On the night of April 20, 1914, members of the Colorado National Guard assaulted a colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado. After setting fire to the miners' tents, the guards shot people as they fled, mowing them down with rapid fire from Gatling guns. The results, described in Woody Guthrie's song, "The Ludlow Massacre," were devastating: Twenty-five people died, including two women and eleven children.
It didn't stop there. The guards massed for a second assault, but the miners had a plan. As Guthrie describes it, some of the women took potatoes to the nearby town of Trinidad, traded them for firearms and sneaked the guns into camp. When the guards attacked again, "The redneck miners mowed down them troopers/You shudda seen those poor boys run" (from "the Ludlow Massacre"). The song simplifies what actually developed into a 10-day conflict over a 40-mile front, a raging battle that historian Howard Zinn called "the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history." But it gets the essence: Because the miners armed themselves, they saved their families from further murders, and wreaked a certain justice on the Colorado National Guard.
And now, because a nut job went wild at Sandy Hook Elementary in a mass murder, about which reports have been absurdly incompetent and incomplete, a group of people calling themselves "Liberals" would like to strip the people of their right to bear arms. Do not say you wish only to "control" guns. To take away the right to own firearms of at least semi-automatic capability -- and that is the essence of legislation put forth by Dianne Feinstein and endorsed by Pres. Obama -- is to avoid thinking clearly and rationally about a pressing subject by simply saying "I'm a Liberal, and Liberals think X."
I have yet to see an argument for the confiscation of semi-autos that contains facts and figures in support of confiscation. This is probably because none exists. What I do get is people saying things like "Don't bring up the fact that Hitler confiscated the Jews' guns in 1938" and "Stop telling me you can fight government forces with small arms" and "Don't quote Mao Zedong's adage that 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun'" and "Don't tell me about all those citizens who own firearms in peaceful Switzerland." Apparently, certain arguments are verboten if they make a case against a smug and pre-ordained political stance that makes one, you know, better (sniff) than those nasty gun-owners.
From the standpoint of the Liberal mainstream, I am the most unlikely of second-amendment advocates. My firearms ownership is tiny and includes nothing that could be labeled an "assault weapon," whatever that is. I don't fit in with so-called "gun culture," and the two times I have attended gun shows I had the uneasy feeling I would soon be accosted by bad country music or some wild-eyed maniac with a petition to reinstate the Confederate flag. My stand is based wholly on principle, and on the facts supporting the urgency of that principle. The clichÃ© of the beer-bellied, ignorant, dull-eyed slinger of AKs and AR-15s is based on pure cultural bias against the Other, and feeds Liberal emotionality. Firearms owners in fact fill a much wider profile. How does Liberal bias fit the lives and personalities of the many gun-owners I know? The software designer, the sex therapist, the classical singer, the schoolteacher, the psychiatrist and the ophthamologist are none of them even remotely ignorant. To the contrary, they are informed, thoughtful and aware of the world around them, a great deal more than I can say for the knee-jerk advocates of confiscation.
If the advocates of confiscating "assault weapons" were aware of the world outside their own safety net of Acceptable Ideology, they would notice that the power of large States is growing, and that in particular the power of the United States government is growing and taking on the attributes of Frankenstein's monster. The monster, in the form of a foreign policy that invades every country it deems "anti-democratic" and that kills every individual it labels "terrorist" (including, so far, two American citizens) and domestic policies that obliterate any rights that get in its way, from free speech -- which has been marginalized by the creation of "free-speech zones" -- to the bald and disgraceful violation of the Fourth Amendment by the TSA's pat-downs and x-rays of air travelers. This is no trifle. In fact, this is the very heart of the matter. For the advocates of gun confiscation are saying that only the monster should have major weapons, that large caliber semi-automatics and 50-round magazines and the like should be only in the hands of the military, the police, and security agencies, and not in the homes of private citizens.
