Confessions of a Progressive Gun Nut
Jon Stokes

There are two basic fallacies in this viewpoint (well, more than two in fact, but let’s stick with two for starters):

  1. An armed citizenry can keep at bay a modern hyper-militarised state, a disarmed citizenry is defenceless.
  2. I have to protect “me and mine”.

The first fallacy can easily be demonstrated by referring to recent and less recent history. Take a look at Aleppo today: that is what happens when a citizenry with nothing but small-arms takes on a state with tanks and fighter-bombers that is not afraid to use them.

Now for the counter-examples. When the Russian population in 1917 revolted against the Tsarist regime (which, let us remember, was at the time a by-word for brutality and backwardness, contributing the word “knout” to the English language), they succeeded in overthrowing it because they disarmed the armed forces politically. The regime could no longer rely on soldiers to shoot down strikers (as they had done in 1905). The regime could not even rely on the Cossacks (the ultra-riot police of the time, if you like).

Nearer to us, what was it that brought down the “communist” regimes of Eastern Europe? An armed citizenry? I think not. Candle-light processions, peaceful demonstrations, and masses of people simply voting with their feet to leave, plus the — once again — political demoralisation of the armed forces and the police.

And just where is this Second Amendment “armed citizenry” that the US gun lobby talks about? When the American War of Independence was fought, then sure, there was an armed citizenry, but the key factor is surely that the citizenry had a common fairly clearly perceived political goal in mind, and the drilling and handling of weapons was part of a relatively unified political movement. Even then, don’t forget that the War of Independence was also a civil war: a non-negligeable number of Americans fought on the British side. So, in your nightmare scenario of a semi-fascist government taking power in the USA, you won’t have a united “armed citizenry” taking on the might of the state, because this “armed citizenry” today has no unified political outlook. What you will have is a particularly brutal civil war, with heavily armed militias fighting each other. Aleppo again, but on a gigantic scale.

And here is the second fallacy, very strong in the USA but present in other countries. The world essentially comes down to “me and mine”. I have to defend “myself and my family”. What does this express? Nothing more than the extreme atomisation and isolation of each individual existing as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market (as we all are). Margaret Thatcher expressed it very well when she said that society does not exist, all that exists are individuals and their families. She was wrong…

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