With the shooting at Umpqua Community College having reanimated the Progressives’ demands that we withdraw guns from citizens’ hands and leave them solely in the hands of government operatives (a strange demand from the BLM-supporting crowd if you think about it), it’s time for me to rehash my five-point argument explaining why, the risks of guns notwithstanding, we are much safer with guns than without them. I originally published this post in June 2014 and have made only a few changes to enhance clarity:
God forgive me, but I used to be so anti-gun that I donated to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence. I know. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Since that time, I’ve done a complete 180 and become a fervent gun supporter and a proud member of the NRA.
This change did not come about because I suddenly became a psychopathic killer, with guns as my weapon of choice. I do kill (spiders, fleas, and ticks) and I do eat dead bodies (cows, pigs, chicken, and fish), but I’m scarcely Hannibal Lecter.
Instead, my reversal on guns came about because I realized that gun’s are a predicate requirement for individual freedom and security. I’ve created five principles that justify this conclusion. These principles are: (1) Armed citizens are the best defense against the world’s most dangerous killer: government; (2) I am a Jew; (3) I am nota racist; (4) a self-defended society is a safe society; and (5) the only way gun-control activists can support their position is to lie.
I develop each of these principles below.
A. Armed Citizens Are The Best Defense Against The World’s Most Dangerous Killer: Government.
1. Progressives fear individuals, who kill only in small numbers; Second Amendment supporters fear government, which kills in the tens of millions.
a. Mad or predatory individuals, ideologically motivated groups, and mean or careless corporations have never succeeded in using guns to achieve more than a few thousand deaths in any individual act.
Progressives and conservatives alike share the same concerns: they don’t want killers to have guns. It’s just that Progressives haven’t quite figured out who the real killers are. Their obsessive focus is on individuals and corporations. Let’s humor their fears and look at the number of deaths those particular killers have achieved, both with and without guns, from the beginning of the 20th century through to the present day.
Individual Killers Who Did Not Use Guns:
The worst psychopathic individual mass murderer who did notuse a gun: Gameel al-Batouti. On October 31, 1999, he cried out “Allahu Akbar” as he piloted a plane full of passengers into the Atlantic Ocean, killing 217 people.
The worst ideologically driven collective of mass murderers who did not use guns: The 19 al Qaeda members who, on September 11, 2001, used box cutters to hijack four planes, crashed those planes into three buildings and one into a field, and killed 2,996 people in a matter of hours.
The worst corporate mass murderer that did not use guns: In December 1984, the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, accidentally released toxic gas from its facility, killing 3,787 people.
CONCLUSION: When dedicated mass murderers use something other than guns, they’re able to achieve deaths that range from a few hundreds dead to a few thousand dead.
Individual Killers Who Used Guns:
The worst psychopathic individual mass murderer who did use a gun: Anders Behring Breivik who, on July 22, 2011, shot and killed 69 people in Norway – mostly teenagers. This rampage came after he’d already set off a bomb, killing 8 people. Norway has strict gun control.
The worst ideologically driven collective mass murderers who diduse guns: Given Islamists’ tendency to use all weapons available to shoot as many people as possible in as many countries as they can, this is a tough one to call. I believe, though, that the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 is the largest ideologically driven mass murder that relied solely on guns. Throughout the city of Mumbai, Islamic terrorists engaged in a coordinated attack that killed 154 people. Even the unbelievably bloody and shocking mall shooting that al Shabaab staged in Kenya killed only 63 people.
The worst corporate mass murder that did use guns: I can’t find any. To the extent that numerous workers died in any given 19th century labor dispute, those deaths occurred because state government, siding with management, sent out the state’s militia to disperse the strikers. For example, in November 1887, in Thibodaux, Louisiana, the state militia killed between 35 and 300 black sugar plantation strikers. The 20th and 21st century did not offer such examples.
CONCLUSION: To the extent Progressives fear individual killers or small groups of killers with guns, their fears are misplaced. Guns simply aren’t that effective in these contexts, especially when compared to those who use planes or bombs. Moreover, when it comes to corporations and guns, outside of crazed Hollywood movies, the corporations vanish from the scene entirely.
It’s clear that both individuals (singularly and collectively) and corporations can kill. However, even when given optimal killing situations (e.g., acts of terrorism or corporate negligence), the numbers stay in the low thousands – and sink even further when guns are involved.
