April 25, 2014

Si vis pacem, para bellum

A couple of months ago I got involved in an email exchange with a gun control fan, who asked me why there was a Second Amendment and why people like me thought it was so important. Here's what I wrote back to him:

Alright, I'll try to explain the theory. You're not going to like this, and it's going to strike you as being tinfoil hat territory, but work with me here.

Let's rewind back to 1789 when the Bill of Rights was written. It was only 6 years since the Revolution ended. And the early battles of the Revolution were fought by men using their own weapons. (That's what the Patriots used in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, for example.) Those who wrote the Bill of Rights were acutely aware that the only reason the Revolution was possible was because of widespread ownership of guns.

The Revolution was fought because the British government was perceived to have become tyrannical, and the Founders were well aware that the new government they were establishing could in turn become tyrannical. They included lots of checks and limits on the government, but knew that in the end the only sure way to prevent that was if the people had the means to rise in revolution, again.

The Second Amendment is the ultimate check. That's why it was included in the Bill of Rights.

This is what you're not going to like: the purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that the citizens of the US are sufficiently well armed to fight a revolution, if a new one is needed. That's what the "militia" referred to in it is about: in that time the word "militia" referred to the kind of thing that happened in Boston at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where all able bodied men grabbed their own guns and fought on behalf of the community.

Which means that issues like hunting or self defense are a distraction. The Second Amendment is about allowing citizens to own weapons which are good enough to permit them to fight against a tyrant's army and win.

In 1789 that meant muzzle-loaded muskets, because that's what the British Army (and the Hessians) were using. In our time it means the AR-15 and similar weapons.

Now to continue this, one of the reasons that a lot of conservatives object to establishment of gun-owner registries is that historically, just about the first thing a tyrant does is to collect all the weapons owned by citizens, so that they no longer are able to rise in revolt. Then there's no check left to stop him. A gun registry would make that a lot easier.

I'm not saying I think that we need a new revolution. What I am saying is that the presence of a huge and powerful arsenal in the hands of private citizens acts as a tremendous deterrent for anyone thinking of trying to establish a tyranny, because the would-be tyrant knows that a revolution is possible.

Arguably so far it's worked.

The Romans said, "Si vis pacem, para bellum". If you seek peace, prepare for war. (That's where the name of the 9x19 Parabellum cartridge comes from.)

The Second Amendment permits the citizens of the United States to prepare for war, in service of seeking peace.

And it is precisely "slaughtering lots of men" which is protected, because in a revolution that's what you have to do.

It isn't a perfect solution, but there aren't any others which have been as successful.

Does that mean I think we need to be able to buy machine guns? No, I'm happy with that ban. Semi-auto rifles are good enough; the fire-rate difference isn't significant enough to be prohibitive. But I do think it means we citizens should be able to buy semi-auto rifles and large magazines, because in the world as it is now you need that much, at least, to be able to fight a revolution come the day.

The Gun Grabbers use "It's for the children" and similar arguments in favor of gun bans, and focus in on school shootings (which are really very rare, in fact) and lone nutcases attacking shopping malls. "Gee, if only no one had any guns, this wouldn't happen."

But that's not really what they fear. It isn't guns in the hands of lone nutcases or jihadis that they fear. It's guns in the hands of law-abiding conservatives. It's because the left wing wants to establish a tyranny, but knows it can't because of all those gun owners. The Second Amendment, even today, is doing what the founders wanted it to, by establishing a huge deterrent.

Arguments about hunting and self defense all (deliberately) miss the point. "Why does anyone need an AR-15"?

Well, two answers to that. First, since when did anyone in this country have to prove they needed something in order to own it?

Second, come the revolution (God forbid) it's going to take weapons like that to win.

We aren't to that point yet, and my argument is that the existence of a huge and powerful arsenal in private hands will prevent us from coming to that point. The fact that the American people have the means to rise in revolution means we won't ever have to.

The people of America are prepared for war, in the service of seeking peace.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 05:48 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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