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  • Victor Bolles

槍支控制 (Gun Control)

It looks like gun violence and gun control laws are shaping up to be a major issues in the upcoming presidential elections. This was likely even before the horrific massacre in Orlando last week. When talking about gun control it is important to remember what happened in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. I know that was over 25 years ago and that is just forever for many of you folks (because history is boring). But there is an important lesson to be learned.

Many people in China felt that the opening up of the country after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 would lead eventually to more freedom and possibly democracy. In the spring of 1989, Chinese college students and other young people began to demonstrate around the country and to stage sit-ins to peacefully push for greater democracy. These protests were across the country but the main focus was in Tiananmen Square, which is just in front of the Forbidden City (the Chinese Imperial Palace for over 500 years). The Chinese communist government had no intention of loosening its grip on the country. On the night of June 3rd, government troops and tanks moved to clear out the protestors killing hundreds (possibly thousands – the Chinese government figures are considered unreliable by many people). It was a massacre. The Chinese protesters had no weapons with which to defend themselves.

This brutal act of the Chinese communist government is a prime example of the use of the coercive power of the state so feared by our Founding Fathers. They felt that a central government with a powerful standing army was an inherent threat to any democracy; especially one so fragile and new as America’s in 1789. The Founders wrote the Second Amendment to address two issues related to the national militia. As a frontier country, the individual states maintained militias to provide protection from the dangers of the frontier and to support the standing army in case of invasion by foreign powers. But the second reason, as stated by Founding Father James Madison in his Federalist Paper #46, was that the Founders feared the coercive power of the central government and its standing army and felt that the armed militia would be a counterbalance to this power.

This is the reason the constitutional protection to keep and bear arms is so strong. Further, the Founders weren’t protecting squirrel guns. In order to counterbalance the power of the central government’s standing army, they were protecting the right to keep and bear military grade weapons (Swiss men keep their service weapons in their homes to this day).

But are the Founders’ fears still relevant today or is the Second Amendment an anachronism of the eighteenth century? Even a powerful weapon like the AR-15 is useless against a ballistic missile. And while the coercive power of the central government grows inexorably every day, it is the government bureaucrats and not the standing army where the power grows. The citizens demand this ever-increasing growth every time they vote for an expansion of the benefits and entitlements of the welfare state or plead that the government “do something” to reduce unemployment (getting out of the way of the private sector being insufficiently proactive).

So how are we to protect our precious freedoms against this encroaching tide of centralized power? Here again we can take a lesson from China. Just because the Square of Tiananmen is clear except for tourists and soldiers of the Peoples’ Army doesn’t mean there are no Chinese freedom fighters. Booksellers in Hong Kong have been publishing books considered subversive by the government in Beijing. These booksellers have been kidnapped and transported to Mainland China for incarceration and interrogation. No trials. No lawyers. After many months, and after a forced confession of their sins, they reappear chastened.

The Chinese communist leaders fear (and justifiably so) the ability of the people to communicate among themselves and to speak freely. They censor the Internet. They push domestic smartphones that have backdoors to government surveillance (and the biggest pirate of intellectual property in the world blocks the sale of iPhones on the basis of patent infringement). They arrest artists and intellectuals that don’t toe the line. It wasn’t guns that overthrew repressive regimes in the color revolutions (the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia). The spontaneous eruptions of the Arab Spring weren’t back up with firepower. It was the will of the people and their ability to communicate that drove those revolutions.

But there are attacks on our ability to communicate here in America as well. Academia is well known for suppressing speech and thought that does not meet the far-left litmus test. The FBI is pushing Apple to create backdoors for their devices just like China. Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wants to use the organized crime RICO law against climate-change deniers. And just now in response to the Orlando massacre by an Afghan-American Muslim, the Department of Justice expunged all reference to Islam and ISIS from its release of the transcripts of the police tapes of the incident.

Our freedoms are being eroded bit by bit but your guns are useless in this fight. The weapons of modern governments are more subtle and insidious: manipulation of the media and control over the means of communication, creeping habituation to transfer payments and entitlements, regulations and mandates for private industry. Why would a modern government need to resort to guns? Egypt’s guns could not stop the Arab Spring but the military dictatorship was able to take over without firing a shot.

The assault on the second amendment is only one flank of a full-fledged campaign to subject our individual liberty and freedom to the will of the collective. They try to convert our voluntary associations into government agencies. They define expressing an opinion in opposition to their programs as “hate speech”. They are willing to violate the constitution (including the Second Amendment) to achieve their goals. These inroads on our freedom must be resisted. The best weapon in our arsenal is our ability to speak freely and to communicate with our fellow citizens. This must be protested at all costs.

Note: I got the Chinese symbols for Gun Control from Google Translate. I hope they are correct.

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