In a comment on my recent post “Four Things to Know about the Debate over Guns,” a reader quoted John F. Kennedy and George Washington on the value of an armed citizenry as a hedge against government tyranny.
Yet, in the post itself, I never suggest eliminating gun ownership. I simply present statistics. Though I do agree that those statistics should be a cause for great concern, the person who posted the comment did the extrapolating, not me.
In actuality, the reader may have been responding as much to another comment on my post as to the post itself, but we have all seen these sorts of canned responses to any suggestion of “gun control.” Apparently, those who see government tyranny lurking around every corner have no similar concerns about NRA indoctrination.
In any case, some sort of modest restrictions on access to unlimited firepower are now clearly needed because the problems being created by unrestricted access now clearly outweigh any possible advantages.
And, at the risk of stating the obvious, things have changed dramatically since the Second Amendment was ratified.
There are no foreign enemies who could conceivably invade the U.S., and there is no longer any wilderness “to be conquered.”
And the idea that well-armed individual citizens or even the self-styled militia groups who now hold weekend “training exercises” in the woods will be able to oppose a government that now spends more on its military than the next ten largest militaries combined is simply laughable. Look at what our military has done to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. And we had to ship weapons halfway around the world to those places.
But even by making that comment, I fear that I may seem to be giving some implicit credence to a level of paranoia that has no basis whatsoever in fact. The idea that our government is on the brink of becoming tyrannical—at least in the very obvious ways that most gun rights activists seem to stay awake nights worrying about—is only slightly less ridiculous than the recurring announcements by lunatic-fringe religious sects that the world is going to end imminently on some arithmetically calculated day.
That the government is suddenly going to confiscate 300 million guns is as likely as its being able to identify and deport the 11,000,000 or more undocumented immigrants in this country. Yes, it is theoretically possible, but that does not make it even remotely likely.
But I suppose that if you are inclined that a Trump-led government could deport all of those people, you may be inclined to believe that the government could seize all of those guns.
And, of course, the great irony that underlies much of this fear-mongering about tyrannical government is that many of those engaging in it are also among the most vocal opponents to any reductions whatsoever in military spending or in spending on homeland security, even if it is patently clear that a considerable portion of that spending is a complete waste of our national resources.
If anyone ever does come to confiscate their personal arsenals, it is very likely going to be a SWAT team armed with military-grade automatic weapons and body armor designed for battlefield use, who will be arriving in a military-surplus armored personnel carrier. And that is because we are producing so much of this stuff that the Department of Defense has been giving it away not just to the police departments in large cities but to the departments in smaller communities and even on college campuses.