Thursday, 15 March 2012

Guns and Liberty

I recently attended a presentation offered by a university group of mine called 'LOL' standing for 'Love Of Liberty'. The presentation was offered by Solomon Friedman a pro gun advocate and laywer in Canada. The presentation was called "Firearms: The Foundation Of Freedom". It was a good presentation, mind you much of the content was when Mr. Friedman explained the many redundancies in the Canadian firearms laws.

Now I personally support the individuals right to bear arms (barring military hardware of course, a category which to me includes fully automatic assault rifles simply for the sake of consistency) and for a law abiding member of society to hold them. I have seen very little reason for someone to wish to abuse their right to bear arms nor have I routinely heard of legally registered firearms being used in criminal acts. The presentation did make the valid point that a criminal is not going to get their firearm registered before he kills someone or commits a robbery. Indeed we see murders and muggings commited with knives and crossbows for heavens sake, banning guns does not decrease crime.

The enlightening legal facts presented in the talk were interesting but the presentation itself was, in my opinion, an atypical gun owners argument which was unoriginal, poorly thought out, and offered me very little incentive (especially as a non-gun owner nor would I imagine this having any effect whatsoever on someone in the opposite camp) for any support to allow firearms to be more readily accessable.

You see I do respect Mr. Friedman as he had a wonderful grasp of the law and statistics in crime and other variable facts about how guns did not increase crime but rather did show some evidence for decreasing it, which may be difficult for some people to believe. Though to that I give you one of Mr. Friedman's best arguments, the 'bowl of M&M's argument'. If you are presented with a bowl of M&M's and informed that just one of them is poisoned, are you going to reach in and grab one? You may, but a less reckless person would move on to the next bowl. The same can be said for presenting your average criminal with a town where many people have guns, he will most likely go after those less able to defend themselves rather than those who will.

But the meat and potatoes of Mr. Friedman's presentation did not revolve around those arguments. Luckily for those present I was at least sympathetic to their goals else there may have been more dissention from myself and others. But the mainstay of the presentation revolved around guns preventing tyranny, yes that old libertarian (and rather uniquely American) nugget. Despite gross evidence to the contrary all across history at showing how an armed populace simply does not outright prevent tyranny, Mr. Friedman listed some tyrannical regimes that had disarmed their subjects. The Soviet Union, the PRC (China), Guatemala (with the disarment of the Indians), and of course Nazi Germany and its disarment of Jews. I constantly hate seeing these hollow, misguided, and rather foolish ideas thrown around.

If I may cite two of the examples. The Soviet Union for starters, Friedman's presentation mentioned the twenty million worked to death or killed in the gulags (which is only scratching the surface really) of the Soviet system. The idea that having an armed populace would have prevented such mass arrests or imprisonment forgets two harsh realities. One was the long brutal war fought during WW1 which the Soviets had promised peace for (much to the happiness of the population) and the second is the following Russian Civil War which ravaged the country. There was armed resistance to the Soviet regime many times early on in its inception and throughout its history. People still had hunting rifles, and in some cases even hand guns. But maybe not the majority of the population. Even if they had what chance did they stand against the Red Army and the ruthless regime behind it? To answer that question, none. I shall explain what I see as the foundation for liberty in a moment, but now on to my pet-peeve example.

The almost standard example for the horror of disarming citizens is Nazi Germany. I had hoped against hope that this would not be shown as an example but sadly stereotype and apparently predictability proved me wrong. The example of Nazi Germany is one that explains the Jews were explicitly disarmed and forced to be segregated. Now I must again point to the painful portion of history where we can see what most likely would have happened to an armed Jewish population that did resist the insane Nazi regime. Kristallnacht was an orgy of violence, arson, and murder instigated by the Nazi regime when a Polish Jew shot and killed a Nazi official. The films and personal testimony of that horrible night stand out as a stark reminder of why racism and tyranny should never mix. But they also serve as a window into what would have happened had the Jewish population resisted in such a violent manner. Thanks to the prejudices, and ignorance of the time it would have been an even more wholesale and horrifyingly willing slaughter of the Jewish people in Germany.

Similar was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, valiant and heroic though it was, it was sadly and ultimately doomed in the face of an all to willing Waffen SS to exterminate everyone involved. These brave and liberty loving men, women, and children all fought heroically but in the face of elite and vicious SS killers were ultimately doomed going up against a modern military machine.

The reason I hate these arguments is that is spits on the memory of all those slaughtered by tyranny. It says 'Oh if only they had been armed, they could have fought' and in retrospect many did, but they ended up no better than those who did not resist. That kind of ignorance only breeds a sense of reactionary thinking which in some ways is no better than making a freedom fighter or terrorist. I despise that kind of argument as it ignores the stark brutal reality that these people faced. As for the Nazi regime it took the power of an alliance of the entire world to crush, and the Soviet system did eventually rot from the inside, but it was not brought down by armed resistors in any way.

Thus is the premise, even the title of the presentation flawed. A firearm is not the 'foundation of freedom' nor is it a great equalizer in the face of tyranny. I can understand the weird thought that comes to mind in many from the cushy and drastically oversimplified view of the American Revolution, but that forgets the valiant arms of French and Spaniards who drew away the eye of the British preventing the utter collapse of the American rebels. In that naive view I suppose those who believe this can be forgiven, but the idea of applying such to the different regimes around the world is pure folly.

To end this, I shall briefly detail the true foundation of freedom. The foundation of freedom does not, with added emphasis on does not, lay in violence. Instead it lies in, political will, popular will, honest government, checks and balances, and just as importantly a service sworn to the people and state. Political will is the want and desire of the people for fair and honest government, popular will is the desire of the people to excersise the right of democratic ideals in a country. Checks and balances is a government which has been given a set of restrictions on its power and ability to excersise power (like those laid out in the Amercan Constitution, or the Monarchy in the British Parliament). Finally there is the service sworn to the people and state, much as a member of Her Majesties armed forces swears an oath of loyalty to the crown for reasons of political neutrality so to does an American serviceman swear an oath to ensure the same thing, much like any government service member. A neutral army and civil service is an essential check and balance in maintaining a free government, which is one loophole many tyrants have worked into their governments. Hence why the very political militaries of the Middle Eastern dictators continue to support tyrants and why the Libyan armed forces were split allowing them to fight the despot Gadaffi head on (with foreign intervention of course). So while the right to bear arms is important, it in and of itself does not make for the foundation of liberty or a fair and honest government, rather other more political measures are necessary.

While I respect Mr. Friedman and his agenda, I do not respect these lame duck and blatantly false assertions that many of the pro-gun crowd are forced to fall back on. I would insist that they stick to tried and true statistics as Mr. Friedman presented in the presentation regarding crime and others about institutional rights (which we Canadians unfortunately do not have). All in all I support the ideas, but the message is flawed.

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