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This is now the fourth posting in my "In Concord" series, in which I have been trying to capture the thoughts and reflections that occupy me when I go to the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, a hallowed place that has served as my church for most of the 21st Century. These postings have come in the order that their subjects arise in a typical visit, contemplating the enemy graves, the battle and fallen Minute Man memorialized there. We now follow the path to the Visitor's Center. After a short while it turns sharply to the right. The road used to fork here and the left fork continues on as a mowed path through the grass past the ruined foundation of Capt. David Brown's farm. I often stop here to contemplate the subject of this posting, but for a while there has been an even more concrete focus to be found further up the path.

In this installment, I tackle the cannons of Concord and what they have to tell us about the right to bear arms.

The Hancock

In the Visitor's Center we find "The Hancock", one of the two remaining cannons from the cache that Gov. Gage had sent his men to confiscate. It is on loan from the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston (which commemorates the battle fought on Breed's Hill, but that is a story for another day). Like the other remaining cannon believed to be from the Concord cache, "The Adams", the Hancock is named after one of the two dangerous radical leaders that Gage was seeking. It sits on a recently made gun carriage not unlike the ones found and burned in downtown Concord resulting in the smoke that made the men of Concord fear their town was being burned. Together they represent the triggering causes of the "shot heard round the world", the outbreak of the War that would give birth to one great nation and begin the fall from power of another.

All that because Gage feared this weapon and its like in the hands of Hancock, Adams and the bands of insurgents and unlawful combatants who sided with them, to put it in the terms of my earlier postings. All this because rather than treat with men like Hancock and Adams, he and his superiors across the sea chose a preemptive military action, to interdict the radicals and their weapons of war.

But that formulation is all from the point of view of the British, their motives, their mistakes and the strategic failures that they led to. These are important in light of the analogy to our failure to apply the lessons of Concord to modern times, but now let us look at The Hancock and its fellows from the perspective of the Colonists. What does it tell us about their motives and beliefs, about the oft-cited Founding Fathers, their beliefs and assumptions?

To put it bluntly, the Battle of Concord was fought in part over the right of the people to bear arms, and not just pistols, and fowling pieces, but cannons—weapons of war. Gage moved precipitously and disastrously because he did not believe that the weapons of war belong in private hands, a view shared by many Americans today. But what Captain Davis and Private Hosmer died for on the North Bridge was their belief in the right and the need for the people to remain armed. Captain Davis was a gunsmith who drilled his Minute Company with bayonets and shot that he supplied them with, who died defending right of the men of a nearby town to possess cannons, powder, shot and the stores needed to field their militias against a government they found tyrannical.

When we write of Colonel Barrett, Captains Davis and Brown and the other colonial officers, it is easy to think of them as commissioned officers because of the titles of rank the bore, but there is an important distinction between Col. Barrett and Col. Francis Smith, the redcoat who lead his soldiers into Concord, between Capt. Davis and Capt. Walter Laurie who lead the troops on the other side of the bridge. Capt. Laurie, commander of the 43rd Regiment of Foot bore a King's Commission. He was a Captain in the King's army because the King said he was. His authority over his troops devolved to him because he and his superiors were appointed by the King or his appointees.

Capt. Davis was a captain because his fellow citizens in Acton said he was. Capt. Davis was elected. He served his town and his neighbors because he volunteered to and they elected him. His bravery, familiarity with firearms and willingness to supply and train his neighbors qualified him. Before the battle he and Major Buttrick, whose house is just beyond the Visitor's Center, and who drilled his men on the very field upon which the Colonials were gathered, and Capt. Brown, his next door neighbor, whose family watched the battle, and Col. Barrett whose field hid the cannons. They met to discuss and decide what to do because they were responsible not to a distant Governor or more distant King, but to the men who would die following their orders. The men, their neighbors, who elected them to make these decisions.

I stress the distinction between the commissioned officers of the King's army and the elected officers of the colonial militias and Minute companies because it is important in understanding who the cannons belonged to (ignoring for the moment the fact that they may very well have stolen them from the British). They belonged to the People. Even in 1775, before the Declaration of Independence, before the Constitution of the United States of America, these men gathered in Concord believed that political and even military power arose from the people.

