The right to bear arms is the only true bulwark against government tyranny and mass murder

Nicholas Kristoff is very excited about the opportunity the Newtown shootings present to advance a gun control agenda.  (By the way, have you noticed that the media narrative is that the Progressives are not politicizing a tragedy when they use it to advocate everything from gun control to higher taxes, but that the Republicans are disgustingly politicizing a tragedy when they argue it should not be used as an excuse to take mad public policy leaps.  Just sayin’….)

Second Amendment

In his latest column, Kristoff sets up a few straw men and, with child-like glee, shoots them down.  The straw man response that interested me was his cavalier dismissal of the Second Amendment:

We have the Second Amendment, which protects our right to bear arms. So don’t talk about gun control!

There’s a reasonable argument that the Second Amendment confers an individual right — to bear a musket. Beyond that, it’s more complicated. Everybody agrees on a ban on fully automatic machine guns. The question isn’t whether to limit the right to bear arms, but where to draw the line.

Mr. Kristoff, how dumb do you think your readers are?  Well, never mind that question.  To the extent you preach to the New York Times crowd, most of them are probably every bit as ill-informed, credulous, and illogical as you think they are.

Let me ask a different, more pertinent, question:  How dumb do you think the Founding Fathers were?

Revolutionary war rifle

First of all, just as a little bit of historical information, muskets weren’t the only arms available during and after the American Revolution.  Those who wanted to own arms had a broad array of weapons from which to choose.  Thus, in addition to those muskets, they also had rifles (the Tennessee mountain men were famed for their abilities with that weapon), pistols, and blunderbusses.  Yes, they were slow-loading, but what was important was that they were equal in force to the weapons the British Army used.

Putting aside Kristoff’s obvious factual error, he also does the Founders a profound disservice by saying that they were using the word “arms” as a synonym for “musket.”  In fact, “arms” referred to all weapons, swords and cannons included.  By using such a broad term, the Founders were also leaving open the possibility of new weapons.  Otherwise, they would have said, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear muskets manufactured on or before 1791, shall not be infringed.”  Tellingly, these men, who used language with a facility and brilliance unknown today, chose not to speak with such specificity.

What Kristoff is really missing, though, isn’t the bit about the type of “arms” involved, but the reason for those arms:  “being necessary to the security of a free State.”  What the Founders were saying is that the people should always have the ability to defend themselves against aggression from their own government.  With that principle in mind, you can see where the Founders would have been happy to see citizens armed with the most sophisticated weapons available in any era — provided that those weapons match the fire-power of government weapons in the same era.

The Founders weren’t the only ones who had figured out the importance of an armed population as a bulwark against totalitarianism.  As Paul Harvey wrote back in 2000, dictators of all stripes have realized that the single greatest defense against their tyrannical goals is an armed population:

Nazi Death Camp


– In 1929 the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, approximately 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

– In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915-1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

– Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and others, who were unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

– China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

– Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

– Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

– Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million “educated” people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

That weapons in the people’s hands may be used for other purposes (e.g., hunting, recreation, home-defense) or misused entirely (e.g., Sandy Hook, Columbine, or Fort Hood), is irrelevant to the primary purposes behind our constitutional right to bear arms.  Individual murders have happened at all times, in all places, with all types of weapons.  The Founders weren’t naive nor were they stupid.  They fully understood that “arms” could be misused.  Nevertheless, they made a moral calculation and determined that the risk of a thousand lives lost (or even ten thousand lives lost) was much less than the risk of millions of lives lost, with many millions more reduced to slaves of the state.

Maybe Kristoff is as woefully misinformed and as intellectually un-curious as he appears.  My suspicion, though, is that he’s a man on the Left with an agenda, one that sees the unwashed masses rendered helpless so that their Ivy League educated, elite betters can impose the loving tyranny that would make this land a new Utopia.

The littlest bodies in the Rwanda genocide

(As an aside, I’ll add here that a career military man I know says that, whether they were in Africa or the Middle East, many of their efforts were to arm beleaguered citizens who were being turned into mincemeat by forces belonging to their own government.  The people there have seldom died because individuals had arms.  Instead, the various massacres and ethnic cleansing across Africa might never have happened had ordinary people been able to defend themselves against the government hordes.)

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  • rick9911

    Agreed. Now, how do we get this advertised and accepted?

  • Jose

    Founding Father 1: “Good riddance to King George!  We need to make sure he never comes back.”
    Founding Father 2: “Good thing we had the militia.  And enough guns.  But what about next time?  Like maybe 1812?”
    Founding Father 1: “I know – let’s arm the militia by passing a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.  And we’ll put it in the BILL OF RIGHTS!”
    Founding Father 2: “Great Idea!  And while we’re at it we’ll do some more amendments to equipt a Navy and an Army.”
    Founding Father 1: “Don’t be ridiculous.”

  • Owen Glendower

    “There’s a reasonable argument that the Second Amendment confers an individual right — to bear a musket. Beyond that, it’s more complicated. Everybody agrees on a ban on fully automatic machine guns.”