Progressives could conceivably argue that, once you start adding up small killing events (a murder here, a murder there), you’re going to find a lot of dead bodies piled around you. For example, if one adds up America’s annual murder statistics from 1960 through 2012, the total number of Americans killed in those 52 years is 914,191. (This number encompasses all murders, not just those with guns, but we’ll still use it as the most extreme illustration of Americans’ alleged propensity to violence.)
If we then engaged in the risible pretense that these numbers were stable for all 233 years of America’s existence (900,000 murdered citizens per every 50 years), we could claim that citizens of the most murderous nation in history (which is how Progressives view their own country) would have managed to achieve only around 4,000,000 murders in 233 years, using all weapons available.
Wow! 4,000,000 murders in 233 years! No wonder the Progressives are so desperate to keep guns out of their fellow citizens’ hands. As they see it, Americans are stone-cold killers, wholly capable of killing almost a million of each other in just 50 years. However, as is shown below, even taking this worst case scenario, Progressives’ fears about guns in individual hands are unfounded.
b. The serious killers in the last century haven’t been individuals or small groups. The serious killers have been governments acting against unarmed (usually disarmed) citizens.
Let’s talk now about the real killers of the 20th and 21st centuries: Governments killing their own people or engaging in genocidal attacks against specifically selected religious, cultural, or racial groups – all of them unarmed and defenseless.
Turkey: In 1915, the Turkish government ordered and carried out the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians.
Soviet Union: In the 1920s through mid-1930s, the Soviet government under Stalin declared war on the independent Ukrainian farmers known as Kulaks. Through government engineered starvation, deportation, and execution, the Soviets are estimated to have killed approximately 7 million Kulaks.
The Kulaks were just one group who died off in a specific mass killing. In fact, nobody really knows how many of its citizens the Soviet Union killed, whether using starvation, outright execution, or penal colonies. Estimates range from 7 million to 20 million people dying due to the Soviet government’s policies and purges.
China in the 1960s through 1970s: When it comes to a government killing its own citizens, the Soviets were pikers compared to the Chinese. Current estimates for those who died during the Great Leap Forward due to government engineered famine, executions, and slave labor range from between 23 million to 46 million Chinese. Some estimates (outliers, admittedly) posit even 50 million or more Chinese dying to appease Chairman Mao’s statist vision.
Nazi Germany, from 1933-1945: You knew I’d get to the Nazis, of course. Not satisfied with purging their own country of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and handicapped people, the Nazis conquered Europe from France to Poland to Denmark and embarked upon a purge in those countries too.
Without exception, the civilians that the Nazis targeted were already unarmed (voluntarily or involuntarily) before the Nazis came to power or ended up disarmed when the Nazis achieved power. With their pick of helpless victims, the Nazis executed 6 million Jews; 250,000 gypsies; 220,000 homosexuals, and, through slave labor, executions, and starvation, as many as 10 million Slavic people. (The number of handicapped people killed is unknown.) As an aside, when the Nazi gun-control gang got the bit in their teeth and went to war, the war itself resulted in the deaths of another 19,315,000 Europeans who weren’t targeted because of race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability but who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Cambodia: Following the Cambodian Civil War, Pol Pot rose to power in Cambodia. Once in power, in the years between 1975 and 1979, his government killed between 1.7 and 2.2 million of its own citizens, out of a population of around 8 million people. Were the U.S. to have a Pol Pot moment today, that would be the equivalent of having the federal government kill 66 million to 85 million people in four years.
North Korea: Nobody knows how many North Koreans have died since the murderous Kim regime came into power. One estimate is that 1,293,000 North Koreans have died at their government’s hands. That number, of course, is entirely separate from the hundreds of thousands of North Koreans residing in concentration camps throughout that hellish little nation.
The above are the government-engineered mass murders that spring most readily to my mind. I’ve obviously left out many that properly belong on the list, everything from Iran, to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, to Cuba, to just about every tin-pot dictatorship in Africa and Latin America. If you would like the full body of statistics for government-engineered mass murders in the 20th and 21st centuries, I recommend R. J. Rummel’s Statistics of Democide, which examines 214 regimes. I’ve picked my way through some of this opus and, even though Rummel’s writing is scholarly not scintillating, I was able to catch the depressing gist: Governments kill and, given the chance, they kill often, in staggering numbers.
