Friday, January 04, 2002

A little more on guns. Anrew Olmsted doubts that the American armed forces, as presently constituted, would ever take part in my worst-case scenarios. Well, sure. The American military, as presently constituted, is not about to do a Hama job on any American city.

But I wasn't dealing with the claim that an armed citizenry could resist the American armed forces, as presently constituted. The claim was that an armed citizenry could repel "tyranny" which, if it means anything at all, means an army whose attitudes towards civilians are more like the Syrian army's than the current American model's. And if in America, then with American weapons, technology, and techniques.

As to whether it could ever happen here --- sure it could. Rome went from a functioning republic to the Praetorian Guards auctioning the throne. It took a few hundred years, but it happened. The real question is, how thin is the ice. Right now, I personally think it's pretty safe --- but it might be thinner than it looks. What bugs me is recent history like Operation Northwoods, which I mentioned earlier, in which the Joint Chiefs of Staff were seriously tossing around the idea of staging terrorist incidents themselves in America, and blaming them on Cuba, as a pretext for starting a war. Tactics like that, coupled with factionalism and demagoguery, could create genuinely ugly domestic situation, given enough time. It would still take a while to get to a real dystopia --- certainly years, probably decades, but not, I think, a lifetime.

Meanwhile, over at Libertarian Samizdata, Walter responds to my observations that

... the state is involved in sales of private cars in the United States; individual states maintain registries of who owns what vehicle. That's what the funny metal plates with the numbers on them are all about. ...

Even if you've already purchased a vehicle, the state will deny you the use of that vehicle --- your own lawfully acquired property --- for trifles like a few drunk driving arrests. And, as Walter seemed to acknowledge, most of them won't let you drive unless you buy insurance, interfering with another private choice.

by saying that those regulations don't really interfere with the purchase of cars:

The state places many regulations on the use of your property after you buy it. It does not stop you from acquiring it nor does it specify from whom you can buy it or to whom you can sell it. In most states the local government is more concerned with collecting sales tax on the transaction than on who was involved in the deal.

Well, surprise, surprise. If Walter actually read what he quoted, then he doesn't feel that having the state maintain a registry of who owns what property is undue interference with private transactions or ownership.

But establishment of a permanent registry of gun ownership, particularly one which (like the auto registry) the police can readily access, is one of the gun control proposals that sends the NRA crowd into apoplectic fits. Mention it to some of them, and you won't be able to finish the sentence before they're yelling back, "Prelude to confiscation!". Couple that with Walter's explicit expressions of support for regulations on the conditions of gun use, and you would almost think that he's in favor of moderate gun control.

Also, in reply to my observation that

If Britain were just trying to maintain control and damn the consequences, they (Irish Republicians) would all have been rounded up and shot, along with any other Catholic who showed a hint of sympathy for the cause. There's a ready stock of Protestant militants to serve as informers and triggermen

he replies that

Yup. You have some definite sectarian violence there. But what if the weapons are scattered across ethnic, racial, religious and economic lines and you can't get one group to turn on the other?

Ginger Stampley has done a sanity check on the IRA analogy, which I recommend. But indeed, if there are no ethnic or political rivalries around strong enough to inspire violence, then it's harder to play divide and rule. Thanks for reminding me that that just never happens here in the United States. I almost forgot I was living in such a paradise.


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