    As you point out, Book, Kristoff is quite ill-informed…or perhaps blinded by his ideology. Fully-automatic weapons are NOT banned.

    Mr. Kristoff clearly feels that his reading of the 2nd amendment is more accurate than SCOTUS in Heller v. DC.

    In truth, of course, there’s no “reasonable argument” to be made. SCOTUS has ruled that the 2nd amendment does indeed confer an individual right…meaning that, in the immortal words of Saint Al, the time for discussion is over.

    I pause to speculate that Mr. Kristoff would never dispute those who point out that Roe v. Wade is settled law…the law of the land. This seems inconsistent with his view of the 2nd amendment.

    If I were Emperor of the World, I would decree that any citation of the 2nd amendment must be accompanied by a citation of the 10th amendment:

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    This is careful and meticulous language making a careful and meticulous distinction among:

    –the United States
    –the States respectively
    –the people

    So why is it difficult to understand the meaning of “the people” when we read this:

    “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.”

    The defense rests.

  • Owen Glendower

    “There’s a reasonable argument that the Second Amendment confers an individual right — to bear a musket.”

    By this reasoning, the First Amendment only applies to newspapers, broadsheets, and quill pens.

  • Caped Crusader

    Armed, you are a citizen with rights. Unarmed, you are a subject, subjected to the whims of the ruler.

  • Charles Martel

    Book, I’d like to tie in this discussion with your previous thread on the implicit racism of gun control: How many black Americans have died because they live under local (Democrat-dominated) governments where they have been forbidden for at least two generations to have any means of defending themselves against gangbanger thugs and parasites? It has to number in the tens of thousands by now.

  • pst314

    “CONSIDER: Soviet Union…Turkey…Germany…China….Cambodia”

    Closer to home, back in the sixties Bill Ayers and friends discussed how, once the revolution came, how to set up a network of Gulags to imprison the tens of millions of Americans who would need “reeducation” and how to exterminate the millions who would persist in holding politically incorrect thoughts.

    Bill Ayers says that he is proud of his terrorist activities and has not changed his goals only his methods.

    American liberals admire Bill Ayers and see nothing objectionable in him.
    Furthermore, American liberals have shown a decided lack of interest–even disdain–for the civil rights of those they disagree with.

    It seems obvious that it is not unreasonable to consider the possibility that liberals might support virtually any sort of tyranny.

  • Spartacus

    Gen. Gage’s troops’ objective in Concord was the collection of cannon stored there.  How much does the NYT pay these people to practice incoherence, anyway?

  • lee

    Anything more than nothing is entirely too much. But clods like him make entirely too much squared.

  • Ymarsakar

    Guns are not a policy or political issue with the LEft. People are under a slight misunderstanding here. Guns are equivalent to an evil religious dogma, one that the Left fervently believes in. Thus they are advancing a religious doctrine and imposing it on us, the people actually living in America, as if it was something designed to serve the public body’s interests.

  • Ymarsakar

    Charles M: Back when Obama was being nominated for Prez and during his Senate reign, one black kid got smacked in the head with a 4 by 4 hard wood, and killed right there and then. One of the “wannabe white” class, A grade achieving students, as the Left would call them behind our backs. In his home town of Chicago. The Left didn’t talk about banning civil liberties then. They kind of ignored it.
    They weren’t doing a damn thing to decrease the casualty rates when it didn’t involve guns. They won’t be doing a damn thing except increase the casualty rate when guns come in. Eric Holder has many more ideas than the ATF and Mexico combined.

  • JL

    I agree with your premise, that is, that the 2nd amendment was crafted in a way to ensure the people had a means to check government aggression.
    But this day and age, what with tear gas, tanks, and missile strikes, a man with a rifle or a shotgun doesn’t pose much of a threat to a government bent on eliminating him. Certainly more than an unarmed individual, but not enough to really defend himself. Even an army of a million people, loosely organized, probably wouldn’t put up THAT much of a fight.
    If that’s the case, and maybe you think differently, then  wouldn’t a logical extension of the 2nd amendment into the 21st century dictate that civilians should have the right to own more heavy armaments, such as anti-aircraft missile systems, armored vehicles, and heavy machine guns?

  • Danny Lemieux

    The U.S. military allegiance is the the Constitution, so I am not as worried about our military as I am about other government agencies overstepping their authority (e.g., Clinton’s BATF and FBI at Waco). Why, for example, did the Dept. of Homeland Security track down this child pornographer – she should have been arrested, but isn’t Homeland Security supposed to protect us from terrorist threats?

    I think the examples of Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam pretty well underscore that having advanced weaponry isn’t the entire game in a war situation. Also, consider the sheer numbers of armed Americans – I read somewhere that the state of Michigan alone could field 700,000 armed citizens. That is considerably more than the active and reserve military personnel of the U.K.

    So, could an armed citizenry protect against an armed government with bad intentions? Maybe or maybe not. But it certainly would make such a government think twice. 