One can understand supporters of State power taking this stand. It is the proper position if you believe the State to be the omnibenevolent protector of your wellbeing. And while I've couched the matter in the grossest of terms, there actually exist a frighteningly large number of people who think this way. Of course, they don't call it "State power," they call it "freedom" or "America" or even "morality." Just turn over more of your rights to the government, support "our troops" and let those in charge take care of us. For such folk, gun confiscation is a natural outgrowth of their belief system. These people are the silent majority, the non-Libertarian Right, and moderate Democrats who keep saying "give Obama a chance" no matter what he does, from drone-killing innocent Pakistanis to cutting Social Security. I'd say they are the shame of the nation, but they are not even that. They are the politically lazy -- typical, apparently, of every culture throughout history.
As I am forbidden to mention how the State has, throughout history, confiscated guns from citizens as prelude to massacring them (research what Turkey did to the Armenians) and forbidden as well to mention that the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto night have broken out if they'd been armed to begin with instead of having to scramble for weapons -- I suppose I must stick to saying, "Well, my guns is my property, and you all ain't gonna get "em." There. That make you feel warm and snugly in your superiority? Here's another thing I am probably forbidden to mention:
The presence of guns in the hands of innocent citizens does not increase crime, it deters its commission, and it cases where the crime is already being committed, frequently stops it. Instances of the latter are almost constantly occurring. The day after the Shady Hook shootings, a man in Oregon drew his pistol on a man who had opened fire in a shopping mall. The shooter saw the man's gun, and immediately shot himself -- a reaction strangely common among mass shooters. Adam Lanza reportedly killed himself upon hearing the sirens of approaching police. If a trained teacher had pulled a firearm on Lanza, chances are he might have shot himself a lot earlier. The opposite is also true: the lack of guns in the hands of innocent citizens increases crime. This is the fact that generally gets a very large sniff from the gun-confiscation nuts, followed by immediate and indignant demands for statistics. And then, when I supply them, it doesn't change their attitude, because their attitude is based solely on their need to identify with Acceptable Ideology.
Look up the violent crime rates in Mexico, where it is nearly impossible to obtain a gun legally, versus those in my home state, Arizona, where firearms are everywhere and anyone can conceal carry. Go ahead, do it. Of course you won't, because the results will contradict your "Liberal" stance, and the one thing you never want to do is to violate the tribal beliefs of your particular Ideological group. I can hear wheels inside the minds of certain readers grinding out the following mantra: "This writer is a Conservative and that's bad; I'm a Liberal and that's good. To stay a Liberal I must believe that gun confiscation is a good thing." From my sad experience, this is what passes for thinking on the part of most people. And I'm including Conservatives, whose idiocy shows up in myriad ways, chief among them the support of military actions that contradict the very principles they claim to espouse. Liberal/Conservative is a false choice, a shell game like "Left/Right" that divides the people against themselves and serves only to strengthen the State.
To support the confiscation of semi-automatic firearms from the People is to strip the striking cola-miners at Ludlow of their defenses and to condemn them to further devastation; to doom the Jews at Warsaw to fighting and dying with bolt action weapons; to sniff smugly as millions of Armenians and Chinese and Africans die at the hands of the State, disarmed and helpless. It is to look the other way as the poor in American cities like Chicago -- where guns are all but impossible to obtain lawfully and 500 people died from gun violence in 2012 -- endure the oppression of gangs who, of course, always manage to get firearms no matter the law. It is to make sure that gun-free zones like Sandy Hook remain gun-free and thus totally open to the horror of mass murder. It is all those things, but it is also safely to rest beneath the mantle of being a "Liberal" without having to think further on the subject. My hope is that, among the readers of this tiny essay are a few who will reach the conclusion clear to any rational being, namely that one of two things are possibly true: 1) Gun confiscation is not an authentically Liberal position, no matter how many times it is called that, or 2) If these things are indeed what it means to be a Liberal, then only a damn fool would be one.
- Kenneth LaFave