So one of the pro-gun arguments one hears these days is that we, the private citizens of the US, need military weapons so we can prevent tyranny from taking over the nation.
This is one of the silliest arguments ever to emerge from a human mind.
The reasons this argument is silly are too numerous to count, but among them is this simple fact: despite modern fantasists’ fantastical fantasies, militias had virtually nothing to do with winning the war those fantasists fantasize was won by militia resistance to an authoritarian foe: the American Revolution.
See,18th century warfare took a kind of courage and discipline that is quite different than war today. (War today takes courage and discipline, just a different kind.) In 1777, soldiers had to stand in straight lines no more than 100 yards apart (often closer) and fire at each other in the open. There was literally no place to hide. This was a result of the abysmal technology of the time: smooth bore muskets (what the Framers thought of as “arms”) were stunningly inaccurate. You could quite literally miss the side of a barn from 50 yards away. The only way to make these weapons at all effective as guns was to mass their fire. And even then soldiers were often ordered to stick bayonets on the end of those weapons and run at their enemy, slugging it out in hand to hand combat with what amounted to seven foot long clubs and knives.
Such fighting takes a willingness to bear risk and endure suffering that the militias of the day were notoriously unwilling to take. During the Revolution, militias, made up of ordinary citizens with little to no formal training or discipline, typically fired their weapons once or twice during a battle but then broke and ran when they faced an organized British counter-reaction.
Think I’m kidding? Take it from something of an authority on the question—George Washington:
To place any dependence upon militia is assuredly resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender scenes of domestic life, unaccustomed to the din of arms, totally unacquainted with every kind of military skill … makes them timid and ready to fly from their own shadows.
I am persuaded, and as fully convinced as I am of any one fact that has happened, that our liberties must of necessity be greatly hazarded, if not entirely lost, if their defence is left to any but a permanent standing army; I mean, one to exist during the war. Nor would the expense, incident to the support of such a body of troops, as would be competent to almost every exigency, far exceed that, which is daily incurred by calling in succor, and new enlistments, which, when effected, are not attended with any good consequences. Men, who have been free and subject to no control, cannot be reduced to order in an instant; and the privileges and exemptions they claim and will have influence the conduct of others; and the aid derived from them is nearly counterbalanced by the disorder, irregularity, and confusion they occasion.
I know it’s nice to think that Mel Gibson’s The Patriot is history. And yes, the militia had their uses in the Revolution. But folks, the militia didn’t beat the British. A professional American army, built from years of war and struggle from 1775-1781, engaged in combined operations with a professional French army and the French navy, did.
The militia will not stop tyranny if tyranny is coming. Which it isn’t. It didn’t “then,” and it won’t “now.”
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