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What Every Abolitionist Gets Wrong About the Great Gun Debate

Written by Alex Koyfman
Posted June 28, 2022

“You think you can defeat the U.S. military?”

Like clockwork, every heated debate with a gun abolitionist comes to this one singular argument, and like clockwork, this one singular argument manages to distill everything that gun abolitionists misunderstand about the Second Amendment. 

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I won’t brother clearing my throat much in addressing this little piece of rhetoric. I’ll just hit it head-on and agree, for the moment at least, that no, neither I nor any other proponent of the Second Amendment expects to win a war against against the U.S. army.

We wouldn't win against an onslaught of tanks, attacks from the air, or assaults from troops who spent hundreds of hours training for just this battle. We'd most likely stand no chance. The battle wouldn't last long at all. It would likely be over in just a few engagements. 

And that might be the most important function of the Second Amendment. 

When Winning Means Showing Up

The abolitionist’s most popular mic-dropping argument presupposes that victory is the end goal of the engagement. 

In this situation, in this scenario, victory isn’t the goal at all. Indeed, perhaps the only realistic goal is for the citizen to show up. It’s to have the enemy — in this case, the federal government — show up to meet him, and do what it was trained to do. 

So what’s the point, you might ask? Simple: The point is, specifically, to get the army to appear under the flag of the government that sent it and start shooting. 

You might think this is a stupid, suicidal exercise in futility, but the truth is it’s that very showing up that many people in the past, people who where subjugated, imprisoned, and eventually murdered by their governments, never had a chance to force their respective forces of oppression to do. 

To show up. To start firing. To make some noise. To create enough of a show that it attracts attention. To make the guy in the uniform wonder, if for just a moment, whether he's leaving the encounter unscathed.

By forcing the hand of the government, those few slightly suicidal citizens deny the government its ultimate power to operate calmly and quietly, in a completely uncontested interaction. 

And that is the core purpose of the 2A. It’s not so much a right of the citizens that it works to guarantee, but rather a limit on what the government can do. 

The 2A Gives the Rest of the Bill of Rights Teeth and Claws

The alternative to this limitation, as has been witnessed multiple times in the last hundred years, is for citizens to get led away quietly, peacefully, in the middle of the night, as so many millions were in the course of modern history.

The only choice of the disarmed is to go quietly. To never be heard. And that is exactly what the powers that be counted on. That is how small numbers of people, numbering in the thousands, were able to subjugate hundreds of millions. 

That’s how unchecked power works. 

That’s how the concentration camps and gulags were populated. It happened one condemned, complying citizen at a time. It happened one nighttime visit at a time. It happened one black-colored government car at a time. 

They went because there was no alternative. The guns were pointing in one direction, and those they were pointed at complied because what else were they going to do? 

This happened in Germany, and in Soviet Russia, in Soviet-controlled East Germany, in Communist China, and in Cuba, and it continues to happen in North Korea, in modem China, in Venezuela... and it could happen anywhere else where the government has mandated a monopoly on gun-wielding. 

Where it does not happen is here, in the United States. Not yet, anyway… and it’s not for a lack of trying. 

Many times in the history of this nation, the government hoped that its subjects would go quietly. 

When You Don't Go Quietly...

I’m going to tell you right now that these are not the sorts of occurrences you want setting examples for your own behavior… Nevertheless, these stories exist, and this pattern will continue to persist thanks entirely to the freedom of access to this one primitive technology. 

The Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, come to mind, as do the Weavers of Ruby Ridge.

In these cases and many others, Americans refused to go quietly. 

The government turned up the pressure and won, but very soon found itself under the microscope of its own population. 

Those enough old to remember either incident most likely recall the public outrage during the fallout more than any other aspect of either encounter.

And therein lay the victory — not in the battle itself, as the battle was lost, but in the forcing of the battle in the first place. 

So what’s the point, the gun abolitionist might ask? You’re going to die with your gun in your hand. What was accomplished?

Well, aside from the ancient and still quite valid adage that it’s better to die standing than it is to live in subjugation, it does accomplish one thing. 

By bringing attention to governmental abuses, you can and will force change upon the system. If you want to flip this argument against the standard leftist, bring up George Floyd, whose public killing threw the entire nation into a summer of protest and rioting. 

