An armed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny — by guestblogger Lulu

In a recent interview on gun control in the wake of the slaughter of a classroom of innocent children and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Ben Shapiro said that one of the purposes of an armed citizenry is to prevent government tyranny. Piers Morgan harrumphed condescendingly in response, as if the very thought that Americans might need protection at this time from a potentially tyrannical government was wacky in an extremist, even paranoid way.

In the face of a relatively peaceful society with a government not waging literal war on its citizens, Morgan’s emotions seem understandable. Why do you need weapons against tyranny when the government isn’t attacking you? That’s absurd! Paranoid! But by the time an unexpected situation is desperate, even catastrophic, if citizens are unarmed, it is too late and virtually impossible to acquire weapons.

In the face of real tyranny, an unarmed civilian population is completely defenseless. History has shown us over and over again that events that trigger the collapse of a society, including all legal boundaries and ordinary decency, happen in the blink of an eye. Jews living completely normal lives in Europe in the 1930s could never have imagined that, just a few years later, their own governments (because several occupied countries were complicit with the Nazis) would herd them en masse into buildings filled with poisoned air in order to slaughter each and every one of them. The collapse was total and dizzyingly brisk. In areas of Eastern Europe it was overnight.

So here’s a question for Mr. Morgan: Once your own government, or a successful invading with which your government conspires, isolates you in ghettos, deprives you of food and possessions, and denies you any civil rights, including the right to possess a weapon, what do you do? At that moment, do you walk into a gun shop to buy protection for yourself? For citizens to have a chance at defending themselves against this overnight societal collapse, they need the gun before, not after, their government turns on them. Israel learned this lesson well, which is why the citizenry is armed.

As was everyone with a functioning soul and conscience, I too was horrified by the Sandy Hook massacre. It was another reminder (as if we needed one) that evil and insanity exist – and that, when mixed together, these two are a horrifying combination. Much needs to be done to help the mentally ill and to keep them away from weapons, and to help identify when their behavior is escalating dangerously so that we can react and get help sooner.

The question in terms of responses, though, is whether disarming our civilian population would make us more, or less, vulnerable and whether doing so would make our children more, or less, at risk. Reasonable people can logically accept the necessity of strict background checks for gun owners and laws about gun storage so that children, mentally ill people, and thieves cannot access them. But will eliminating guns entirely protect children? I took a look at the biggest mass slaughters of the past 100 years. This is what I learned.

Armenian children

Between 1915 and 1923 about 1,000,000 Armenians were slaughtered by the Turkish military by order of the Ottoman government.

Primary methods of slaughter: mass burnings, drowning, starvation, exposure, death marches.

Child victims? In the hundreds of thousands.

Ukranian children

In 1933, Josef Stalin, leader of the USSR, engineered a famine in Ukraine enforced by the armed military. Between 7,000,000 and 11,000,000 peasants starved to death. At its height, 25,000 people died of starvation per day.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation.

Child victims? In the millions.

Jewish Children

Between 1939- 1945 the German government organized the systematic slaughter of all humans they deemed undesirable. Their primary target was Jews, but victims included gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, and the mentally ill. Those who enforced this slaughter were armed police and soldiers. After concluding that bullets were too expensive, the Nazis and their allies applied less expensive slaughtering techniques.

Primary methods of slaughter: mass gassings, mass burnings, beating, exposure, starvation, worked to death, buried alive, medical experimentation, torture.

Child victims? Between 2-3,000,000 children were murdered.

Chinese children

Mao Tze Tung, leader of Communist China, and the greatest mass murderer of all time, slaughtered between 49-70,000,000 people during the so-called “Great Leap Forward.” Forty-five million people died in 4 years alone in work camps and gulags.

Primary methods of slaughter: worked to death, starvation, exposure, torture, beatings.

Child victims? In the millions.

Cambodian victims

Between 1975-1979, 2,000,000 Cambodian civilians were systematically slaughtered by their government, the Khmer Rouge.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation, exposure, and, because bullets were too expensive per Khmer Rouge officials (“Bullets are not to be wasted”), death was delivered by hammer, axe, spade, sharpened bamboo sticks, and burial alive.

Child victims: In the hundreds of thousands.

North Korean child

Between 1984 and 1988, between 240,000 and 3,500,000 citizens of North Korea were starved to death by their government engineering and incompetence. Armed police and the military enforced this policy.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation, work camps, and gulags.