The cannons were not Col. Barrett's, not Hancock's or Concord's. The cannon belong to the people. Barrett had them because he was the a senior officer in the people's militia, and was capable, as he proved, of protecting them until they were needed. He needed no authorization from the King, no commission as an officer. Rather he had the trust and respect of the men who elected and followed him, who were willing to die following his orders or those of Capt. Davis or Maj. Buttrick.

That this is so becomes quite clear a little more than a year later when John Hancock, the dangerous fanatic who fled Lexington with Sam Adams a few hours before the fight at the Bridge, and who would become the first Governor of the State of Massachusetts, seventh President of the United States in Congress Assembled, signed a document that declared that

... Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, ...


... But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, ...

And that is the importance of the cannon, since named after him, that lay concealed in the furrows of Col. Barrett's field, and the shot, powder and amassed provisions that were stored in his neighbors' houses. They enabled the people, the militia, to throw off British rule, to revolt against the government that they judged to be despotic.

These men did not believe in the inherent authority of the Commander in Chief and Supervisor of the Unitary Executive to ignore the law, whether he called himself the King and claimed Divine Right or President elected by a minority of the citizenry. They believed in retaining not only their rights, and the right and obligation to revolt. They also believed in the retaining the cannons, the weapons of war, to enable them to exercise those rights and duties to overthrow despots not merely foreign, but domestic.

It is all well and good to try to claim that

A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

means something else, but as the men who laid down their lives in Concord on Patriot's Day, April 19, 1775, demonstrated, the men who hallowed this ground did so in defense of the right to bear cannon, and the right to revolt. And it was not merely the men of the Commonwealth who believed this. In response to Shay's Rebellion, a little more than a dozen years later the Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote:

A little rebellion now and then is a good thing. ...God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

And here's the paradox of liberty. This country whose founding documents proclaim the right of revolution, the right of the populace to be armed enabling such a revolution, was the site of a singular event, as a man dressed in colonial garb at the foot of the Concord obelisk pointed out to me yesterday. Twenty two years after the Battle of Concord, John Adams, the cousin of the other dangerous radical who fled with Hancock, was inaugurated as President, under the following history making conditions.

  1. The outgoing Head of State was still alive
  2. The incoming Head of State was not related to the outgoing
  3. The turnover was entirely peaceful
  4. The incoming and outgoing Heads of State disagreed about major policies
  5. The military was not involved

The country that believed in and was based on the right of revolt—armed revolt—was the birthplace of the entirely peaceful and orderly change of government.

And so, I disagree with those who seek to keep assault rifles and other weapons of war out of citizen's hands, to confine them only to duly appointed representatives of the government. Men died hallowing the ground where I pray in defense of just the opposite.

I met another man on the path of this sacred place, one who disagreed with some of what I have said in this series, who quoted me an old Shi'ite proverb that Iblis, the devil, was the first to reason by analogy, and that underscores the admonition that I usually end my blog postings with: Don't believe me. Read and research for yourself. Think and pray. Discuss with those who not only agree with you, but those who do not. Make your own decisions and act to preserve your country.

Be a Free Voice, the Voice of Liberty
Cry "Freedom!"
Vox Libertas

Originally posted to Vox Libertas on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 03:14 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  imagine what those cannon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Abou Ben Adhem

    Could have done to a one room schoolhouse?

    Fortunately, they were in the hands of a well-regulated militia.  

    To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all -Goethe

    by commonscribe on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 03:25:53 PM PDT

    •  Depends upon whom you ask... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I doubt that Governor Gage would have agreed that the militia was well-regulated. The militias in the area had been harassing his judges and shadowing his troops. The cannon, he believed had been stolen from the crown.

      "Well regulated" is in the eye of the beholder and no militia is well regulated enough for the despot they are not working for.

      The Insurgency Act was rewritten in this country because the President wasn't satisfied with how well the Governor of Louisiana was regulating the National Guard, which the rewrite now carefully no longer regards as "the militia", but rather as an element of the "armed forces".

