglove or lily of the valley, good ol’ household chemicals like gasoline, bleach and drain cleaner – sometimes a little cleverness goes a long way – in addition to whatever various and sundry armaments happen to be handy) in places they’d least expect it. In other words, “hit ’em where they ain’t.”

    Okay, so I’m not exactly original on these techniques… but they’d work a damn site better than playing the proverbial “mouse that roared.” The issue, as has been pointed out, in many instances, is not one of raw firepower or even superior tactics – as galling as I find it, many times the “social” (read: political) implications matter. (The IRA would have never gained traction were it not for this.)

    JMJ

    P.S. That being said, in the interests of checks-and-balances, of course people should be armed, and with weapons on par with the standard issue of the infantry of the day. Knowing that you and your neighbors have select-fire weapons handy would (speaking of the “social” and “political”) go a long way towards embolding one to contemplate using them if necessary (as opposed to the aforementioned lesson of the Warsaw Ghetto). Methinks this is what the founders of the US had in mind. Unfortunately, much like the original concept of federalism, it seems to have fallen by the wayside as of late. How many of your friends and associates are shocked and appalled to discover you own any firearms?

  53. Machine guns are not illegal. You can still buy them in many states after paying the Federal Transfer fee, which I think is $200 right now, and filing that various forms of course.

    There are a lot of restrictions, like new guns can not be sold, only previously owned ones. Hence the $6000 price tag on a used M16, when a new AR15 would be less than $1000.

    Someone with more knowledge than I can provide more detailed info on what are currently called ‘NFA’ weapons.

    Tom

  54. c,
    Invading Russia was quite a bit different from going house to house to round up people for the death camps. Until Roosevelt started sending US arms to the Soviet Union, their military was hopelessly antiquated and was never as disciplined as the German military. Soldiers and/or police would have very short careers if every day involved busting in doors with armed occupants with nothing to lose on the other side. I’d enlist to invade a country with a third-rate army before taking that job anyday.

    mac,
    I just noticed that you said much the same thing about going door to door.

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