Welcome to the Wingnut Parallel Universe Part 2A: Gun Control & Tyranny
The cover of an Infamous Book, that makes a well known, anti gun control claim
Here is part two of my first series, “Welcome to the Wingnut Parallel Universe” where I debunk beliefs that are commonly held by the American far right. We already covered climate change, now onto the GOP’s obsession with guns. This time around I’ll be covering American Wingnuts pretty much exclusively, since for the most part it seems to be only American Wingnuts who believe that people have an absolute right to access to guns. Sure there’s a debate over gun control outside of America. There are people who are not part of the police force, or the military, who live in countries besides America, and still own guns. For example, the BBC recently did a story on British gun owners. However, few groups, or even individuals for that matter, outside of the US seem to go anywhere near as far as The National Rifle Association ( NRA ) or Gun Owner’s of America ( GOA ). As far as I can tell, only in my country are there a significant number of people who believe that everyone owning a gun, is somehow necessary to prevent the government from turning into a tyranny, and you can radically reduce gun deaths, by giving people easier access to fire arms.
Gun Owners of America may actually be the more extreme of the two groups. According an article written by David Neiwert at the Southern Poverty Law Center, about two years ago, one of their spokesmen Mike Hammond, basically said America was in danger of becoming a dictatorship, and we needed guns to defend our liberty.
There have been a number of conspiracy theories in recent years about ammunition shortages. More often than not, these theories lay the blame for the low ammo supplies at the feet of, you guessed it, President Obama.
Now a spokesman for Gun Owners of America (GOA), a far-right gun lobby organization, has a new twist on these theories: The government, notably the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is buying up ammunition in preparation for a “confrontation with American citizens,” the next step in establishing an Obama dictatorship.
“We suspect that the federal government is anticipating and preparing for confrontation with American citizens,” Mike Hammond, GOA’s legislative counsel, told the American Family Association website OneNewsNow. Hammond then wondered aloud “if President Obama is preparing for a dictatorship.”
“What are the characteristics of a dictatorship?” Hammond said. “An individual who is bound not by the law, but by his own desires and his own goals. And that may be where we are now.”
According to OneNewsNow, Hammond wondered “if the USDA closely watched the Cliven Bundy confrontation in Nevada” and questioned ammo purchases by the U.S. Postal Service and the Social Security Administration (both of which employ investigators and special agents who work with law enforcement agencies to fight theft and fraud).
Hammond also falsely claimed that “the Obama administration is making it increasingly difficult for American citizens to obtain ammunition,” a claim that was recently discussed at length by conspiracist website Newsmax – in an article featuring GOA.
Thankfully it’s 2016, Obama hasn’t shredded the constitution and seized absolute power. If he had, we wouldn’t still be in the early phases of the election for our next president.
Beyond that, Cliven Bundy is not a freedom fighter, or patriot, as many in the American far right think he is. Instead the man is a common criminal with no respect for the law. The feds had every reason to make him pay for his cattle grazing on government land. During the Nevada standoff, Bundy had zero grounds to threaten members of law enforcement for doing their jobs. If The American Government was really turning into a “tyranny” they wouldn’t have backed down. America has the most powerful military in the world. It could have easily forced him and his followers against their will to obey the law, without concern for human life. Anyone who believes that what was basically a group of untrained civilians could take on the US military, is living in a dream world. The US government showed a lot of restraint, something brutal totalitarian regimes are not known to do. If anything, the only reason the Bundy militia ( or the Bundy Loser Posse as I call them, since I don’t have an ounce of respect for him, or his supporters ) was able to temporarily use the fear of their guns to keep the US government from arresting them, was the government’s concern for the the loss of human life. In contrast, the ruthless Chinese Communist Party sent in tanks to stop peaceful protests in Tienanmen Square, and they still censor news about the incident to this day. No way would a real totalitarian dictatorship, where you risk your life for even peacefully criticizing the regime, let The Bundy Militia get away with what they did in Nevada. America is not like China. The only “tyranny” the Bundy Loser Posse ever stood up to, was an imaginary one that kept them from taking things that weren’t theirs to begin with. They were just as unhinged when they later occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and once again threatened law enforcement.
Equally ridiculous is the claim made by some pro gun wingnuts that the Holocaust would have never happened if only the Nazis’ victims had guns. No, you read that correctly. There are some people who literally believe that the civilians murdered by the Nazis would have been able to stand up to the German army if only they could have armed themselves.
