I think this statement is mostly true:
I think that US gun ownership supporters are entirely too romantic about what widespread automatic weapons mean in societies where there is either no tradition that teaches about these kinds of weapons, or else in the course of war and disruption, such traditions have eroded.
It is not always the case, contra Heinlein, that an armed society is a polite society. Sometimes it is simply a brutal and brutalizing society, and part of the enormous responsibility of gun owners is to teach and pass along a culture of responsible, individual gun use. That is one reason why, paradoxically for the gun-controllers, a culture of responsible gun use requires that they be reasonably and openly widespread, widely and openly accepted but subject to social norms and cultural traditions of use.
Read the whole thing. It’s well worth your time. Too often in many of these civil conflicts, there aren’t really any “good guys” that are protecting themselves from “bad guys.” You merely have two equally bad groups of people brutalizing each other, and the greater society.
While I’m skeptical that any international arms control agreement that the UN proposes can change this fact, it’s hard to deny that the proliferation of small arms into Africa and other areas of conflict has had a stabilizing effect.
I think where “good guys” can be easily identified, responsible nations shouldn’t be prohibited from supplying arms by international treaty. But it’s simplistic to assume that in many of these third world conflicts, there’s anything to be gained by arming one group or another. Too many of these societies are simply broken, and while there are, no doubt, good people being brutalized, arming them isn’t going to have much of an impact on the greater conflict.
Hat Tip to Dave Hardy
UPDATE: In the comments over at Dave’s I remembered one important point I wanted to make:
In societies which are completely broken, the strong brutalize the weak, and brutalize each other. Putting a rifle in a man’s hands does nothing if he doesn’t have the skill or motivation to stand up for his own life and liberty. We have a tradition of liberty and individual rights in this country which makes having an armed society work. If your cultural tradition is subservience to the strong, then having a gun accomplishes nothing for you.
I think you see this on a small scale. I have a friend that lives in high crime area I won’t go to without being armed, but I do not suggest it for her because I do not believe she is capable of taking another life to defend hers. I don’t understand it, but it’s how she is. A firearm is merely a tool… the true weapon is your mind.