      •  True (0+ / 0-)

        my point though, was that at the time of the framing, "weapons of war" (not muskets, rifles, etc)were rarely under the control of a single individual who was not empowered by a larger authority (trading companies, militias, etc.). So while I take your point, I don't find it a compelling argument for private ownership of assualt rifles, etc.

        To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all -Goethe

        by commonscribe on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 03:55:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  More or less true (0+ / 0-)

          There's this interesting distinction here.

          The cannon, as well as the stores of powder, shot and dried and preserved food were not under control of His Majesty's government, but rather in the hands of individuals on the behalf of a militia that was unregulated by and increasingly in opposition to His Majesty's government. And while Barrett no doubt did not consider them hims private property, the public that owned them was not the government that he rose up against.

          The issue here is the purpose. The purpose for having the arms in private hands was to have them not in public hands in the largest sense, to not have them controlled by the government or the army so that they could be used for armed rebellion.

          There purpose was rebellion.

          •  I'm with you on rebellion (0+ / 0-)

            and on the right to armed rebellion.

            I just don't want just anybody having that cannon until it's needed. Idle hands are the devil's playthings, and all that.

            I just think when the time comes, we need to go steal the cannon.;)

            To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all -Goethe

            by commonscribe on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 04:14:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  But when do you steal the cannon? (0+ / 0-)

              After they weaken habeas corpus? Or must they abolish it all together?

              After they eliminate posse comitatus, and broaden the Insurgency Act so that the President can federalize the state militias and deploy US troops within the US in "other circumstances"?

              Is there any chance that it will become harder to steal the cannon after Caesar has shown up to take advantage of all the emergency legislation?

              Or is it possible that the reason that the right to bear arms is protected in peace time is so they'll be to hand when it becomes time that the "rulers are [] warned [] that this people preserve the spirit of resistance"?

              I'm just asking. What did Jefferson mean?

        •  Could (0+ / 0-)

          Coulyou define "assault rifle" please?

          The biggest annoyance for 2nd amendment supporters  in debating those who oppose it is that most are uninformed on the very issue they argue.  Usually there are immediate shrill accusations and "debate" never takes place. That is not to imply this of you. But could you clarify that question?

          I've found most opposed to the second amendment suprised when they discover the actuality as contrasted to the falsehoods the discredited HCI perpetuated

          I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever TJ

          by cdreid on Tue Oct 16, 2007 at 10:47:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Cannons (and assault rifles) in private hands? (0+ / 0-)

    Hmmm. What could possibly go wrong? Sounds like a plan!

    I'm reminded of the hilarious Saturday Night Live skit back in the Reagan years, about a town where every citizen walked around with their own personal nuclear weapon.

    •  well, if you'd like to test this out yourself, (0+ / 0-)

      a cannon that is "not capable of firing fixed ammunition and manufactured on or before 1898, and replicas thereof, are antiques and not subject to the provisions of either the Gun Control Act of 1968 or the National Firearms Act of 1934"

      Google on
      "black powder" cannon
      to find any of a number of places where you can buy your very own new or used black powder cannon.

      Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 05:04:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, but it wasn't a hypothetical (0+ / 0-)

      There were cannons in (moderately) private hands. And what happened? The British Empire lost a large fraction of its New World Colonies. The King's Army was placed under siege and then driven from the Commonwealth. If you're of Tory leanings, terrible things happened.

      And men died. Loyal soldiers in His Majesty's Army were killed, as were a number of insurgents and rebels, both in April 1775 and for several years there after. If they were your sons, husbands and fathers, terrible things happened.

      And War broke out and with it there were collateral damages, women children, the aged and non combatant men all died because a War was fought where they lived. These were terrible things.

      And the greatest Democratic Republic that the world had ever seen was born, a nation was born that owed allegiance to principles and was ruled by laws not men. The divine right of kings was shaken to its very core and rejected around the world.

      Terrible and wonderous things happened. Cannon, bayonets, and the other weapons of war in the hands, not of soldiers but of farmers and gunsmiths and surveyors, disrupted civilization as it was known to that day. Yes they killed. They killed the guilty, but more often the loyal and the innocent. Much was lost, but more was gained.

