The Feasibility of Gun Confiscation
The Carolina Political Review recently published a column, entitled “You Can’t Outgun the Government,” written by Ethan Peikes. I disagree with Peikes’ arguments against preservation of constitutional AR-15 ownership at several points. In this essay, I would like to express a technical disagreement. We can argue constitutional boundaries of gun ownership at a later time, but I want to explain why his thought that AR-15s and similar weapons “would make no difference” in a civil war between the government and gun owners is poorly constructed.
The Founding Fathers didn’t grant us the right to hunt with muskets less than a decade after fighting the world’s biggest superpower. No, the Second Amendment was written to explain that people have the natural right to revolt. The first 200 words of the Declaration of Independence explain that people have a duty to overthrow their government when it has violated natural rights through a long series of abuses.
The American Revolution originally sparked over gun control confiscation efforts. One may remember from grade school history that British troops stationed in Boston were sent to Concord, Massachusetts in April of 1775 to seize arms and gunpowder stored in a common building by Patriot militia. Well, the local yokels didn’t take too kindly to that government abuse and stood their ground in nearby Lexington.
A modern day gun confiscation effort would never work, and any ensuing warfare would force the federal government to eventually admit defeat. There are around 300 million guns in America, owned by tens of millions of citizens. The government could buy back up to 20 percent or so of the guns in America, like Australia did, but disarming most gun owners would require a bit more force.
Take a moment to imagine how many SWAT teams would be needed to take away all of the assault rifles in America, let alone the dangerous and concealable pistol, the destructive shotgun, or the ungentlemanly hunting or “sniper” rifle. These SWAT teams would consist of law enforcement officers, or perhaps military personnel, who themselves are more likely to be conservative gun owners than not. They would need to hit multiple houses a day for a few weeks on end to collect all of the guns, without taking significant casualties or causing a massive revolt.
If a civil war between gun owners and the government did occur, the gun owners would win. Despite all of the might of our nation’s military, it has shown a lackluster capability for snuffing out insurgencies in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Conventional armies like ours never do well against unconventional forces fighting on their own soil. The hypothetical domestic enemy could be young or old, male or female, white or non-white. For every militiaman killed on the field of battle, ten more may take his place in protest.
Now the U.S. Army did beat back the Indians two centuries ago, and the guerillas we have fought more recently have been supplied by foreign backers, but the American militia would be operating out of a first world country and have the ability to sustain itself. Gun owners include those who work in the firearms manufacturing, sales, and repair industries, machinists and welders, farmers and mechanics, EMTs and veterans.
Indeed, veterans and current military personnel would be the most effective militia members. They would have the knowledge and leadership experience to train others and destroy military targets. The U.S. military itself would undoubtedly split into groups loyal to the government or the constitution and fight each other, or back off for self-preservation. A large portion of the military is conservative, and I think that few in combat arms positions would consider orders to fight against their countrymen to be constitutional.
The militia of gun owners wouldn’t have to completely subdue the government, either. As an indigenous, unconventional fighting force the militia would work toward the ultimate goal of making total government domination of the American heartland more trouble than it's worth. It would achieve that goal through harassing military supply lines and turning the civilian population against the government.
The government could not sustain a ground force in the American heartland, and the sheer size of the American suburbs would make drone strike operations difficult. For instance, only a few rednecks with hunting rifles and perhaps dynamite are needed to close all of the mountain passes for interstates crossing the Appalachian mountains. Two of those three ingredients are native to the mountains, and miners or quarry workers can probably find the third with ease. And a few civilian casualties from neighborhood drone strikes could quickly lead civilians to think that letting conservatives own AR-15s simply isn’t worth the cost.
You see, the government’s matter-of-fact dominance in a potential gun confiscation war is far from settled. Through thirty minutes of thinking and writing, I believe that I have produced a few reasonable arguments. I would not welcome a civil war on American soil over gun ownership, and don’t recommend it either. Peikes’ argument ends with the observation that “if we end up in a war with the federal government, we’ve already lost.” On a philosophical level he may be exactly right, but in practical terms he is wrong. I welcome further debate.