Posted in Not At All Light

A View from the Other Side – an American on the Right to Bear Arms.

Clifford is the friend of a Facebook friend in the US. He and I have had a couple of chats before. Following is an online conversation I had with him in the wake of the massacre in Las Vegas on the 1st October 2017. He is an educated American who supports a citizen’s right to bear arms. He is not in the least bit dull. All other attempts, on my part, to define him have failed. In accordance with his agreement, I have reproduced our exchange verbatim, changing only the attributions and salutations for the sake of brevity. At the time of our conversation it was believed that 59 had died. It would seem that the number is in fact 58 – a small if miraculous mercy. Our exchange begins with his response to a post reporting on the massacre:

Clifford

Here we go again. A shooter evidently used illegal guns and some are looking to gun control as a solution.

Me

Clifford, looking at this event from the other side of the Pacific I, along with most Australians, shake my head in disbelief. Many of us simply cannot believe your people can’t or won’t join the dots. Sure, it’s a complicated problem. Other countries, Switzerland for example, have a high rate of gun ownership without the associated level of carnage that characterises American society. They also have tighter gun control. The level of gun ownership in the US seems depressingly high to most people I talk to. In any country where intelligent, sensible people feel the need to own a gun in order to keep safe, it could be argued that the battle has already been lost. But surely, some effort must be made to shove the genie back into the bottle. Restrictions on weapon capability, longer waiting periods – these measures have to be tried. As for the introduction of silencers – that’s a joke, right? Americans seem keen to assert their right to freedom and that’s fair enough. Australians can understand that. But our notion of freedom does not extend to the right to own weapons of mass destruction. It’s more a matter of being able to walk the streets without some lunatic trying to blow our head off.

Clifford

A gun is not WMD. US has been particularly fortunate in not having centralized governments kill hundreds of millions of our citizens as happened in Europe and Asia the last century. That is a much greater risk imo than an occasional lunatic. When citizens have guns it is difficult to herd them like sheep. This is the advantage of gun rights. US does have some weapons control, which makes sense. Evidently the Vegas shooter may have used a ‘bump stock’ which is a new technology that makes a semi automatic fire like an automatic. It may make sense to outlaw citizens owning that. As to silencers, some hunters would like to use silencers to protect their hearing. I’m not sure it makes sense to allow that for obvious reasons.

Me

Clifford, let’s agree to disagree on whether or not 59 dead and over 500 wounded constitutes mass destruction. Other than your concern over this new weapon, are you telling me you believe US gun laws to be sufficient? And do you believe that a US citizen needs to be armed in order to protect him or herself against possible government oppression?

Clifford

Of course a citizen would need to be armed if they had to fight government oppression, else how would they fight?

Me

Fair enough that was a badly-worded question and got what it deserved. I meant to ask if you felt that potential dictatorship was a realistic threat necessitating an armed populace. I intended it as a rhetorical question. It never occurred to me that your answer would be yes. Now I’m trying to look at this from your point of view and I can see how you might take seriously the threat of dictatorship. If the 20th century taught us anything it’s that civilised, democratic societies can be subverted from within. I would question your assumption however that an armed citizenry can prevent this. I doubt if it would’ve stopped Hitler or Mussolini. And it didn’t stop Franco’s coup d’etat. And the gulf between the weaponry of the State and that of the individual (semi-automatic weapons notwithstanding) is much more than in the days when the US won its independence and enshrined the right to bear arms in its constitution. In the highly-unlikely event of the US or Australia being threatened by internal dictatorship, I think all an armed citizenry would achieve is a higher body count. Personally I’m prepared to risk the dictatorship if it means my kids are going to be safer. And just so you know, although we’ve never met, I’m pretty sure I’d trust you with a gun. But you’re not the problem, are you? (And that’s a rhetorical question too.)

Clifford

Given the weaponry the State has now, including drones, you may be correct, but there is a point you may not have seen. When it comes to dictatorship enforcing its views they must use boots on the ground. I will agree that an armed citizenry is not going to defeat a unified and organized army, but if a platoon is coming for my children and I have a high powered weapon I am going to take some of them with me. The boots on the ground are not going to want to take pot shots from the farmers in the woods (a reference to the American Revolution). They are going to want to stay on their bases and leave my children alone. You need citizens for a country to function, and it is difficult to enforce draconian measures like kill all Jews against an armed citizenry.

Me

OK, one last question if you don’t mind: are you a farmer, hunter or recreational shooter or is your primary focus self-protection?

Clifford

Self protection

Me

(W)hen I said one last question, I lied. I’ve enjoyed our exchange immensely as I did our previous one. Like many Australians, my notion of a Trump supporter is of a poorly-educated gun-toting redneck. You absolutely confound this stereotype. I would like very much to reproduce this recent exchange verbatim on my blog as I think my friends would be fascinated. Should you require it, I will of course change your name. If so pick any name you like. Do I have your permission?

Clifford

You can use my name. You assume I am a Trump supporter. I would describe myself as a supporter of the American voter. I was not a Trump supporter. I am one of the college educated American ‘elites’ who pushed US politics into a box where it made no difference who was elected, Wall Street was going to win either way. Trump appealed directly to the working class, and left the college crowd (including me) befuddled. I decided to educate myself and try to understand why the White working class voted overwhelmingly for Trump, abandoning the Democrat party. Nationalism appeals to them, and the racism of the Democrats attacking Whites to favor other voting blocks had worn thin in their ranks since they were the ones paying the price.

Me

My mistake. I must have misunderstood one of your comments from an earlier exchange. I’ll send you a link when I’ve posted it on my blog. Thanks for your cooperation. All the best.

 

 

 

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