What I Agree With Might Surprise You

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.

10 thoughts on “What I Agree With Might Surprise You”

  1. It is a great point. My mind goes back to the comparisons made between America at its founding and France after its revolution. I think about how different each of those countries turned out and how America made it work while France made it a savage nightmare. Freedom is only as good as the people in whose hands it falls. Britain is good example of that today. With its rampant crime and repugnant disavowal of a citizen’s right to defend themselves; what we see a terrible escalation that has made sharp pointy things a crisis for public safety.

    I don’t look at America’s heritage as a issue of “romance” as much I think people look to their traditions for a sense of identity. It is who we are. The rights and freedoms we have a not romanticized; they are the core of our being. That is what the UN will never understand; that is why they despise America. Indeed a good portion of the UN is made up of despotic or socialist retreads who are no different than the pragmatists who viewed the coming age of the strongman during the rise of Mussolini and Hitler. Our foundations remain because they are built upon the creed that what God has given us should by no means be infringed.

  2. Brutal African nations are not a good example from which to draw. Most of them have at least tacit support from government and in most cases the arms are only possessed by one side in the struggle. There aren’t many actual “wars” going on there, there are specific attempts to eradicate unpopular minorities.

    I agree that widespread gun ownership is no guarantee of a civilized society, but the examples of African countries are not good illustrations of “widespread gun ownership”.

  3. Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, etc. are not armed societies in the sense Heinlein meant. Jane al-Doe can’t walk into the corner gun store and ten minutes later walk out with a new Springfield or Glock.

  4. Rob’s right, an armed society is just that, a society that accepts everyone being armed. None of those places mentioned would like it much if you gave everyone of the female persuasion a gun and the training to use it.

  5. Even without guns, there still may be a slaughter. Remember Rwanda and those machetes.

    Green Berets would probably be needed for any official help, such as arming southern Sudanese villages.

  6. The devil’s advocate in me has always suspected that the UN’s IANSA makes a nice, fluffy, politically correct cover dressing for some pretty brutal counter-insurgency policies of tin-horn dictators.

    America doesn’t own the trademark on a desire for Freedom and prosperity.
    Those are human ambitions, not just American.
    We just put it into practice better than anyone else, back in our glory days.

  7. Stabilization may not be great if the stabilizing force is the police state. The natural right of self defence and the corollary that like minded individuals can band to gather for protection. That is why walled cities were started because of depradations of armed predators. The predators can be police, army or just bunch of thugs. To those being robbed, raped and murdered there is no difference, they are just enemies. Let them have arms. Death is peaceful, life is not.

  8. I would note that feudalism was also largely supported because the Lord offered his protection to his vassals in exchange for labor, and ofter military service. Feudalism was only a minor step above tribalism, which is also brutal. The introduction of firearms into European society swept feudalism away, because it allowed for fundamental societal changes to occur which made feudalism obsolete.

    I do think having arms dispersed among society helps ensure a lasting order, but that doesn’t happen overnight. It took Europe centuries to move from feudalism, through the enlightenment, and finally toward democratic governance.

    Africa may well stabilize at some point too, and it probably won’t be disarmament that accomplishes it. I am skeptical of disarmament as a way to solve the problem, and I think the UN is naive to believe it will work. But I’m also skeptical that it’s a simple matter to get arms into the hands of the right people in conflict areas. With little or no culture of independence and self-government, these societies just don’t have the institutions and ideas needed to use arms to create a workable peace, or a just government.

    You can see both extremes at work in Iraq. The Kurds were able to use their own arms to create a functioning society in Northern Iraq, even under Saddam’s rule. It would be silly to disarm the Kurds, since they have the social framework to make that work. The Shia Arabs, on the other hand, who were oppressed by the Sunni minority are now the ones with the arms, and rather than creating a workable plurality, they’ve decided it’s their time for reprisals, and their time to enjoy the benefits of graft and corruption.

  9. I agree with your point but the Kurds manmaged to set up a stable system in the 10 years the US prevented Saddam from invading them from the 1991 war.

    I think that many African countries were/are capable of a stable system. But they are too tolerant of the big man syndrome and allow them to take power. That is what happened to Zimbabwe when the transition was sabatoged by Carter of US and GR Britain.

    That was a very well country under Rhodesian white rule. It is funny but I often see parallels from the destruction of an exceptionally well run country from white to black rule and the similar results in our cities. DC was very well run under Congress. It went to hell in a handbasket under home rule. Atlanta also deteriorated and there are other citiies.

    I know there are substantial other factors like the 1960’s cultural revolution in the US etc but the parallels are scary.

  10. Sebastian wrote:

    “Africa may well stabilize at some point too, and it probably won’t be disarmament that accomplishes it. I am skeptical of disarmament as a way to solve the problem, and I think the UN is naive to believe it will work. …”

    With an institution as corrupt as the United Nations, we ought not to ascribe naivete to their disarmament motives. I think their motivation is far more sinister. After all, when Libya can chair the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, leading their buddies on that commission from the Sudan and Zimbabwe, we can fairly infer that “human rights” as generally understood in U.S. isn’t high on the U.N. agenda. When Burma, whose generals were busy preventing humanitarian aid from reaching its own cyclone-devastated citizens, can get elected as a vice-president of the General Assembly, as it was recently, we ought not look to the U.N. for any semblance of moral leadership. On anything, and certainly not on the issue of arms.

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