So think about this: Progressives are terrified of leaving guns in the hands of individuals even though individuals, even with spectacular effort or negligence, manage to kill people in numbers equaling, at their highest, the low five figures. At the same time, they castigate as crazy those Second Amendment supporters who have noticed that armed governments, when they have an unarmed population at their mercy, kill in the millions, with a few million dead here and another fifty million dead there.
Stalin spoke from personal experience when he said “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.” While the Progressives are weeping over the tragedies, the NRA and its supporters are trying to avoid the statistics.
2. America’s Founding Fathers recognized that government is the greatest threat to individual life and liberty, and drafted the Second Amendment accordingly
Speaking of overpowering, armed government, Progressives like to forget that the American Revolution’s victory was by no means assured. The colonists, after all, had been so foolhardy (or insane) that they’d taken up arms against the most powerful military in the world. Anyone placing bets in 1776 or 1778 would have been smart to wager against the revolutionaries.
Moreover, if the revolutionaries had lived in the home country of England, it’s likely that those placing bets against the revolution would have been correct. England, an old, stable culture that had weathered a devastating revolution slightly more than 100 years before, was not much given to having individual citizens bearing arms. (Indeed, one writer has posited that the rebellion began in part because the British sought to disarm the colonists.)
It was only in the Americas, far from “civilization,” that arms were a necessity. One does not go into the frontier unarmed. Too many people had untamed forests pressing against their fragile communities to manage without at least one musket, rifle, or pistol in their possession.
Because of their circumstances, the American colonists didn’t just possess arms; they knew how to use them. While George Washington despaired of turning his volunteers into a well-drilled, spit-and-polish military, the one thing he didn’t have to worry about was weapons training. His rag-tag army knew how to load, aim, and shoot (especially those Tennessee mountain boys). If the Continental Congress could provide the bullets, many of the colonists willingly provided their own guns and know-how.
The Revolutionary war had already been over for eight years when the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights. It was in that context – the aftermath of a small colony’s successful revolution against the most powerful nation in the world – that the Founders determined that American citizens would never again be subordinate to their government.
For this reason, the first ten amendments to the Constitution do not define government power; they limit it. Significantly, they limit it, not by having the government graciously extend a few privileges to America’s citizens, privileges that the government can as easily revoke, but instead by stating rights that are inherent in individuals without regard to the government’s powers.
The second of these amendments – and the only one that is dedicated exclusively to a single principle, rather than a blend of related principles – refers to every citizen’s inherent right to possess arms:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
If the Second Amendment were written in modern English, the Founders might have phrased it this way:
The only way citizens can defend themselves against a tyrannical government is to create their own army (which, obviously, is separate from the government’s army). The people therefore have an overarching and innate right to have guns, and the government may not interfere with that right.
Progressives loves to hang their hat on the “well regulated militia” phrase. Hah! they say. The only way you gun nuts can have those guns is if you get together with your friends on a regular basis and create an army, complete with drilling and officers and such-like. (Never mind that, when groups do precisely that, they’re denounced as proto-military terrorist organizations and the government uses its armed might to shut those groups down.)
What Progressives refuse to recognize is that the Founders, although looking at a very weak federal government, were nevertheless considering the possibility that American citizens might in the futureneed to rebel against a government that had grown too powerful. The Founder’s own experience had shown them that citizens don’t need to have a standing militia that is always ready to fight. Instead, the citizens must only have the ability to constitute a well-regulated militia on an as needed basis (the need being the necessity to secure individual freedom against government). This ability to transform from peaceful citizens into an effective militia when needed requires a citizenry that’s both well-armed and competent with those arms.
Here’s another good thing about those Second Amendment arms we possess: Imagine a Stalin, Hitler, Mao, or Pol Pot somehow attaining the White House through the ordinary election process. Because Americans would never elect someone who announced in advance his intention to become a murderous dictator, that candidate would have campaigned dishonestly, so as to sound as if he supported a free, republican democracy. The only tip-off that he in fact intended to govern without the consent of the governed would be his running on the Leftist platform of disarming all citizens.
The Founders had seen tyranny face-to-face and they recognized that every government has the potential to become tyrannical (although they couldn’t have predicted in their wildest dreams the mad scope of government killing in the 20th and 21st centuries). They therefore embedded in the Bill of Rights the ultimate bulwark against tyranny: an armed population that, if needed, can instantly transform itself into a citizen army.
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