      Denying weapons does not safety make. And in this case, arming a populace led to peace. "What could go wrong?" Oh, a very lot could go wrong, but a very lot can go wrong if you allow only those in power to possess weapons as well, and it is time that that was said.

    •  As above (0+ / 0-)

      Define "assault rifle" please?

      And without those "cannons and assault rifles" in (untrustworthy scary!) private hands you wouldnt be on daily kos as Markos would long be in jail for criticism of Prince Charles and the aristocracy.

      I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever TJ

      by cdreid on Tue Oct 16, 2007 at 11:37:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just a quick note (0+ / 0-) let you know how much I appreciate this series.

    I once visited a friend in Boston, and the first thing I made him do was drive me out to Lexington and Concord. I stood on (the replica of) that 'rude bridge that arched the flood' and thought about that long-ago battle. It's a memory I treasure; thanks again.

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. -Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 05:15:44 PM PDT

    •  You are more than welcome (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I went there on Saturday to pray and to take the picture of the Hancock and had a long debate with a fellow who disagreed with much of what I had to say, but we both knew that our dialog was held on hallowed ground, and that our it was just one in a series that went back for hundreds of years.

      I'll remember you in my prayers the next time I look out from the replacement for the replacement for the.... of the rude bridge. (You may need to forgive me for stumbling as I subvocalize your name, though.)

      •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

        ...both for the reply and for the prayers. As for my user name--it's admittedly not very euphonious. My given name is much easier.


        There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. -Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

        by slksfca on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 06:50:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  But the unwritten corollary to the 2nd Amendment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonscribe that the people should never allow the Federal standing army to grow so powerful as to render the idea of successful armed revolt absurd. Failing that, the "right to bear arms" is little more than a sham.

  •  A Government By the People ... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cdreid, ben masel, cynndara, Vox Libertas

    ... has perished from this particular patch of earth.

    I dispute the underlying premise of those that would argue against the 2nd amendment holding for both well regulated militias and individuals.  The notion that this constitutional democracy places safety over freedom (liberty) flies in the face of the evidence.  Being a citizen of a monarchy or dictatorship is easy.  Shut up.  Stay in line.  Obey the rules.  Don't worry.

    The founders clearly understood the notion that a functioning democracy placed some fairly heavy requirements on its citizenry.  Here I could go into some detail, but think that the following words serve to underscore that a deep engagement an active civic life is required for democracy to prevail.  This means more effort, more thought, more heavy lifting, and frequently more suffering and struggle. ...

    The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
    Thomas Jefferson

    Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable - a most sacred right - a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.
    Abraham Lincoln

    Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.
    Thomas Jefferson

    The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the goverment.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

    ... is required by those of us dedicated to democracy.

    It's safe to assume based on plenty of history that there will always be those who seek to concentrate their power by seizing the reigns of government and the organs of information.

    Here's a partial list:

    2001 - United States of America
    1988 - Burma/Myanmar
    1973 - Chile
    1933 - Germany
    1922 - Italy

    On the other hand it seems a stretch that guns (assault rifles, RPGs, etc.) in the possession of individuals would by their presence alone be sufficient counterforce to dissuade a determined cabal that commanded a modern state's military forces.

    A successful defense of democracy would necessitate, at a minimum, the defection from centralized control of a significant portion of the standing military forces.

    So while I support the 2nd amendment without reservation, it alone can not protect against the usurpation of the democracy by un-democratic forces.

    We must be armed with knowledge and strength of conviction as much or more than with cannon and rifle.

    No quarter. No surrender.

    by hegemony57 on Tue Oct 16, 2007 at 09:31:53 PM PDT

    •  Hear! Hear! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I concur, entirely. I did not mean to say that mere access by individuals to weapons of war was sufficient to protect the people from tyranny, only that, according to the principles of this country, legitimacy and sovereignty arise from the people, and their communities, their towns, states and nations, and not from the state or monarch and that the people, in free associations have the right and duty to protect themselves and their neighbors against tyranny and coruption, and that our forefathers believed in the right to bear arms in military, militant and revolutionary ways, that what they fought and died for was the right to bear the means of revolution, not sports guns, but actual weapons of war and rebellion.

