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Tyranny and Gun Control in Venezuela

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By any reasonable definition of the word “tyranny,” Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro meets it. His recent reelection was a sham, especially since he banned any opposition candidate or party who would have had any reasonable chance to defeat him. He also disbanded the elected legislature and replaced it with a legislative body stacked with cronies. The courts are also composed of judges who answer to him and do his bidding. Maduro wields omnipotent power.  He is a left-wing socialist tyrant and his socialist economic policies have plunged the nation into chaos and crisis, with people on the verge of starvation.

Unfortunately for the Venezuelan people, they lack the option that Americans have if a similar situation were ever to arise here in the United States. They lack the ability to violently revolt against the tyranny of their own government. That’s because they, unlike Americans, are disarmed. The man who preceded Maduro as president, Hugo Chavez, banned private gun ownership in 2012.

This is what the gun-control crowd here in the United States just doesn’t get — that the real reason that our ancestors enacted the Second Amendment was to ensure that the U.S. government could never disarm the American people. They understood that once Americans were disarmed, there would be nothing to prevent the federal government from doing extremely bad things to people, such as the things that Maduro is doing to the people of Venezuela.

I believe the Second Amendment should have been the First Amendment. That’s because the First Amendment, which prohibits U.S. officials from infringing freedom of speech and freedom of the press, is worthless without the Second Amendment. If Americans were disarmed, the possibility that U.S. officials would honor the provisions of the First Amendment is virtually nil.

People who are suffering under tyranny have the right to use force against it. That is pointed out in the Declaration of Independence, where Thomas Jefferson wrote that whenever any government becomes the destroyer of people’s liberty, it is the right of people to alter and even abolish it, through force if necessary.

But at the risk of belaboring the obvious, if people lack guns, there is no way that they have the means to violently overthrow a tyrannical regime. At that point, they have but two choices: submit and obey or die. That’s the choice that the disarmed Venezuelan people have today under Maduro’s tyranny.

Americans would have another option if the same thing were to happen here: resist the tyranny with force, not only in self-defense against the federal government’s murderers, rapists, and kidnappers but also with the intent of overthrowing the government and replacing it with a normal, democratic government with limited powers.

There are those who claim that tyranny could never come to the United States because it is a democratic system. So was Venezuela. So was Nazi Germany. Once crises hit — either economic or war — all bets are off. That’s when government officials are tempted to assume emergency “temporary” powers, many of which are the very essence of tyranny. That’s also when the courts go silent. A good example was the totalitarian-like powers that President Roosevelt acquired during the Great Depression. Another is when U.S. officials rounded up and incarcerated thousands of innocent American citizens during World War II, with the full approval of the Supreme Court. Another example were the totalitarian-like powers that President Bush, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA acquired after the 9/11 attacks, including indefinite detention, rendition, torture, and assassination.

We also mustn’t forget that the U.S. national-security establishment has proven itself to be an advocate of tyranny, so long as it is in the interests of “national security.” Don’t forget: it was the U.S. national-security establishment that convinced its national-security counterparts in Chile during the early 1970s to oust their democratically elected president in order to “save” the country from socialism and communism and replace him with a brutal right-wing military tyrant whose goons proceeded to round up 60,000 people, torture or rape many of them, and murder 3,000 of them, all with the full support of U.S. national-security state officials.

Since  U.S. national-security state officials believed that crisis and chaos (which they intentionally and secretly aggravated) justified right-wing tyranny in Chile, it is always possible that they could conclude that crisis and chaos justifies right-wing tyranny here at home as well. One thing is beyond dispute: Our American ancestors certainly believed that given the right circumstances, U.S. officials were capable of doing the things that Maduro is doing. The Bill of Rights is a testament to their belief.

What the Venezuelan people are teaching Americans is that disarmament is a mistake that a nation can make only once. Once the tyranny manifests itself, pleas by the citizenry to please let them have their guns back so that they can do something about it will fall on deaf ears.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.