Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
Here's the RSS feed or subscribe to our FFF Email Update to receive Hornberger’s Blog daily.

Tyranny and Gun Control

by

Over the years, I’ve had conversations with Europeans about gun control. Not surprisingly, they have been very critical of America’s “gun culture” — that is, the widespread ownership of guns among the American people. They have extolled the situation in Europe, where gun-control laws preclude people from freely owning guns, arguing that such laws make for a more peaceful society.

My response to such Europeans has included the following: The big advantage we have over you is what happens if a tyrannical regime ever takes power. Except for Switzerland, where most families are well-armed with assault rifles and handguns, Europeans have but one choice when faced with the rise of a tyrannical regime: submit and obey or be killed. Americans, at least, have one final choice — resist with guns.

Let’s assume, for example, that a regime assumes power in a European country that will not permit elections, abolishes civil liberties, takes command and control over the economy, and begins rounding up and incarcerating, torturing, raping, and killing dissidents and critics without a trial. Given that the troops who are enforcing the regime’s orders will be the only ones in society who have guns, the citizenry will inevitably shut their mouths or, even worse, become ardent and enthusiastic supporters of the regime.

A good example, of course, was Nazi Germany, where German Jews lacked the means to resist their round-ups and incarceration with force and where ordinary Germans, also lacking the means to resist what was going on, kept silent or became government supporters.

We’re seeing a good example of a modern-day tyrannical regime in Iran. There, the elections are crooked and the government is using its troops and police to arrest dissidents, protestors, and critics. After taking such “enemies of society” into custody, some of the troops are then raping and torturing some of the prisoners. The troops and police are sometimes shooting protestors in cold blood on the streets or executing them in custody. No legitimate trials are being accorded the suspects and any such trials would be of a kangaroo nature anyway.

The Iranian people have an interesting choice — submit and obey, or resist and be raped, tortured, or killed. Because there is no widespread ownership of guns, they are precluded from shooting back at the troops and police when they’re fired upon or when the troops or police come to cart them away for indefinite incarceration, torture, rape, or execution.

Of course, there are many American gun-control types who say, “Well, that sort of thing could happen in Iran or Europe or elsewhere, but it could never happen here in the United States.”

That position, needless to say, is the height of naïveté. Anything is possible. Human nature is human nature. There’s nothing special about American human beings as compared to other human beings. There will always be those in every society, including the United States, who thirst for power over the lives of other human beings and who are all-too-ready to convince themselves that the assumption of omnipotent, tyrannical power is necessary to save the nation. And there will always be those who are ready and willing to loyally obey orders, especially when their superiors tell them that what they’re doing is saving the nation.

Likely? Of course not. America’s long tradition of democracy and due process makes the likelihood of a tyrannical regime assuming power, say in a coup, extremely unlikely.

But not impossible.

And that’s where the right to keep and bear arms comes into play. It’s the insurance policy that Americans have in the unlikely event that would-be American tyrants were ever to assume power in our country, prohibiting elections, rounding up dissidents and critics, torturing and raping them, and executing them without due process of law.

In fact, the right to keep and bears arms actually serves as more than an insurance policy, it also serves as a deterrent. For when would-be tyrants know that the citizenry is well-armed, they think twice about imposing tyranny.

In the case of Silveira v. Lockyer, Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski summed up the importance of the right to keep and bear arms:

The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

This post was written by:

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.