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Robert Mugabe and the Second Amendment

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A front-page article in last Saturday’s Washington Post detailed an inside account of how Zimbabwe’s thuggish president Robert Mugabe ensured his victory in the country’s recent presidential run-off election. The account provides a good refresher course on why our American ancestors enshrined the right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment — and why they so detested standing military forces within their own country.

Having garnered less votes than his opponent in the general election, Mugabe, who has held power for almost 30 years, was contemplating dropping out of the race. Afraid of losing their lucrative government positions, however, loyal government bureaucrats, including many of Mugabe’s military goons, convinced him to keep fighting.

Mugabe and his advisors came up with an interesting campaign plan known as CIBD, which stood for coercion, intimidation, beating, and displacement. Led by Mugabe’s loyal military forces, his goons embarked on a violent and brutal campaign of murder, torture, and beatings designed to intimidate the opposition.

The plan worked, causing Mugabe’s opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, to drop out of the race, delivering the runoff victory to Mugabe. Despite the fact that his election to office is as illegitimate as an election could ever be, Mugabe has promised to remain in office until God removes him.

So, what do Zimbabweans do in this circumstance? Nothing, except pray for his removal from office.

Most everyone would agree that if there was ever a right of revolution — i.e., a violent overthrow of one’s own government — this is it. Unfortunately, however, Zimbabweans are precluded from exercising the right of revolution owing to one big reason: gun control. Because they lack guns, Zimbabweans lack the means to oppose the armed government goons that do Mugabe’s bidding and keep him in power.

As our American ancestors understood so well — and as the situation in Zimbabwe is demonstrating, a disarmed citizenry inevitably becomes an obedient citizenry. It lacks the means to object when tyranny rears its ugly head.

Standing armies are inevitably loyal to their commanders, who are loyal to their political rulers. They will obey orders faithfully, especially when “national security” is at stake.

That’s why our American ancestors detested standing armies. They knew that all too often rulers would turn the guns of their military and police forces inward, against their own people. Equally important, they knew that the military and police would faithfully, loyally, and “patriotically” obey the orders of their superiors.

Thus, the central idea behind the Second Amendment was not to ensure that people could hunt deer or shoot burglars. It was instead to ensure that U.S. rulers were prohibited from depriving Americans of their “doomsday weapon” — a weapon that would always ensure that Americans would have the means to defend themselves from the tyranny of their very own government — yes, the federal government in Washington, D.C. That’s something that Zimbabweans are today unable to do owing to gun control in their country.

Some Americans claim that the Second Amendment is outmoded. They say that while U.S. personnel would do bad things to foreigners, they would never do bad things to Americans. Oh? You mean, like the way they tortured and sexually abused John Walker Lindh? Or the way they tortured, isolated, drugged, and brutalized Jose Padilla? Or the way they massacred people, including defenseless children, at Waco? Or the way they shot Vickie Weaver in the head, as she held her baby in her arms, and her teenage son in the back? Or the way they shot and killed antiwar demonstrators at Kent State? Or the way they rounded up Americans of Japanese descent and put them into concentration centers? Or the way they engaged in syphilis experiments with unsuspecting African-Americans?

The fact is that American human beings are no different from other human beings. Given a crisis environment where the fear of terrorism (or communism or whatever) is running rampant and U.S. officials are screaming that “national security” is at stake, U.S. rulers will always be able to find a certain segment of U.S. military forces and the CIA to carry out any orders against Americans, just as Robert Mugabe has. All the president would have to do is label any Americans he wants as dangerous “enemy combatants” — “terrorists” or “terrorist sympathizers” — and order the Pentagon and the CIA to take them into custody and treat them accordingly. If a Pentagon official or subordinate refused to carry out such orders, he would immediately be fired (or worse) and be replaced by an official who would faithfully carry out the orders of his commander in chief.

Would the Zimbabweans revolt against their government if they had guns? It’s impossible to know. As Jefferson pointed out in the Declaration of Independence, people will sometimes put up with lots of tyranny rather than suffer massive casualties in a violent revolution. At least the right to keep and bear arms provides people with the option of resistance to tyranny, an option that gun control has extinguished in Zimbabwe.

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.