Child victims? In the tens of thousands.

In 1994, a government sponsored massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda led to the death of 800,000 people in one year. Guns were expensive, so the Hutus used other methods.

Primary method of slaughter: machetes, clubs, knives, bombs.

Child victims? In the tens of thousands.

The common thread to these mass killings was that tyrannical governments using armed agents (military and police) carried them out against ordinary citizens who were either entirely unarmed, or under-armed. Were guns involved in the slaughter? Certainly. As these pictures show, guns were used against unarmed people to herd them, terrify them, and control them. Guns were used like cattle prods to move large numbers of people and to frighten them into cooperation. Repeatedly, governments bent on large scale mass slaughter found shooting to be too slow and costly. The Nazis abandoned their Baba Yar-type ravines for industrialized death factories. Resistance only occurred when civilians were able to gather together weapons to fight back. Without weapons, civilians were entirely defenseless against armed tormentors.

Planning to deal with tyranny after tyranny occurs is too late. An armed citizenry is the best system of checks and balances against a government getting too big, demonizing particular groups of citizens too much, and lacking any meaningful opposition within the country. Tyrants always look for easy victims and seek to disarm them. A population that can and will protect itself in advance of a tyrant’s encroachments effectively prevents any tyranny from occurring.

[Bookworm here:  I am willing to bet that, in everyone of the countries Lulu describes above, if you had asked people months or a few years in advance whether they would be subject to tyranny and genocide, they all would have answered, “No way!  It can’t happen here.]

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  • Spartacus

    Otto Frank uprooted his family in 1933, the very year that the NSDAP came to power, in preparation to move completely out of the country in 1934.  Many of his friends and neighbors doubtlessly thought him paranoid to leave the country that was arguably the center of the the intellectual and cultural world in order to start a business from scratch in a foreign country because of some political rhetoric.  He later applied for visas to take his family across the Atlantic, to the US or Cuba, but without luck.  He transferred control of his company so that it wouldn’t draw attention as “Jewish-controlled.”  He prepared the attic space of the company in complete secrecy, and made shrewd arrangements with carefully chosen employees, and successfully hid eight Jews right in Nazi territory for two years.  Even all of that wasn’t enough to save his wife and daughters.
    Piers Morgan and his ilk should write an open letter to the memory of Otto Frank, explaining why he was a silly, paranoid lunatic in thinking that the democratically elected government of a civilized nation could turn on its own.

  • Charles Martel

    Morgan is a bully. Deep down he knows he lacks the intellectual firepower to match the arguments he encounters, thus the constant sneering and piling on to interfere with and break guests’ chains of thought.
    Speaking of bullies, for some reason Morgan reminds me of my oldest brother Billy, who was the toughest kid in my elementary school (he was in 6th grade, I was in kindergarten). He protected me from bullies, and I appreciated it, but even at the tender age of 5 I couldn’t figure out how Billy could be the toughest kid around when he was nowhere near the biggest.
    I pondered that for years until we had one of those brotherly conversations where much gets revealed. What was his secret, I asked? “Simple, Hammer,” he told me. “You distract them—get the tough guy to look away from you for a second. When he does, blindside him with a punch that’s got everything you have in it, then run like hell.”
    We need to find a way to use Billy’s tactics. We’re out-hefted and out-weighed, but damned if we should let ourselves be outwitted.

  • Call me Lennie

    Just a few historical odds and ends
    1) Rwanda Massacre was in 1994, not 1984
    2) The highest estimate I’ve ever heard from the Holdomor is 7 million and the range of estimates is between 4 and 7 million.  I think you have to take some of the estimated death tolls from the actions of Stalin and Lenin and from the Russian Civil War with a grain of salt as the Soviet Union wouldn’t have been able to hold off the Germans in WWII — nor could it have been a functioning power after WWII.
    3)  I’m not sure 6 million bullets is more expensive than building immense camps with separate rail lines leading into them. Another explanation for the death camps is that the Nazis couldn’t find enough Germans abnormal enough to gun down hundreds and thousand of women and children.  Even the Einzatsgruppen soldiers eventually began to balk at this awful duty.
    So the Nazis devised a system that took advantage of the German’s ability to compartmentalize and rationalize.  They could be a part of the chain of events that eventually caused the death of the Jewish women and children as long as they weren’t the ones committing the lethal act.  This meant that the actual killing could be performed by just a handful of true psychopaths.  And even here, responsibility was divided, as one man ordered another man to insert the Zyklon B canister into the vent

    • Bookworm

      Thanks, Call Me Lennie. I fixed the 1984/1994 typo. I guess there a subliminal word association there with Orwell.