Back in 2013, Stephen P. Halbrook wrote an opinion piece for National Review, on Nazi Germany and what he saw as the dangers of gun control. He concluded by saying,
As in Weimar Germany, some well-meaning people today advocate severe restrictions, including bans and registration, on gun ownership by law-abiding persons. Such proponents are in no sense “Nazis,” any more than were the Weimar officials who promoted similar restrictions. And it would be a travesty to compare today’s situation to the horrors of Nazi Germany. Still, as history teaches, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Former presidential candidate Ben Carson was even more upfront. Tanya Basu at Time recently wrote about what he believed on the issue.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson staunchly defended his assertion that the Holocaust could have been “greatly diminished” if Jews had been armed with guns in an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.
“It’s not hyperbole at all,” Carson said. “Whether it’s on our doorstep or whether it’s 50 years away, it’s still a concern and it’s something that we must guard against. That’s one of the real purposes of having a constitution. I think the founders were really quite insightful into looking at possibilities and understanding what has happened in other places and trying to put together something that would prevent that from happening here.” Among such people, is former GOP presidential hopeful, Ben Carson.
Carson’s doubling down came on the heels of a comment on Thursday in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Carson said. “I’m telling you there is a reason these dictatorial people take guns first.”
Carson’s comments incited controversy and echos sentiments expressed in his just-published book, A Perfect Union, in which he cites Nazi gun control as a reason for the Holocaust.
“Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance,” Carson writes.
Critics argue that Carson’s placing blame on gun control immediately prior to the Holocaust as the cause of the event itself is misguided and inaccurate.
And his critics are correct.
Saying that if only European Jews had guns, the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened, or even would have been “greatly diminished” as Carson claimed, is either at best an extreme form of wishful thinking, or a form of victim blaming.
Both Carson and Halbrook are wrong. First off, as Alex Seitz-Wald writing for Salon pointed out, ironically the Nazis loosened the laws around gun ownership overall.
In his 1994 book, NRA head Wayne LaPierre dwelled on the Hitler meme at length, writing: “In Germany, Jewish extermination began with the Nazi Weapon Law of 1938, signed by Adolf Hitler.”
And it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense: If you’re going to impose a brutal authoritarian regime on your populace, better to disarm them first so they can’t fight back.
Unfortunately for LaPierre et al., the notion that Hitler confiscated everyone’s guns is mostly bogus. And the ancillary claim that Jews could have stopped the Holocaust with more guns doesn’t make any sense at all if you think about it for more than a minute.
University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt explored this myth in depth in a 2004 article published in the Fordham Law Review. As it turns out, the Weimar Republic, the German government that immediately preceded Hitler’s, actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime. After its defeat in World War I, and agreeing to the harsh surrender terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature in 1919 passed a law that effectively banned all private firearm possession, leading the government to confiscate guns already in circulation. In 1928, the Reichstag relaxed the regulation a bit, but put in place a strict registration regime that required citizens to acquire separate permits to own guns, sell them or carry them.
The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he says it did. “The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.
The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general. Does the fact that Nazis forced Jews into horrendous ghettos indict urban planning? Should we eliminate all police officers because the Nazis used police officers to oppress and kill the Jews? What about public works — Hitler loved public works projects? Of course not. These are merely implements that can be used for good or ill, much as gun advocates like to argue about guns themselves. If guns don’t kill people, then neither does gun control cause genocide (genocidal regimes cause genocide).
But even if in many instances the Nazis were able to disarm Jews, because they had registered their guns prior to Hitler’s rise to power, chances are those guns wouldn’t have been able to save them. The typical European Jewish man or woman, prior to the war, like most people, didn’t have the military training or discipline to take on a professional army. The German army was able to conquer most of Europe via a tactic commonly referred to as Blitzkrieg or “lightning war.” The fact of the matter is, even seasoned military commanders on the allied side, didn’t realize what they were up against, when World War II first started. As Robert T Foley writing for the BBC pointed out,
Across the English Channel, a stunned British military establishment struggled to determine how it was that events had so quickly gone so horribly wrong. The BEF had sailed for France believing that they and their French ally were well equipped and well trained to fight a modern war. In truth, as events proved, they were completely unprepared to face Hitler’s Wehrmacht.
