Quote of the day—Don B. Kates Jr.

The argument that an armed citizenry cannot hope to overthrow a modern military machine flies directly in the face of the history of partisan guerilla and civil wars in the twentieth century. To make this argument (which is invariably supported, if at all, by reference only to the American military experience in non-revolutionary struggles like the two World Wars), one must indulge in the assumption that a handgun-armed citizenry will eschew guerrilla tactics in favor of throwing themselves headlong under the tracks of advancing tanks. Far from proving invincible, in the vast majority of cases in this century in which they have confronted popular insurgencies, modern armies have been unable to suppress the insurgents. This is why the British no longer rule in Israel and Ireland, the French in Indo-China, Algeria and Madagascar, the Portugese in Angola, the whites in Rhodesia, or General Somoza, General Battista, or the Shah in Nicaragua, Cuba and Iran respectively–not to mention the examples of the United States in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It is, of course, quite irrelevant for present purposes whether each of the struggles just mentioned is or was justified or whether the people benefitted therefrom. However one may appraise those victories, the fact remains that they were achieved against regimes equipped with all the military technology which, it is asserted, inevitably dooms popular revolt.

Perhaps more important, in a free country like our own, the issue is not really overthrowing a tyranny but deterring its institution in the first place. To persuade his officers and men to support a coup, a potential military despot must convince them that his rule will succeed where our current civilian leadership and policies are failing. In a country whose widely divergent citizenry possesses upwards of 160 million firearms, however, the most likely outcome of usurpation (no matter how initially successful) is not benevolent dictatorship, but prolonged, internecine civil war.

Don B. Kates Jr.
Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment
Michigan Law Review 82 (1983): 204-273.
[Via Proclaiming Liberty: What Patriots and Heroes Really Said About the Right to Keep and Bear Arms by Philip Mulivor.

This is along the same lines as what Lyle described as the Plausible Threat.

It’s worth noting that the estimate of 160 million firearms in the U.S. was in 1983. The estimate is nearly double that now.—Joe]

5 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Don B. Kates Jr.

  1. That reminds me of my favorite quote from Lord or War:

    There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That’s one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is: How do we arm the other 11?

    If we could just repeal NFA ’34 and GCA ’68 et. all, maybe we could start making some headway on that. I keep checking Costco for the Glocks in a blister pack, so far no luck.

    I’m curous if any one knows how much of a gun’s retail price is due to fiream regulations and taxes.

  2. Military body armor is “Class III”, and even with a “chicken plate”(a ceramic or metal insert often inserted into an integral pocket in the central chest area…) will most times not stop a straight-on bullet from the type of rifle calibers used most often to hunt deer or elk… and most of those civilian rifles are scoped. Could an aroused citizenry defeat a mobilized regular military establishment? Look no further than Afghanistan, people. We have over 60,000 troops deployed there,with complete air superiority, heavy artillery, armored vehicles, superior communications, armed Predator drones, and every other technical advantage anyone can think of, and we are being beaten by illiterate hill tribesmen in sandals, armed primarily with their beat-up personal AK-47’s and providing their own ammo, who know the terrain intimately and can vanish into the local population. There would be a great killing, but eventually the military would lose. (If the government could even get most of the troops to violate their oaths to the Constitution and fire on American citizens…)

  3. There is a third aspect, that is often overlooked. Suppose a dictator came into power, and nuked one of our cities to force compliance. Why in the world should we not do all in our power to overthrow such a murderous thug–or, at least, die trying?

    Live free or die! For there are worse things than death.

    And the other funny thing is, this applies to any dictator wanting to usurp power over the United States, foreign or domestic. When Adolf Hitler looked over Switzerland, he saw hundreds of thousands of people willing to die to preserve their freedom, and willing to take hundreds of thousands of German soldiers with them. When Japan looked at the United States, they saw a rifleman behind every blade of grass. While Hitler devised several schemes for invading Switzerland, he couldn’t devise one that didn’t involve heavy death tolls–and thus, he delayed invading Switzerland.

    Oh, I have no doubt that Hitler would have invaded eventually…it’s just that, in his efforts to win the war, he couldn’t bring himself to attack, and was eventually defeated before he could.

  4. @Joe or anyone who can help:

    “It’s worth noting that the estimate of 160 million firearms in the U.S. was in 1983. The estimate is nearly double that now.”

    Just curious… where does that current estimate # of firearms in U.S. come from? Where did you find that stat? Data, please?

    Thanks.

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