Just Shoot Me: A Further Observation or Two Regarding Guns

An observation, for what it's worth: Mention gun control in a post -- yea or nay, it doesn't matter -- and the world beats a path to your door (then proceeds to beat you over the head, but that's another story). Traffic shoots way up, debate rages, people come from far and near to look on or weigh in. However, write a post about innocent people being slaughtered in Somalia -- with American bombs, American death squads, and American money fueling an act of aggression by a brutal dictator -- and nobody notices. Traffic sinks, there's no reaction; the dogs bark and the caravan moves on. I just find that interestin', as Ross Perot used to say.

But one more note or two on the gun issue, then I too am going to hasten after the caravan and head on down the line. These comments aren't meant to take issue or join battle with any particular viewpoint; they're just reiterations and expansions, offered as a general response to the thread on the Mexican drug war post.

First, I've never advocated banning guns, and I didn't advocate such a thing in the post in question. So all the comments about the need for home weaponry to protect us from tyranny have nothing to do with what I wrote, whatever intrinsic value they may have in themselves.

However, I am somewhat dubious of the "gun ownership is an indispensable bulwark against The Man" argument. You can have a house crammed full of AK-47s, but if they send a SWAT team – or the 101st Airborne – against you, you are still going down. Having some guns around the house might let you take a few with you, but they are not going to stop the gargantuan armed might of a modern superpower. Or even a backwater tyranny: as we've learned in recent years, almost every household in Iraq traditionally packs heat, and did so throughout Saddam's reign, and that didn't stop him and the Baath Party from imposing a ruthless dictatorship. This is just an elemental observation, not an argument against gun ownership, although without doubt it will taken that way by some.

Someone in the comments quoted, or rather misquoted, Solzhenitsyn writing of how he and his fellow Gulag prisoners regretted that KGB agents were able to raid people's homes without fear of being shot. However, the actual passage from The Gulag Archipelago makes no reference to guns. Here's what he wrote:

What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you'd be cracking the skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the Black Maria sitting out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur -- what if it had been driven off or its tires spiked? The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!

What he is talking about here is the courage to stand up against tyranny with whatever weapons are at hand. Yes, I imagine he'd agree that guns would also be highly effective in such cases; but the main point he is making is about the courage to resist evil. Gun ownership is not the decisive factor in this formulation. The decisive factor is the willingness to throw grit into the machine, whether by active resistance, or sabotoge, or any other method.

The point that our webmaster Rich Kastelein made in the comments underscores Solzhenitsyn; as Rich says, we're talking about an American people who can't even bestir themselves to vote in sufficient numbers (and yes, I know the elections have been gamed, and will be writing about this again in due course) against a tyrant who has spit in their faces for years on end, a people who have docilely countenanced the rape of the Constitution and the commission of the Nazi-style war crime of military aggression – and as recent polls show, are more than willing to support yet another act of aggression against Iran.(More on this later too.) They won't march, they won't strike, they won't boycott, they won't put spikes under the Black Maria's tires; they won't do anything except carp to a pollster every now and then. It doesn't matter if such a quiescent populace has weapons at home or not; they're not going to stand up against "The Man" in any case.

As for the lapse in the assault ban fueling the Mexican drug war, this was a statement by a law enforcement official involved in the situation. I didn't just pull the idea out of my hat. If he's wrong, well, he's wrong, and I was wrong to quote him. Send me stats or evidence to counter the notion, and I'll be happy to see it. As for the NRA, it is the organization's national leadership itself that boasts of its political pull, its intimate connection with the White House, etc. I didn't make that up either. Nor did I make up the fact that the NRA has pushed laws restricting the rights of communities to exercise their freedom to take issues to the courts. Of course, every case that a city might file against gun corporations might not be legitimate and well-grounded; some will be, some won't – but that's for a jury to decide. (And if the case is truly specious, it will be thrown out anyway.) But I do think that it is heinous and dangerous to dictate by legislation what issues a community or individual can or cannot take to court.

I stated clearly in the post that guns were not the real issue in the Mexican "surge;" the real issue is the "War on Drugs" itself, and the manifold encroachments of liberty that it has spawned.
I got into the NRA angle in the post because I was upset at the treatment doled out to my AFP colleague Jayne Stahl after she wrote an article stating her beliefs on America's gun culture. For this expression of her ideas, she was subjected to death threats, and ugly behavior exacerbated by an official NRA website. So I wove some of my longstanding objections to the organization's political activities into the piece which was originally sparked by the Mexican story. This story in turn touched on a larger theme I have explored here from time to time: the growing interpenetration of the criminal and "legitimate" sectors in the economy, foreign policy, intelligence work, and global and domestic politics.

Finally, to reiterate tediously one last time: I don't advocate The Man busting in to pry the guns out of your cold, dead hands or your warm, lively hands or whatever kind of hands you've got wrapped around your weapons. I will say again, though, that I still don't see why the regulation of interstate commerce that the Constitution provides for should not be applied – within reason, with due concern for inalienable rights of individual liberty – to the commercial products of gun corporations. But I haven't studied the issue in great depth, and this quick blog post today is not meant as a learned dissertation covering every aspect of the obviously fascinating topic of gun control.

I am not a dogmatist, idealist or absolutist, demanding everyone hew to the letter of my laid-down law. I am for whatever works best to make life a bit more human and humane, for however long any approach or policy is effective in its given circumstances. I don't know of any approach that will work best in every single situation, but my personal preference generally is for non-violent (but not non-active) resistance to evil, because I think that such an approach calls on something better in us, a higher order of consciousness and awareness. And lord knows we can use all the help we can get to climb out of the ooze of our lizard-brain sediments and the manifold imperfections, the breakage and mutation, of our cerebral infrastructure. But I also know that all of our understandings are highly contingent and always, always provisional: a leap from rock to rock in pitch darkness, on a raging river so wide that neither shore is in sight – and never will be.

That's more than enough about me and where I'm coming from. But in a forum such as a blog, it's probably good to set down your guiding principles (and/or lack of same) now and then. So I -- Wait, here's the caravan at last. See you later.