Many Europeans love to look down their noses at Americans over the issue of gun rights. They just cannot understand how Americans can be so uncivilized as to leave people free to own guns.
Whenever I discuss the gun-rights issue with Europeans, I point out one fundamental fact, one with which they can never disagree. The fact is this: When European citizens become the victims of a tyrannical political regime within their own country, they have no effective choice but to submit to its dictates and obey its commands.
Americans, on the other hand, would have at least one last option if a tyrannical regime were ever to assume power in the United States. That last option is violent resistance against the forces of government.
Consider Nazi Germany. The Nazis were able to take power in Germany through democratic means (a point that democracy lovers often forget). After assuming power, they used two threats to assume tyrannical power: terrorism and communism. The threat of terrorism was rooted in the terrorist attack on the Reichstag. The communist threat was rooted in the Soviet Union.
Using those two threats, Hitler induced the German parliament to grant him emergency powers by which civil liberties were suspended. Even though the suspension was supposed to be temporary — that is, until the crises over terrorism and communism were over — as a practical matter it became permanent.
The Nazis used the period to consolidate their power over the citizenry and impose their tyrannical regime onto the German people. As a result of gun control, violent resistance to Nazi tyranny by the German people was not an option. As a result, most Germans became submissive, loyal, and obedient.
This same phenomenon is now playing itself out in Iran. At first, the post-election demonstrations challenging the validity of the election results were drawing hundreds of thousands of people. Today, the protests are drawing only a few thousand.
The reason? The tyrants in Iran are killing protestors and promising to execute many more after kangaroo tribunals find them guilty of acts that threaten national security. Everyone in Iran knows that there are now only two options: obey and meekly submit to the orders of the tyrants or die. Owing to gun control, shooting back at the tyrants’ police and military, who are faithfully and loyally following the orders of their superiors, is not an option.
Ironically, the right to keep and bear arms actually serves as an inhibitor to would-be tyrants. When they know that hundreds of thousands of protestors have the ability to shoot back at the police and troops, they inevitably factor that into their decision-making when deciding what steps to take against the citizenry.
Could the United States ever end up with a tyrannical regime? Of course. And make no mistake about it: Such a regime could easily count on many members of the police and the military to faithfully and loyally follow orders to kill, torture, and incarcerate the citizenry. All the regime would have to do is tell the police and the troops that they’re targeting communists, terrorists, and other serious threats to national security.
In the recent case of D.C. v. Heller, the Supreme Court pointed out that the primary purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that Americans were not deprived of the means to resist tyranny by force. What the Court was referring to, of course, was not the tyranny of some foreign government but rather the U.S. government. Federal appellate Judge Alex Kozinski expressed the matter well in the 2003 case of Silveira vs. Lockyer:
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.