  • JKB

    Guns are useful when the troops start rounding up people but that is not when they are most useful.  I’ve not done a formal study but tyranny doesn’t suddenly come one day as a “palms up military run”, unless it comes by invasion.  Tyranny comes in the night wearing white sheets or brown shirts, etc.  Until the populace is sufficiently cowed, the government and the military walk a tight rope between terror and appearing to be the force of law.  Otherwise, they risk provoking a rebellion and often the “government” and the “military” are competing entities at risk of aligning with the rebellion.  
    One thing I noticed in the Iran protests that Obama refused to support.  There wasn’t much overt action against the protesters.  There were reports of the police being as much protector as opposition.  But the shadowy men were very active.  The Basij, a paramilitary group, were reported raping, sniping, disappearing people.  True, once taken the protesters felt the full force of the regime, but the regime seemed reluctant to go “palms up military” and the civil authorities (police) didn’t seem to be willing to go much past law enforcement.  
    It is these “paramilitary” groups that start tyranny and sometimes are its continuation.  They come in the night, perhaps with a wink and a nod from but often as a threat to the civil authorities.  It is these groups that the right to keep and bear arms are very effective.  Keeping the right to self defense and the capability of self defense, then the paramilitaries must face risk, must act more overtly and sometimes are either repelled revealing them as not invulnerable or commit atrocities against those who fight back sparking rebellion.  Plus, once the tyranny becomes overt, armed citizens can use their arms to leverage up to more comparable weapons to fight government forces.  

  • Ymarsakar

    Martel, technically we don’t need to run away. Take the katana, cut through the neck of the opponent, and watch calmly as he falls. We’re not the ones that need to run away from the nation.

  • Ymarsakar

    Firearms are a way to upgrade. With enough handguns, you can take and capture rifles, with enough rifles, you can raid convoys and armory depots for explosives, sniper rifles, and assault rifle munitions. With enough of those, you can capture nuclear facilities, build bombs, and annihilate entire capitals and enemy fortresses.
    War is not a game for people who play betting the minimum. “Guns” are not the “end” goal here.

  • Ymarsakar

    Take the famous Mumbai mass slaughter by some Islamic agents and operatives. They went around with AKs shooting people. The Indian police got one look and said “my paycheck isn’t worth this” and left.
    If you only could exert lethal force within 5-21 feet from you (such as with hand or melee tools), you would have to wait and lure one person in, ambushing him, killing him, and taking his weapons, hopefully without some other guy shooting you while you do so.
    If you had a handgun, your ability to project power, ambush, kill, assassinate, and destroy patrols go up dramatically at the same skill level. Instead of requiring hand to hand skills equal to killing 2 armed assailants within 21 feet as their assault rifles track you, you instead only have to be in a position to shoot two guys in sequence and kill them. Then go in and pick up their stuff. Time wise, and opportunity wise, you have more options, and less risk. The benefit of stealth in terms of lethal force from the hands and body, is nullified by the mere fact that nobody cares which gunshots are happening now that the operation has gone hot.
    With the new assault rifles you grabbed off the dead bodies of the dispersed Islamic death team, you can now get an even better and safer ambush spot, or even actively go hunting for Islamos. If you find like minded people, you can even give them another AK and ammo, lessening the load on you and adding another GUN to the team. With assault rifles, at the same level of skill, you can gun down entire fire teams ( 4 mans) in the same time and effort it took to kill 1 guy with your body or 2 guys with a pistol from the back.
    With each kill, you grow stronger in martial prowess, experience, and instinctual reflexes. With each kill your ammo supply grows larger and the amount of weapons you can hand out to other killer-defenders, more. The arc at which you “control” the battlespace increases, the longer ranged weapons you have, the more supply ammo, the faster the rof, and the more team members you can recruit. The larger your battlespace control, the more people you can defend, rescue, and recruit into your growing army. The larger your army, the better stuff you can make, haul around, and resupply with or steal from bodies (takes significant manpower to grab loot off a battlefield and you can’t fight at the same time effectively while looting)
    Never expect the cannonfodder Leftists to think like this. They aren’t allowed to. Who’d be stupid enough to let Ideological provocateurs and protesters know the secrets of armed conflict. Both the Cuban and Iranian forces wiped the Leftists off the face of the planet the moment the revolution was over. Some of the higher operatives in the Left, perhaps Bill Ayers, might have thought about this and know this to be true, but he’s not talking.