During World War One, the armies of the two Allies had dug in for what became a long, drawn-out conflict. And in 1940, influenced by this experience, the British and French leaders of World War Two were still expecting to fight a war in which the defensive would dominate. With this approach in mind, the French army was sent to man France’s heavily fortified border with Germany, the Maginot Line, and to await a German attack. The BEF was sent to join the line of French troops defending the border with Belgium.
They expected that battles would develop slowly and be dominated by ‘traditional’ arms - those of the infantry and the artillery. Although the two armies had more than 3,500 tanks between them, these were largely cast in a supporting role.
The events in May and June 1940 proved that this outdated vision of war could not have been further from reality. This time, unlike the Allies, the Germans intended to fight the war offensively, and win quickly
Jews were only a very small percentage of the European population prior to the war. There really isn’t a plausible scenario in which they could take on the entire Nazi military machine and win. Its not like European Jews didn’t try once they realized what was going on. Many fought valiantly in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in a desperate attempt to stop themselves and their families from being sent to the death camps. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, in spite of the fact that many of the Jewish resistance fighters were able to obtain guns, in the end it wasn’t anywhere near enough. According to the United State’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust Encyclopedia,
On the third day of the uprising, Stroop’s SS and police forces began razing the ghetto to the ground, building by building, to force the remaining Jews out of hiding. Jewish resistance fighters made sporadic raids from their bunkers, but the Germans systematically reduced the ghetto to rubble. The German forces killed Anielewicz and those with him in an attack on the ZOB command bunker on 18 Mila Street, which they captured on May 8.
Though German forces broke the organized military resistance within days of the beginning of the uprising, individuals and small groups hid or fought the Germans for almost a month.
To symbolize the German victory, Stroop ordered the destruction of the Great Synagogue on Tlomacki Street on May 16, 1943. The ghetto itself was in ruins. Stroop reported that he had captured 56,065 Jews and destroyed 631 bunkers. He estimated that his units killed up to 7,000 Jews during the uprising. The German authorities deported approximately another 7,000 Warsaw Jews to the Treblinka killing center, where almost all were killed in the gas chambers upon arrival.
The Germans deported almost all of the remaining Jews, approximately 42,000, to the Lublin/Majdanek concentration camp, and to the Poniatowa, Trawniki, Budzyn, and Krasnik forced-labor camps. With the exception of a few thousand forced laborers at Budzyn and Krasnik, German SS and police units later murdered almost all of the Warsaw Jews deported to Lublin/Majdanek, Poniatowa, and Trawniki in November 1943 in “Operation Harvest Festival” (Unternehmen Erntefest).
As a general rule, civilians with guns are no match for soldiers with guns. Simply having more guns wouldn’t have led to a victory. Its doubtful it would have saved them. While the Warsaw Ghetto uprising may have been inspirational, it is also a tragedy. It inspired other Jewish uprisings throughout Europe, but if the allied military force had failed to win the war, it would have be all for naught. The Nazis would have murdered even more people and today, Europe would probably be completely divested of Jews.
Even if all the people who the Nazis regarded as “genetically inferior” or “unworthy of life,” had guns, and the combat training and discipline to take on the German army, its doubtful that they would have had the numbers or resources necessary to win.
Now some right now may be thinking of the French resistance. Didn’t they help defeat the Nazis? Weren’t most of them civilians? Well yes and yes. However, its unlikely they would have been able to stand against the Axis war machine alone. Its’ doubtful that the French Resistance would have been able to make it costly enough to force the Germans out of their country, without the allied Military alliance. If Hitler hadn’t been foolish enough to invade the Soviet Union before subduing Britain, and Japan hadn’t made the mistake of attacking Pearl Harbor, its possible the Nazis could have eventually won the war. Without America and Russia in the war, the Nazis could have devoted more of their resources to subduing mainland Europe.
The best way to stop a dictatorship in your country is to stop your country from becoming a dictatorship in the first place. Having a system of checks and balances is a protection from within, and having a strong military is a protection against outside forces.
If the only way to stop a government from violating human rights, even committing genocide, is to use violence, hopefully there’s a military strong enough to stop it. If a tyranny has to be overthrown from within, than chances are, at least a large segment of the nation’s military would have to turn on the regime in order for the revolution to be successful, but even if it’s successful somehow in overthrowing the government, that could just lead to another dictatorship, perhaps one that’s even worse.
