2012/12/17 Leave a comment
The killing of 20 children and 6 adults at the Newtown Sandy Hook school has renewed calls to introduce tighter gun control in America, particularly from people in Europe. But is the banning of private ownership of (certain kinds) of weapons an appropriate reaction?
America has enshrined the private gun ownership in its constitution. Originally, America was meant not to have a (standing) army, only a defence force of armed volunteers — a well regulated militia — who had their own weapons to get on with their lives but be mobilized to defend the country if and when attacked. That way, they could defend the country but not wage aggressive wars. With time, this constitutional provision was ignored and the U.S. developed the biggest (standing) army in the world. With it, the reasons to keep the people armed were forgotten. The question is, what causes more innocent civilians to die — aggressive wars waged by the U.S. military or armed maverick madmen going on killing sprees? If you could abolish one or the other, which would you rather do? Abolishing both is not a practical option, as a country without an armed defence force to defend itself does not remain a sovereign country for very long.
Switzerland still has broadly the same system of defence the U.S. originally had, although the pure “armed militia of volunteers” model has recently started to change so that today, Switzerland has an army of about 4,000 professionals and 130,000 armed volunteers — a standing army of 4,000 and a well-regulated militia of 130,000, if you will. Every man in Switzerland is armed, but Switzerland has no gun violence problem and it wages no aggressive wars. “Guns are deeply rooted within Swiss culture – but the gun crime rate is so low that statistics are not even kept,” says the BBC. Swiss homicide rate is 0.7/100,000 population per year, one of the very very lowest in the world. Perhaps the more interesting question is: why is gun ownership a problem in the U.S. but not in Switzerland?
The European model vs. the American model
Which model — the European one, where defence is by standing army and the state has a monopoly on guns – or the original American one, where defence is by an armed militia of volunteers — has a better track record in terms of gun deaths caused by madmen?
As it turns out, there is no contest. It is not even close.
In the European model — of standing armies and no volunteer armed militia — incidents of madmen-inflicted gun deaths occur far less frequently than in the original American model of volunteer armed militia and no standing army. But when they do, the consequences are far worse. When all the guns are in the hands of a ruling oligarchy and there is no-one armed to oppose it and madmen take over – as the regularly do — the result is millions upon millions of madmen-inflicted gun-related deaths. Hitler and Stalin alone (indeed Hitler OR Stalin alone) account for far — far far — more madmen-inflicted gun deaths than the total number of people killed by mad shooters in the entire history of the United States.
Over the long run, a standing army is by far the bigger threat. And Europe has a far worse long-term record of madmen-inflicted gun deaths than the USA.
It is no coincidence that Europe has, since 1776, had Maximilien de Robespierre, Napoléon Bonaparte, Józef ChƗopicki, Napoléon Bonaparte III, Tsar Nicholas II, Vladimir Lenin (4 million murdered), Benito Mussolini, Miguel Primo de Rivera, Aleksandar Tsankov, Joseph Stalin (43 million murdered), Ahmet Bej Zogu, José Mendes Cabeçadas, Gomes da Costa, António Óscar Carmona, Józef PiƗsudski, Anatanas Smetona, António de Oliveira Salazar, King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, Engelbert Dollfuss, Konstantin Päts, Adolf Hitler (21 million murdered), Kimon Georgiev, Tsar Boris III, Kurt Schuschnigg, Kārlis Ulmanis, Ioannis Metaxas, Generalissimus Francisco Franco, Jozef Tiso, Ion Antonescu, Philippe Pétain, Ante Pavelić, Vidkun Quisling, Ferenc Szálasi, Josip Broz-Tito, Enver Hoxha, Mátyás Rákosi, Nikita Khrushchev, Todor Zhivkov, Antonín Novotný, Walter Ulbricht, Leonid Brezhnev, Nicolae Ceaușescu, George Papadopoulos, Marcelo Caetano, Gustáv Husák, Erich Honecker, Phaedon Gizikis, Wojciech Jaruzelski, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, Slobodan Milošević and Alexander Lukashenko, to name just a few European dictators, many of them responsible for millions of deaths. It is likewise no coincidence that many European countries have been dictatorships for most of the 20th century — Portugal until 1974 (fascist dictatorship), Spain until 1982 (fascist dictatorship), Greece until 1974 (military dictatorship), East Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine until 1989-1991 (communist dictatorship), Belarus until the present day (communist dictatorship). The French fifth republic, which is its constitutional arrangement to its present day, came into being in a 1958 coup by General Charles de Gaulle. Arguably, none of European Union member states have been democracies since having joined the European Union — since the EU’s law-making body, the European Commission, is unelected. That would mean that most of the European Union member states have either never been democracies, or have only been democracies for 10–20 years of their entire history. Over the same historical period, the USA has remained a democracy — it has had no dictators, let alone ones who murdered millions of its own citizens.
It is precisely an armed people which has stopped a mad dictator taking over the U.S. and its army and committing the kinds of atrocities European dictators have committed. A Hitler coming to power in America would either be assassinated, or face an armed rebellion, by his own people. There are no such safeguards in Europe.
While America has had dozens of people murder dozens of their fellow citizens over the past 200 years, Europe has had dozens of people murder millions of their fellow citizens (but Europe, too, has had its share of Breiviks, IRAs, ETAs, Brigade Rosses, etc. despite gun control laws).
The only way to control gun violence is with a body empowered to protect people agains such armed violence. But such a body must itself be armed. And that always brings up the question — quis custodiet ipsos custodes? What if the protectors themselves misbehave and go on a shooting rampage? We must then have armed protectors from armed protectors. The pyramid of protectors must either have a narrow top — like in Europe — or a wide one — as in America. The question of who is to be trusted to be the ultimate protector against murder by armed psychopaths — the armed people or the head of state in charge of a standing army — is analogous to who should be trusted to decide who should govern the country — the people or the head of state.
You only have the rights you can enforce and defend. The law without am effective, impartial, honest, non-corrupt, judiciary, is a dead letter. So is democracy without an armed population.