PG has written a lengthy and thoughtful response to my last post on gun control. You can read it in its entirety in the comments section of the last post. I wanted to highlight a few points and comment.
We will have to resort to arms when our other rights — of speech, press, assembly, representative government — fail to yield the desired results. A gun owner may consider his weapon to be his first line of defense against a common criminal, but it must be his last defense against the uncommon criminal that an illegitimate government would become.
I agree with this completely. We are certainly far from that place today, and I don’t think any situation in American history–with the possible exception of slavery–has called for armed rebellion against the state.
PG then turns to the argument that it is not practical to think that an armed populace could stand against the United States government in any event.
As with so many political disagreements, the debate over a need for an armed citizenry in the U.S. may come down to differing calculations of probabilities. I find it extremely improbable, almost to the point of absurdity, that our citizen military — made up of our own relatives, friends and neighbors — would fire its weapons on a majority uprising against a tyrannical government. Yet this is the situation that is implied by a necessity for the Second Amendment to protect Americans from an internally-generated tyranny.
PG is probably right here, but of course it is impossible to know how such a situation would arise. Perhaps it would be a military coup. Perhaps it would be one army, loyal to one general that tried to take power. Perhaps it would be a civil war, with factions fighting against each other. In all of those circumstances, an armed citizenry might be very helpful in securing at least parts of the country for the good guys.
A far more likely scenario is one similar to the Timbuktu example–the government loses control of some region of the country. It’s happened in the small scale before. (I’m thinking of the aftermath of Katrina and riots that have occurred in American cities throughout our history.) It could happen on a grand scale if we suffered a severe pandemic or a nuclear strike on Washington or other major cities. If that were to happen, an armed citizenry would be critical to maintain liberty in sections of the country.
These examples may seem extreme, but so is an armed citizenry fighting for their rights.
And what if the US government did turn into a tyranny, complete with the full support of the military? Could an armed citizenry defeat them? Probably not. But I am certain that an unarmed citizenry could not, and we will never know what kind of deterrent an armed citizenry has been to any dreams of such a conquest.
Having said all that, I am glad PG has brought practicality into this debate. The onus, however, is on those who would take rights to show the practicality of their proposals. They must show how the laws they have put forward will reduce crime or the kind of mass shootings we have seen. It is unclear to me how taking the rights of law abiding citizens will prevent criminals from acquiring arms in a country with 300 million guns.