Even though our founders intended individuals to be able to have guns to defend themselves against a tyrannical government, that is hardly a practical way of going about doing things, and it gets harder and harder to imagine a rag tag citizen militia taking on a modern mechanized army.
Even back in the days before the second amendment was ratified it would have been impractical. The American Revolution was far from just a bunch of civilians with guns. The Continental Congress created a professional army. Even so, George Washington himself, no doubt realized that it would have been next to impossible to beat the British military without the help of our French and German Allies. The American revolutionaries were able to make very powerful allies, and without them, its doubtful the revolution would have been successful. Edward Ayres
Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Historian writing for historyisfun.org points out,
In 1774 supporters of the Patriot cause approached French officials asking for assistance, but the French Foreign Minister, the Comte de Vergennes, decided it was too soon to get involved. He feared that the crisis might be resolved or that open intervention would lead to a war that France was not yet ready for, and instead he adopted a policy of “watchful waiting.” In 1775, however, he did send a secret agent to Philadelphia to meet with the Continental Congress. There were two necessary conditions for France to openly help the American rebels: first they had to declare their independence, and second they had to show that they were capable of defending themselves against the British army. Until these conditions were met, Vergennes decided to officially remain neutral, but early in 1776 he began secretly sending military supplies and financial aid to the Americans.
By the fall of 1776 a fictitious trading firm had already procured and shipped to the rebels nearly 300,000 pounds of gunpowder, 30,000 muskets, 3,000 tents, more than 200 pieces of artillery, and clothing for 30,000 soldiers. In December 1776 three American agents in Paris, led by Benjamin Franklin, proposed a formal alliance between the United States and France. The French were still hesitant about openly entering the conflict, partly because preparations for war, especially efforts to strengthen the French fleet, were not yet complete.
A number of idealistic French aristocrats, such as the Marquis de Lafayette, were far too impatient to wait for their country to enter the war. In 1777 Lafayette and many others from France came to America to volunteer as soldiers in George Washington’s Continental Army. By the end of the year, news reached Paris of the stunning American victory in October at Saratoga, New York, over British General Burgoyne. With both of his conditions now met, Vergennes began negotiating a treaty of alliance with the American commissioners. On February 6, 1778, France and the United States signed a “Treaty of Alliance” as well as another treaty of “Amity and Commerce.” The French declaration of war against Great Britain changed everything. The British were now involved in a worldwide war, not just an attempt to put down a rebellion. The King’s ministers now had to adopt a more defensive military strategy, and they were also forced to spread their military resources and navy over a much wider theater of operations.
The grand strategy envisioned by the Continental Congress and its generals was to use French armed forces, especially the French navy, to neutralize the existing British superiority on land and at sea and thereby decisively defeat King George’s forces in America.
Unlike in the Wingnut parallel universe, our reality never worked anything like a video game where an individual ( or even a very small rag tag group of people ) could take on wave after wave of enemies, all by themselves, as long as they possessed the right weapons. It doesn’t matter if they’re the “good guys” or not.
In addition if asked, its highly unlikely that any of the founding fathers would have endorsed the idea that the people have the right to use guns to overthrow a legitimately elected government. George Washington after all, used the army to fight the Whiskey Rebellion, when some western farmers refused to accept the government’s authority and started engaging in violence to stop the law from being enforced. According to Peter Kotowski at mountvernon.org,
Western farmers felt the tax was an abuse of federal authority wrongly targeting a demographic that relied on crops such as corn, rye, and grain to earn a profit. However, shipping this harvest east was dangerous because of poor storage and dangerous roads. As a result, farmers frequently distilled their grain into liquor which was easier to ship and preserve. While large-scale farmers easily incurred the financial strain of an additional tax, indigent farmers were less able to do so without falling into dire financial straits.
President Washington sought to resolve this dispute peacefully. In 1792, he issued a national proclamation admonishing westerners for their resistance to the “operation of the laws of the United States for raising revenue upon spirits distilled within the same.” However, by 1794 the protests became violent. In July, nearly 400 whiskey rebels near Pittsburgh set fire to the home of John Neville, the regional tax collection supervisor. Left with little recourse and at the urgings of Secretary Hamilton, Washington organized a militia force of 12,950 men and led them towards Western Pennsylvania, warning locals “not to abet, aid, or comfort the Insurgents aforesaid, as they will answer the contrary at their peril.”