      They also believed in very personal and local groups and associations that had order and discipline. Their officers were elected and were responsible not only for them but to them, and yet they were officers whose orders were obeyed because their authority was fundementally trusted.

    •  I would agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Since (as i once explained to a rethug talking about him and his fatass redneck buddies overthrowing hte government) i've actually Seen the 82nd Airborne deploy and you do NOT want to be in front of that tidal wave.

      But imho the Iraqis' pretty much disproved that theory. In effect a bunch of disorganised, laughably armed radicals are tearing apart the most powerful military on earth. Because in reality what they are doing battle against is the corrupt political leadership of their enemy (us) rather than its military.

      I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever TJ

      by cdreid on Tue Oct 16, 2007 at 11:43:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No steel so strong (0+ / 0-)

      as the hand (and backbone) that wields it.  Without the will to liberty, even a nuke is nothing but a dead hunk of toxic metals.

      •  True (0+ / 0-)

        ... and sadly, I feel as a culture we are lacking a certain steel.  

        I have written elsewhere that I regard 9/11 as more of an American victory than a defeat, both due to the valiant efforts of the Flight 93 militia and the FDNY and NYPD and all the others who ran to their fellows' aid, the surprising calm and control with which people walked off the island, and the fact that the WTC casualties were somewhere around 5% of the daily traffic of the two buildings that collapsed.

        And yet, this stunning example of what is strong and right and good about Americans--come on, Cantor Fitzgerald, a bunch of financial analysts for Providence's sake, took 2/3 casualties and went on to complete their job!--has been turned into a huge and hideous bugbear that we've allowed our home grown fearmongers, dare I call them terrorists?, to use to persuade us to surrender more liberties than we have ever given up in our history.

        Pfeh! We need the steel back.

        •  Parents in Town for the weekend so .. (0+ / 0-)

          ... i missed the opportunity to respond quickly.

          I am all for more steeliness when it comes to dealing with the thugs who have usurped government by and for the people.

          However, it may be that at least some of the fruits of this democracy (material well being, general technological advancement, consumer products, et al) are partially responsible for its general decline and fall.

          If true it's an interesting conundrum that may be rectified only by increased repression which could by the spark that triggers a critical mass who are actually mad enough and wont take it anymore.

          I don't see us there yet.

          No quarter. No surrender.

          by hegemony57 on Mon Oct 22, 2007 at 05:00:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Brilliant diary (0+ / 0-)

    Stunning the lack of postings on a rescued diary. But it seems gun controllers base their beliefs on fear and in my experience as a group can not deal with the actualities.

    I intend to post diaries soon on Fearmongering and reality vs our common concepts of it. Your diary hopefully will inspire the writing style.

    I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever TJ

    by cdreid on Tue Oct 16, 2007 at 11:39:49 PM PDT

    •  Thank you. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cdreid, cynndara

      I can't figure out if I should be proud that 3 out of 4 installments of "In Concord" were valued enough to be rescued, or depressed that all 4 needed to be rescued in order to be read.

      Far too much these days is based on fear and was even before fear mongering became the blatant primary tactic of the administration and power elite. It's not just gun control but virtually all of modern life seems to be driven by fear these days, fear or the notion that it is possible and desirable for life the universe and everything to be perfectly safe and if it isn't then some one is culpable and liable.

      Back in the "24 hours of Democracy", I wrote an essay on how you cannot and should not baby-proof the house and child-proof the world, but rather world-proof the child. It amounts to much the same thing. Be afraid of unstoppered electrical outlets, unlocked cutlery drawers as well as guns, and so on.

  •  Cassius Marcellus Clay (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Not the boxer, but the Kentucky Abolitionist for whom he was named.


    For twenty years before the Civil War, "Cash" Clay was that rarity, an outspoken antislavery leader in a slaveholding state. He had inherited many slaves and he set all of them free, and once when he was making an emancipationist speech a heckler asked whether he would help a runaway Negro. Clay retorted: "That would depend on which way he was running."