He was abused, mistreated, and killed very publicly. Had it been done quietly, nobody would have raised a finger in protest. 

You Hate Cops... But Support Their Bosses' Bosses?

So all we need are camera phones, one might respond. What is the purpose of firearms at all? Simple. Most confrontations of authoritarian abuse do not happen in public.

There is not a bystander with a camera handy, ready to film and share the incident with the world.

Even police body cameras can be switched off, obstructed, the footage misplaced or destroyed.

When firearms enter the equation, however, the attention garnered by any interaction between citizen and state becomes national news in very short order. 

And this equation doesn’t just work when the authority of the state is involved. Mob rule itself has a way of dissolving when guns enter the picture. Another very famous example of this comes from the very protests that resulted from the killing of George Floyd. 

Perhaps you remember the St. Louis couple, Patricia and Mark McCloskey, who confronted "mostly peaceful" protesters entering their gated neighborhood in the summer of 2020. 

Would you remember this couple were they not armed to the teeth? No shots were fired. 

Nobody was killed, yet their story and their faces made national news because of the tools they held in their hands. 

Guns not only prevented a likely looting (or at the very least, vandalism of their property), but they also forced the entire episode onto the public stage. 

Had they come armed only with strong words, you would likely have never seen the outcome… Nor would the mayor of St. Louis, who tried to prosecute them for defending their property, have been publicly chastised for backing mob rule. 

Public Opinion Is Irrelevant Without Public Knowledge

But on a grander level, armed resistance and the overwhelming, bloody response to that resistance actually has the potential to end abusive regimes once and for all. 

The American republic, built on the premise of freedom and liberty, will, in fact, be destroyed the moment it publicly takes up arms against its citizens. No, it won’t die a death of insurrection and revolution, necessarily, but it will die a symbolic death in that it will simply no longer be a government of the people for the people, as it has always held itself to be. 

The moment the first bomb drops, the first drone strike hits, or the first tank tread touches your neighbor’s lawn, that republic and the social contract that stands behind it, as described in the Constitution, no longer exists. 

Put more plainly, the cat will be out of the proverbial bag and everyone will know, beyond a doubt, that they are now living under a boot. 

So while you and your guns probably won’t defeat tyranny in the direct sense, they do pose a threat to the tyranny’s most powerful tool the illusion of righteousness. 

Once that illusion is gone, then the real battles begin… and it’s those battles that ultimately can and do actually topple regimes, albeit not without substantial bloodshed. 

Uncertainty of Absolute Power: The Citizen's Greatest Leverage

To claim that private ownership of guns somehow hinders the pursuit of liberty at any stage of this process is absurd, to say the least. 

To claim that the presence of guns does not, in any profound way, affect the judgment and actions of government, which over time has proven to always trend toward more and tighter control, is simply ignoring reality. 

For that reason, whenever I encounter your typical European who smugly smiles and snickers at the "antiquated notion" that an armed populace can in any way stand as a barrier to the evolution of tyranny, I take his/her/their words as nothing more than warm air fanned in the direction of my face. 

For a resident of a continent that inside of a century has produced the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, Ceausescu, Milošević, and the Soviet/Russian collection consisting of such all-stars as Lenin, Stalin, and now Putin to claim that the monopolization of firearms by a single, centralized organization can do anything but promote tyranny... Well, it can only come off as satire to a reasonable observer.

And yet it’s not satire. I have yet to meet a single German who believes that guns in the hands of civilians is a good idea, yet there’s a very good chance that many of those Germans' great-grandfathers served as prima facie evidence that guns cannot be trusted in the hands of the state, first and foremost.

 

"It Will Be Different This Time"

Take a moment to read the following lines from a man who understood, perhaps better than anybody before or since, the mechanism by which oppressive regimes do their work:

And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: 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?... 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! If... if... We didn't love freedom enough. And even more — we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.

― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Of course, the average citizen won’t face a man with a gun while himself holding nothing more than a hammer, and that is why resistance was never dared. 

Solzhenitsyn and tens of millions of his countrymen spent years, sometimes decades in the gulags, laboring to realize the great socialist dream because nobody was in a position to make a little noise, to squirm a little louder, to put the fear of bodily injury into the heart of his abuser. 