The calling of the militia had the desired effect of essentially ending the Whiskey Rebellion. By the time the militia reached Pittsburgh, the rebels had dispersed and could not be found. The militia apprehended approximately 150 men and tried them for treason.
Its doubtful that George Washington, or the other founding fathers would have much respect for someone like Cliven Bundy and his loser posse. Also as I pointed out earlier, genuinely tyrannical governments are much less likely to be intimidated by your guns.
What’s more people who think they’re fighting for liberty are often really fighting for tyranny. A perfect example of that was the Civil War. Even if Neo Confederates and southerners who want to “celebrate their heritage” may deny it, the South fought to maintain slavery. That is a fact, it is a fact, regardless of how many people may be determined to deny it. No one would have been more shocked by the idea that the Confederacy wasn’t fighting to keep black people in bondage more than the Confederates themselves. As stated by Larry Womack at the Huffington Post, “The South seemed pretty sure it was fighting for slavery”
It is only very recently, as the debate over the confederate flag has been renewed, that I have come to realize just how deeply the myth that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery has taken root. I had always been under the impression that people who sported the flag were fully aware that it was popularized by 20th century segregationists, but insisted that it wasn’t really about the belief that black people were property as an easy means of avoiding confrontation. But as I’ve looked around these last few weeks, it has become more and more clear: people really believe this stuff.
Which is strange, because the confederate states were pretty clear about the reason for their treason, and there was no “not really” about it.
Four confederate states — Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas — issued declarations of secession in order to expound upon their reasons. Their causes were slavery, slavery, slavery and slavery.
Read everything he has to say. Womack backs up his assertions with a disturbing example from each of those states, but for our purposes lets just look at one of his examples.
South Carolina was big on property rights, and by “property,” they meant “people”:
The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery.
No doubt a majority of people of South Carolina believed that they were fighting the “tyranny of Lincoln.” However, most people today, thankfully, would regard fighting for the “right” to keep a certain group of people as slaves as fighting for oppression. In addition people who fought to keep segregation in the South believed that they were defending “liberty,” even through today, thankfully, most people understand why Jim Crow was oppressive.
Wingnuts today continue the unfortunate tradition of claiming to be fighting for liberty, when in reality, they are really fighting to oppress minorities. Today we have gun nuts threatening to overthrow the government, if another Democrat gets elected. That’s basically saying if we don’t like what the majority wants, we’ll use violence to force our will on them. The far right, is angry over the supreme court’s support for things like marriage equality. Wingnuts claim that supporting gay rights, and trans rights, means that one supports “tyranny.” Some have even gone so far as to make ridiculous analogies by comparing things like gay marriage to the holocaust. There are people out there who are actually fighting to amend the US constitution to make gay sex a crime, and they think they’re fighting for “liberty.” No doubt Bryan Fischer, who dreams of Texas seceding from the union to stop trans people from being able to go to the bathroom that matches their gender identity, believes that would be fighting for “liberty” as well.
Anyone who isn’t racist, homophobic, or transphobic, understands why it would be a bad thing, if racists, homophobes or transphobes were able to overthrow the government because it tried to protect the rights of the group they oppose. In addition to the absurdity of the idea of fat pudgy men taking on the US military and winning, today it seems that the overwhelming majority of calls for violence in the “defense of liberty” In the United States, are really calls for preventing the government from protecting the rights people that they don’t like. How many people fighting for the right of gay people to marry, have called for the armed overthrow of the government?
But what about the other claim? What about the claim that more guns leads to less crime? We will answer the question as to whether or not allowing easy access to guns really decreases crime in part 2B. I was originally going to discuss gun control and tyranny and gun control, and crime together, but this was getting to long, and I wanted to get some of my ideas out sooner rather than later. I’ll try to get the second part of “Welcome to the Wingnut Parallel Universe” on gun control as soon as possible.
Just finished writing part 2B on Gun Control and Crime, you can read it here!
Note: this story originally contained a link to a website called “Veterans Today,” which I just came to realize is a website that promotes antisemitic conspiracy theories, so I removed the link. I might have replaced it with their original source, which they said was the Miami Herald, but it appeared to no longer be online. Sorry about that. I don’t know how missed that.