    Founding an antislavery paper, the True American, in Lexington, Kentucky, he prepared for trouble. He lined the street door with sheet iron, installed two brass cannon loaded with musket balls and old nails at the top of the stairway, kept a stand of rifles and muskets handy, and put two barrels of black powder, in a corner of his editorial office.

    Democratic Candidate for US Senate, Wisconsin 2012

    by ben masel on Wed Oct 17, 2007 at 12:13:18 AM PDT

  •  Superb diary, (0+ / 0-)

    Vox ... confirming yet again that Thomas Jefferson is my Hero.  I wonder if your lack of initial recs might just be the time of posting -- sometimes things get lost in the overload.  PLEASE don't get discouraged and quit!  There are too many people on Kos who moan daily at the insults and impositions of our current tyranny, but cannot look the issue of true rebellion in the face.  There comes a time when those cannon are needed.  And yet their use assures the loss of much innocent blood. It is NOT a simple, up-down question, when the loss of liberty also assures grim casualties.  But those who cry Peace, Peace! eternally live in an ideal world, not this imperfect mortal sphere, and never face the facts.

  •  The difficult questions... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vox Libertas

    ...are the ones most worth asking. I think that one of the reasons you are getting relatively few comments may be that most people have a stance on this issue that is very hard to articulate.
    We all fear the damage that a mentally unbalanced or fanatical person could cause with a modern weapon, but we also recognize that to leave all weapons in the hands of  the government leaves no check on despotism. The government should fear that the people will rise up against infringement of their liberties, and a people without weapons can not do so. Imagine, for instance, if even a fifth of the Burmese had weapons - would the military oligarchy have dared to send their troops with shoot-to-kill orders on a populace that could shoot back? On the other hand, as much  as we may cherish the idea that we are the successors of the heroes of Concord, there are some unavoidable complications in organizing our society like theirs.
    One factor is that we live in greater concentrations of population than the founders of this country could imagine. City dwellers don't have places to practice live fire and learn the coordination with their neighbors that makes the difference between a militia and a mob. This is different from New England in the 1700's, when even a city dweller had the Commons to practice musketry and archery, and forests full of game within walking distance.
    We also don't have the social cohesion that makes a difference in the formation of a true militia. The residents of Massachusetts  in 1775 were a monoculture by any standard we can use, attending the same churches and civic events so that every person knew their neighbors. A person elected  as a militia officer under such circumstances was chosen by people who knew their skills and leadership abilities. I think that if you ask a modern city  dweller who that lives in a four or five block radius they would follow into battle, you'd get very few answers.
    That same situation complicates the problem of guns falling into the hands of criminals. In a Massachusetts town, you knew who could be trusted with a weapon, and that if someone tried to use weapons for a simply criminal purpose, they would be outnumbered by honest armed citizens who were used to working together. In the modern world, the ones more likely to be trained in both weaponry and coordination are the gangs.
    On a more modern note, if an effective militia were to be formed in our modern world, I would bet that at least three out of every ten people who joined would be government agents who would spy on the members, do their best to stir dissension within the group and sideline able members, and generally interfere with the functioning of the organization. This would certainly include arranging for the most fanatical and unstable people to become the leaders of the militia, in order to bring the institution into disrepute.I challenge anyone who thinks this is not already happening.  
    These are only a few of the logistical problems - I could go on, but I'm sure you can think of others. Al this said, the more I think about Rangoon, the more I think we need to keep the idea of the right to bear arms a living part of our freedoms. I want anyone who tries to take dictatorial power to think twice about the wrath of armed American citizens - and the danger is greatest from those who talk about our freedoms while energetically suppressing them.    

    •  I'll grant you much of that... (0+ / 0-)

      very nearly all, in fact, But...

      Consider this: Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick, and Thomas Burnett, to mention the names we know best. Or cast your mind back to the people queuing for the ferries, the folk walking across the bridges, the shop keepers handing out bottled water. Think of Father Mike. Remember Cantor Fitzgerald.

      This is still a great country. Yes, we've been weakened by decades of only bad men having guns in many places, by the arms race between SWAT teams and drug dealers and on and on, but you know, it's still a great country and the spirit is there.