    There was an elderly member of our church, a Federal prosecutor during the 1940s (now deceased), who recounted to me how his team had prosecuted a group of communist anarchists that had plotted attacks against the Gary, Indiana steel mills. In the course of their investigation, it was disclosed that this group of anarchists/communists had traveled to the Soviet Union and been asked by Stalin if they could organize an armed underground. The response to Stalin was that it would never work, because there were too many armed Americans. I suspect that we may soon see a similar replay of this story, except that instead of armed communists, the threat will come from a jihadi Muslim and Leftwing revolutionary underground. The Europeans face the same threat.

    The problem with the Euros, however, is that they long ago accepted their status as subjects of the State. My Euro relatives, otherwise very successful and highly uneducated, are unable comprehend the concept that they personally should be responsible for their own defense. To them, it is a responsibility to be delegated only to the military and the police. The Swiss, on the other hand, take a very different view, whereby every individual has a responsibility to contribute to their defense. This is but one reason why Switzerland was not invaded in WWII.


  • Charles Martel

    The Second Amendment is not explicit about what kinds of arms the people may keep and bear. Obviously few citizens would be able to afford a tank or anti-aircraft battery, let alone maintain it or be in a plausible position to use it.
    But “arms” in the 21st century can include more than just firearms and standard military ordnance. For example, the Chinese are relentlessly pursuing ways to disable our military via electronic means. They look upon cyber warfare as a weapon. A canny U.S. dictatorship would, besides attempting to strip citizens of their guns, also disarm people’s means of electronic access and communication—all the better to avoid the hacking, spying, and disruption that could impede imposing the will of the few upon the many. 
    Danny, you make a good point about low-level and low-tech warfare. Assuming an all-out attack by the feds on Americans, the government would face several problems:
    —A heavily armed citizenry in possession of millions of guns that are unregistered and hidden. Said citizenry would also know its turf far better than any occupiers.
    —A vast pool of former military who know the tactics soldiers would be likely to use.
    —Sabotage, which would not have to involve bombs or explosions. “Accidental” clerical errors in transmitting data or orders, Stuxnet-type hacking, jamming, work slowdowns, pirate radio, and other tactics would impose heavy costs on running a dictatorship. (The natural leftist response would be to create concentration camps and carry out public executions of “traitors.” This might work in places like Europe or Mexico where people have bred courage and independence out of themselves, but probably wouldn’t go over too well in the South or Midwest.)
    —An essentially bankrupt country, which we soon will be, will not be able to afford high-tech replacement weapons or maintain the ones it has. There would be plenty of attrition that might be temporarily remedied by printing more play money or threatening manufacturers with torture or death. However, see “sabotage” above.
    —As Danny pointed out, the likelihood of American military people fighting on behalf of a dictator is not very high. A government demand for obedience would lead to mutinies and assassinations. The government would have to rely instead on more easily controlled minions, such as TSA morons, corrupt cops (Chicago PD comes to mind), and federalized thugs (unions and Black Panthers). As they attempt to suppress, they will be whittled down in numbers through engagement with superior, better-prepared fighters, and their own ineptitude when it comes to tactics, weapons maintenance, or courage in the face of organized resistance.
    —A federal system that implicitly recognizes the ability of the states to resist federal encroachment. It would be interesting to see how the feds would deal with a Texas or Utah that decided to physically resist a dictatorship. Both states have a heavily armed citizenry, and Texas has an extensive number of nuclear weapons on its soil. As the Spartans said at Thermopylae when the Persians demanded they lay down their arms, “Come and get ’em!”

  • Danny Lemieux

    Whoops! A typ-o. My Euro relatives are HIGHLY educated. Just for the record.

  • Charles Martel

    Danny, it is strange to ponder how high education so often leads to weeniehood.

  • Ymarsakar

    One wonders why people think the people of Iraq and Vietnam can give the US military a Fing quagmire, yet think 300 million American citizens and naturalized or unnaturalized peeps, can’t do something a whole lot worse… it’s like they pick up little propaganda phrases from a unified Leftist sound track.

  • Ymarsakar

    “Even an army of a million people, loosely organized, probably wouldn’t put up THAT much of a fight.”
    It’s times like this that it becomes even more apparent how the decadent West underestimates those with true beliefs. The Westerner, with such decayed personas, aren’t willing to die or kill for anything, so they think everybody else is like them.
    Well, they aren’t like you. They’re just not at the mall during war.

  • Ymarsakar

    Surprisingly, I was phrasing things a bit close to what the ancients said. Whether the Chinese knight errants or the American Colonialists.

    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. — John Stuart Mill

    One person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 who have only interests. — John Stuart Mill, activism
    It is perhaps not a coincidence that much of my belief mirrors theirs, without any intent whatsoever to copy their steps. I instead, perhaps, sought what they have always sought themselves.
    This has nothing to do with politics. Whether you be Democrat, Republican, or “Bi”, your cultural grit is either strong or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, the strong will take it over one way or another.