Adam Bryla, Baruch:
Countries all over the western world are perplexed by the ordinary American’s love of guns. My parents were born and raised in Poland, a country with one of the strictest gun control laws in the world. The roots of Poland’s strict gun control laws are difficult to pinpoint, but one can infer it has something to do with its era of Soviet communist rule, where citizens owning guns was a grave threat to the government. Whatever the original reasoning, the effects are clear to see in today’s Poland, where there is almost no tradition of gun ownership. With only one gun for every 100 Poles, it is likely that most Poles don’t know anyone who legally owns a gun either. In that respect, Poland seems to be the polar opposite of the U.S., where there are roughly 113 guns for every 100 Americans. To make it clearer, America has enough privately-owned firearms to equip every single man, woman, and child within its borders. While Poland is at the extreme end of gun control, most western countries are right there next to it.
These countries aren’t the only ones that feel this way. Members of America’s “progressive,” mainstream media and the Democratic Party have increasingly been throwing attacks against the Second Amendment. These attacks, usually coming after some sort of shooting, go something along the lines of “Guns kill people,” “Who cares about hunting,” or “The Second Amendment was intended only for the Militia.” As a result, most liberals conclude that there is nothing wrong with the government prohibiting the private ownership of guns and allowing access to guns only to members of the National Guard – the modern descendant of local militia forces. These views, however, completely disregard the historical context that surrounds this amendment and, therefore, miss the true purpose of it.
So why do ordinary Americans have this gun culture, and why did our Founding Fathers believe we should have this right to keep and bear arms?
The answer is one that doesn’t get nearly enough air time. The main reason for the creation of the Second Amendment was to give American citizens the ability to fight off a government that has turned tyrannical, to ensure their freedoms aren’t subjugated, and, therefore, to protect all other rights that are endowed to them by their creator.
Judge Kozinski’s dissent in Silveria v. Lockyer hits the nail on the head with its reasoning for the Second Amendment. He states:
“The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.”
At first, one might think this is a joke, but with some historical context, it is clear why our Founding Fathers felt it necessary to add this amendment. The colonists, just coming out of the Revolutionary War, knew all too well how easy it is for a government to turn tyrannical. They realized the only way people can defend themselves against such a government is with firearms. King George III realized this as well so as soon as tensions rose between the colonies and Britain, he ordered his troops to disarm the rebellious colonists. Throughout history, many governments followed King George III’s example, and while he failed, they succeeded in disarming the populous. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, established gun control laws just a few years after taking office. For the next three decades, millions of dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and killed. Mao Zedong, the leader of Communist China, did the same thing with the same result, millions of more dissidents died. The list of examples is so long that it is not far-fetched to state the first step in totalitarian domination of a nation is the disarmament of its people.
Progressives should look to Weimar Germany in particular for it is a clear example of how gun control laws with “good intentions” can lead to horrific results. It is also why many enthusiasts of the Second Amendment are vehemently against full background checks that include a national firearms registry. In 1931, Weimar authorities authorized the registration of all firearms into a national registry in the name of public safety. They wanted all gun owners on the map. Two years later, the Nazi party, led by Adolf Hitler, seized power and used those same records to find and kill all armed Jews and political opponents. While one might think, this can never happen in the U.S., it was just a little over a decade ago that Hurricane Katrina occurred and officers went door to door seizing peoples’ weapons. In times of distress, people in power have a special interest in protecting themselves instead of their constituencies. As Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great statesman of the late Roman Republic, once said, “Inter arma enim silent legēs” or, in English, “In times of war, the law falls silent.”
To add on, if one thinks that a few armed citizens could not stand a chance against a governmental army, a particularly moving example of how they did is the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of Poland. In 1943, a few hundred Jews armed with only a handful of weapons managed to hold off the German Army for months before their execution. It took the German army longer to take down this group of men than it did to capture the entirety of Poland or France. If a few hundred Jewish civilians were able to create such resistance, one would imagine 6 million Jews armed with rifles would not have been herded into cattle cars as easily either. In Warsaw, as everywhere else, the main impediment to resistance was the supply of arms. The difference between resistance and submission depended very largely upon who was in possession of the arms that backed up the will to do or die.
In the end, our Founding Fathers created the Second Amendment as a final check against a government that could turn tyrannical, and they were right in doing so. It is for this reason the ordinary American’s love for guns is so strong today, why this culture persists, and why the Second Amendment is so important. It is the right that defends all other rights, because no matter how improbable these events might be today, “facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.”
As Ronald Reagan famously once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”