      And don't overestimate the "monoculture". I don't think you'll find that people like Crispus Attucks, Tommy Paine, Sam Adams, Ben Frannklin and the like were all that much of a monoculture. Its nice to think of everyone going to the same church and all, but that overlooks the fact that the Quakers and Deists and Anglicans, and Pilgrims and Puritans and Calvinists and the like held extremely different views.

      The reason that we have the First Amendment guarantee that the state won't establish a religion isn't so we can all be tolerant and politically correct. Its so we don't kill each other. I had ancestors involved in the Maryland/Pennsylvania  border wars and others who danced very carefully to stay out of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts conflicts.

      The Founding Fathers, for the very reason that they held, some very deeply, very different religious beliefs knew that the only answer was to separate church and state. The trick wasn't so much a mono-culture as making sure that all the fractious factions were equally armed and equally treated and agreed that living together was on the whole better than shooting each other.

      •  Monocultures and communities... (0+ / 0-)

        Perhaps I overstated the idea by calling it a monoculture, but it was still a tightly networked and interwoven community in which everyone knew their neighbors. I mentioned church attendance because it was a central part of society in that era and something of a social leveler - it was where even people who lived on remote farms got to know their neighbors. I wonder whether colonial militias in larger towns were organized in companies purely on the basis of where people lived, or if other social, ethnic, or religious distinctions ever came into play. If militias were purely volunteer and had no organized basis, I'd expect some to form among people who shared a common ethnicity  or religion. Given the ethnically segregated units that were in existence a hundred years later, in another war - in 1864 you had Irish brigades on both sides - it wouldn't be unique.
        I am in favor of a society where the right to bear arms, and the right to own guns and buy ammunition without registering them, is preserved.  (The two are really the same thing, as the Danish discovered when the Germans invaded, seized the registry papers, and collected every gun in the country. Dictators who  fear  their citizenry will hardly leave them armed when they take the gloves off.) At the same time, there's a lot of room for discussion about what kind of firepower is appropriate for private citizens to own. This is not only because I am concerned about the Crips, Bloods and other  sorts of people  acquiring heavy weapons, but because modern weapons are much more difficult to use and maintain than a musket (and yes, I've shot and cleaned a musket). I have no experience with AK-47s, RPG's, and such, but I assume it's much more difficult. There's also the matter of inexperienced people trying to use long-range or high-power weaponry. I have always believed in on-the-job training and learning by doing, but with high explosives there's a severe shortage of repeat lessons...  

        •  We're not far apart... (0+ / 0-)

          For all that I have written above, it's not clear to me exactly what weapons I think who should have. It's something that I think sould be discussed and discussed thoughtfully. I am pretty sure I know what many or most of the Founders thought in 1775-6: the people should be armed and armed wit the weatons of war. Otherwise Tyrants will get them. But what should we do in the here and now? Tough question.

          With there being the same order of magnitude of guns as people in this country, I do know that the old "if you outlaw guns, only outlaws (and the government) will have guns" saw bears a certain amount of truth.

          I'm pretty convinced that only the government and violent criminals having guns is not good for safety or liberty. I know that I don't believe that "just go along with the muggers/hijackers/etc and no one will get hurt" is a good strategy, and I tend to expect that crime would go down if criminals though their victims my be armed.

          I know that when my wife had her purse snatched she just followed the man calling out "That man has my purse!" until the thief got within arms reach of a veteran. She pressed charges and put the thief away. When the 2 of us were mugged by a gang of hooligans, she fended several off with an open umbrella while I used my hunting knife to discourage the rest. The bled and fled. We didn't. Odds were 3-4 to 1 in their favor. We hunted the neighborhood in a police car for an hour or so after but never spotted the hooligans. After a handful of such incidents involving us and our housemates the neighborhood became more peaceful. And the neighbors started wanting to know who the long haired hippies were.

          Community is only there if you build it. Crime only stops if you stop it. Tyranny won't go away without a reason. We know how to do all of these things in our country, so long as we don't forget how and are scared into surrendering our liberty, bribed into inaction, or sold pie in the sky.

          Key to it all is someone who says, "This has to stop, now!"

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