  • David Foster

    Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany between the wars, described his reaction and that of his father to Hitler’s election as Chancellor in 1933:
    I do not know what the general reaction was. For about a minute, mine was completely correct: icy horror…for a moment I physically sensed the man’s odour of blood and filth, the nauseating approach of a man-eating animal–its foul, sharp claws in my face.
    But that evening, after discussing the situation with his father, he felt better about the future. Hitler, after all, had not been elected dictator: he was merely head of a coalition government and indeed had sworn an oath to the Weimar constitution.
    We agreed that (the new government) had a good chance of doing a lot of damage, but not of surviving for very long: a deeply reactionary government, with Hitler as its mouthpiece…Even with the Nazis it would not have a majority in the Reichstag…Foreign policy would probably be a matter of banging the table. There might be an attempt to rearm. That would automatically add the outside world to the 60 percent of the home population who were against the Government…No, all things considered, this government was not a cause for alarm.
    …The next day this turned out to be the general opinion of the intelligent press.

  • Indigo Red

    Call me Lennie, it’s not that making bullets was any less expensive than building extermination camps, rather, once an extermination camp is built, it doesn’t have to be rebuilt after it’s first use. It is known from German industrial records that using bullets for mass execution was using valuable war materiel that was increasingly in short supply because Germany did not have quick and easy access to the needed raw material. The negative psychological aspect of up close head shots was a concern, but was secondary as plenty of people, Germans and others, were found to do the job, but individual killing remained time consuming.
    The problem with bullets was putting the gun barrel in contact at the the victims skull base created blow back – brains were splattered on the executioner. Many soldiers couldn’t handle the reality of human tissue being splattered on them and were excused from such duty without recrimination or penalty. The bigger problem for soldiers and officers was the blood and tissue messed up their uniforms creating a huge problem for the laundry units. Uniforms were in short supply, so the executioners had to wear soiled uniforms and that was simply too untidy for the German military. 
    Death camps were ideal for mass killing as was Zyklon B, which was a readily available rat poison modified for human killing. Reich members also did not have to be involved in the hands on part of killing. Uniformed guards escorted the condemned to the gas chamber and closed the doors. A uniformed guard then dropped the Zyklon B (cyanide) down a chute from the roof to the chamber floor and never saw what the resulting gas was doing. When a camp doctor certified the noise in the chamber had stopped, Jewish inmates then cleared the chamber, removing the bodies to the crematoria or burn pits where more Jewish inmates put the bodies into the fires.
    The ovens didn’t burn bodies fast enough, so large pits were dug. Pits, however, lacked the airflow for continuous flame and the body burning required added diesel fuel or gasoline. But, again, those were needed for the war effort and were in short supply. Someone saw that pit burning created liquid human fat that ran off. So channels were dug to collect the human fat in pools into which buckets were dipped to be thrown over the burning bodies to keep the flames going. 
    In the end, many death camp inmates were killed by smashing their skulls with clubs or bayonetted because bullets were too scarce as was cyanide for Zyklon B. Bodies were stacked at the crematoria and around the camps in big piles because there was no fuel to burn them. But, still the killing machine continued to deliver prisoners who were marched hither and yon during which hundreds died from exertion before Allied troops arrived at which point the guards disappeared into the countryside often exchanging uniforms for civilian clothes, but the haircut gave them away.
    Germans have no special ability to compartmentalize over any other nationality. The NAZIs had a decade to indoctrinate a broken people and children into the psychology of death and killing. Hatred and psychosis wasn’t necessary for the death industry, everyone had a job and they simply had to do that small part for the whole to work properly. Preserving individual sanity ultimately required collective action, so that every war criminal brought to trial and every soldier and civilian who participated to any degree could rightly say they were not personally responsible because they weren’t, the collective was. But, who is the collective? Everyone and no one. Barack Obama knows this very well and his understanding was on display in yesterday’s second inaugural speech.

  • Ymarsakar

    “Hitler, after all, had not been elected dictator: he was merely head of a coalition government and indeed had sworn an oath to the Weimar constitution.”
    Those who are still thinking of the conflict in political terms, will often think such thoughts. They cannot imagine how far evil will go  to make them suffer.