Even when everyone knew what was happening, it simply became accepted, the same way that hurricanes are accepted as a fact of life in Florida, or earthquakes in California.

If You Think Americans of the Past Were Hard to Subjugate...

Still, your average gun-grabbing liberal, with his tight pants, his manicured hipster beard, and his sculpted, hard-parted hair will continue to sip bourbon-flavored coffee while haughtily chuckling at the idea that anything like what is described above could ever come to roost here. 

"Our country is different," they all say. "Americans are a people of democracy. Once rights are granted, they can never be taken away. Right?"

Wrong. Earlier on I said that quiet, Nazi-styled abuses of the populace do not take place in the U.S. That has not always been the case. 

Ask any relative of a Japanese-American internee during World War II if the government can be trusted. It clearly cannot be. 

The Second Amendment did not save any of those some 110,000 Americans who were relocated and deprived of their rights after the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

I won’t even bother mentioning some of the federal government’s actions of the century preceding, as the list is too long.

And yet people are all too happy to agree when lawmakers urge further increases to the authority that was willing and able to do that to its own citizens? 

"That’s ancient history," the smug gun-grabber will scoff. 

"In America Today, This Prospect Is Far More Remote"

Reparations were paid to those people. Justice was served. The wrongs were righted and now things have been settled. 

Governmental abuse has been placed under control in our modern age, right? 

In 2013, Mark Nuckols of The Atlantic wrote:

Official state armies are not immune from the tendency to inflict unjustified violence on civilians. But in America today, this prospect is far more remote, and far less terrifying, than the notion of armed citizens striking out against a perceived enemy, answering to no authority other than their own individual prejudices and passions.

In short, you have more to fear from gun-wielding fellow Americans than you have from your own government. 

Right?

I’m looking at you right now, Democrats. You, who have spent the last week in a collective conniption over the decision of the SCOTUS to end federal protection of a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. 

Let me say that again… The highest court in the land, with a stroke of the pen, canceled a right that was assumed to be "settled law" for 50 years, and people are worried about armed militias that they’ve never actually seen with their own eyes?

To See the Danger, Watch Who the Media Treat as a Saint

It wasn’t a militia that canceled that right but the judicial branch of the federal government. 

So are your rights really guaranteed in modern America? Are you really free of tyranny? Every American, regardless of his or her stance on abortion, needs to be asking that question. 

Confirmation of where the danger truly lies is right in front of your face, if you only choose to open your eyes. 

The rights you hold sacred are under fire, yet the news media still can’t shut up about last January’s attempted "insurrection," because the only thing actually sacred to that institution is its own immunity to physical force. 

We send weapons and ammunition worth billions to a foreign power to arm a largely civilian resistance against an evil dictator, while at the same time decrying the private ownership of far less lethal weapons here at home. 

Is this really the government you think it is? Is this really the collection of rulers that you trust with all of the weapons?

For now at least, if the worst scenario unfolds, Americans don’t need to resort to Solzhenitsyn's hammers and pokers to create uncertainty in the hearts of its subjugators. 

400 Million Guns = A Whole Lot of Uncertainty

We have hundreds of millions of firearms with which to pose that threat, billions of rounds of ammunition with which to create uncertainty in the hearts of men in uniform who might be ordered to show up at your door in the middle of the night. 

That uncertainty alone is a powerful tool. We know it’s powerful because the government has been trying to erode it for decades, to convince us that we don’t need it, to scare us with skewed, misunderstood crime statistics and turn us against each other by arguing that law-abiding citizens are the problem. 

Yet that uncertainty stands as the only physical limit on the power of a small collective of elites who would otherwise rule uncontested, while themselves hiding behind literal armies of people with guns. Guns far bigger than any AR-15. 

That brings us back to the notion from which this rant sprang. 

"You cannot win."

I preemptively accepted this argument in order to explain the deeper meaning of the 2A, but in doing so, I intentionally overlooked plenty of evidence that yes, in fact, an armed populace can and does stand a chance against modern militaries. 

Here too exist plenty of examples, some so recent that they’re happening as you read these lines. 

That rant, however, I’ll save for another time.

Fortune favors the bold,

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Alex Koyfman

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