Saturday, July 5, 2008
What good can a handgun do against an Army?
By Mike Vanderboegh
A friend of mine recently forwarded me a question a friend of his had posed:
"If/when our Federal Government comes to pilfer, pillage, plunder our property and destroy our lives, what good can a handgun do against an army with advanced weaponry, tanks, missiles, planes, or whatever else they might have at their disposal to achieve their nefarious goals? (I'm not being facetious: I accept the possibility that what happened in Germany, or similar, could happen here; I'm just not sure that the potential good from an armed citizenry in such a situation outweighs the day-to-day problems caused by masses of idiots who own guns.)"
If I may, I'd like to try to answer that question. I certainly do not think the writer facetious for asking it. The subject is a serious one that I have given much research and considerable thought to. I believe that upon the answer to this question depends the future of our Constitutional republic, our liberty and perhaps our lives. My friend Aaron Zelman, one of the founders of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership told me once:
"If every Jewish and anti-nazi family in Germany had owned a Mauser rifle and twenty rounds of ammunition AND THE WILL TO USE IT (emphasis supplied, MV), Adolf Hitler would be a little-known footnote to the history of the Weimar Republic." - Aaron Zelman, JPFO
Note well that phrase: "and the will to use it," for the simply-stated question, "What good can a handgun do against an army?", is in fact a complex one and must be answered at length and carefully. It is a military question. It is also a political question. But above all it is a moral question which strikes to the heart of what makes men free, and what makes them slaves. First, let's answer the military question.
Most military questions have both a strategic and a tactical component. Let's consider the tactical.
A friend of mine owns an instructive piece of history. It is a small, crude pistol, made out of sheet-metal stampings by the U.S. during World War II. While it fits in the palm of your hand and is a slowly-operated, single-shot arm, it's powerful .45 caliber projectile will kill a man with brutal efficiency. With a short, smooth-bore barrel it can reliably kill only at point blank ranges, so its use requires the will (brave or foolhardy) to get in close before firing. It is less a soldier's weapon than an assassin's tool. The U.S. manufactured them by the million during the war, not for our own forces but rather to be air-dropped behind German lines to resistance units in occupied Europe. Crude and slow (the fired case had to be knocked out of the breech by means of a little wooden dowel, a fresh round procured from the storage area in the grip and then manually reloaded and cocked) and so wildly inaccurate it couldn't hit the broad side of a French barn at 50 meters, to the Resistance man or woman who had no firearm it still looked pretty darn good.
WWII Liberator Pistol cal. 45ACP
The theory and practice of it was this:
First, you approach a German sentry with your little pistol hidden in your coat pocket and, with Academy-award sincerity, ask him for a light for your cigarette (or the time the train leaves for Paris, or if he wants to buy some non-army-issue food or a half- hour with your "sister"). When he smiles and casts a nervous glance down the street to see where his Sergeant is at, you blow his brains out with your first and only shot, then take his rifle and ammunition. Your next few minutes are occupied with "getting out of Dodge," for such critters generally go around in packs. After that (assuming you evade your late benefactor's friends) you keep the rifle and hand your little pistol to a fellow Resistance fighter so they can go get their own rifle.
Or maybe you then use your rifle to get a submachine gun from the Sergeant when he comes running. Perhaps you get very lucky and pickup a light machine gun, two boxes of ammunition and a haversack of hand grenades. With two of the grenades and the expenditure of a half-a-box of ammunition at a hasty roadblock the next night, you and your friends get a truck full of arms and ammunition. (Some of the cargo is sticky with "Boche" blood, but you don't mind terribly.)
Pretty soon you've got the best armed little maquis unit in your part of France, all from that cheap little pistol and the guts to use it. (One wonders if the current political elite's opposition to so-called "Saturday Night Specials" doesn't come from some adopted racial memory of previous failed tyrants. Even cheap little pistols are a threat to oppressive regimes.)
They called the pistol the "Liberator." Not a bad name, all in all.
Now let's consider the strategic aspect of the question, "What good can a handgun do against an army....?" We have seen that even a poor pistol can make a great deal of difference to the military career and postwar plans of one enemy soldier. That's tactical. But consider what a million pistols, or a hundred million pistols (which may approach the actual number of handguns in the U.S. today), can mean to the military planner who seeks to carry out operations against a populace so armed. Mention "Afghanistan" or "Chechnya" to a member of the current Russian military hierarchy and watch them shudder at the bloody memories. Then you begin to get the idea that modern munitions, air superiority and overwhelming, precision-guided violence still are not enough to make victory certain when the targets are not sitting Christmas- present fashion out in the middle of the desert.
"A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to real money." --Everett Dirksen
Consider that there are at least as many firearms-- handguns, rifles and shotguns-- as there are citizens of the United States. Consider that last year there were more than 14 million Americans who bought licenses to hunt deer in the country. 14 million-- that's a number greater than the largest five professional armies in the world combined. Consider also that those deer hunters are not only armed, but they own items of military utility-- everything from camouflage clothing to infrared "game finders", Global Positioning System devices and night vision scopes.
Consider also that quite a few of these hunters are military veterans. Just as moving around in the woods and stalking game are second nature, military operations are no mystery to them, especially those who were on the receiving end of guerrilla war in Southeast Asia. Indeed, such men, aging though they may be, may be more psychologically prepared for the exigencies of civil war (for this is what we are talking about) than their younger active-duty brother-soldiers whose only military experience involved neatly defined enemies and fronts in the Grand Campaign against Saddam. Not since 1861-1865 has the American military attempted to wage a war athwart its own logistical tail (nor indeed has it ever had to use modern conventional munitions on the Main Streets of its own hometowns and through its relatives' backyards, nor has it tested the obedience of soldiers who took a very different oath with orders to kill their "rebellious" neighbors, but that touches on the political aspect of the question).
But forget the psychological and political for a moment, and consider just the numbers. To paraphrase the Senator, "A million pistols here, a million rifles there, pretty soon you're talking serious firepower." No one, repeat, no one, will conquer America, from within or without, until its citizenry are disarmed. We remain, as a British officer had reason to complain at the start of our Revolution, "a people numerous and armed."
The Second Amendment is a political issue today only because of the military reality that underlies it. Politicians who fear the people seek to disarm them. People who fear their government's intentions refuse to be disarmed. The Founders understood this. So, too, does every tyrant who ever lived. Liberty-loving Americans forget it at their peril. Until they do, American gunowners in the aggregate represent a strategic military fact and an impediment to foreign tyranny. They also represent the greatest political challenge to home-grown would-be tyrants. If the people cannot be forcibly disarmed against their will, then they must be persuaded to give up their arms voluntarily. This is the siren song of "gun control," which is to say "government control of all guns," although few self-respecting gun-grabbers would be quite so bold as to phrase it so honestly.
Joseph Stalin, when informed after World War II that the Pope disapproved of Russian troops occupying Trieste, turned to his advisors and asked, "The Pope? The Pope? How many divisions does he have?" Dictators are unmoved by moral suasion. Fortunately, our Founders saw the wisdom of backing the First Amendment up with the Second. The "divisions" of the army of American constitutional liberty get into their cars and drive to work in this country every day to jobs that are hardly military in nature. Most of them are unmindful of the service they provide. Their arms depots may be found in innumerable closets, gunracks and gunsafes.
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