In the (generally) Facebook discussion of my Is there an instance where an armed citizenry prevented US government oppression? post, the responses were either of the form:
- it is too early to tell (as if 200 years of US history would not give us some useful examples) or
- the examples were so small they weren’t in the historical record.
I did find two US historical examples of a group of armed citizens which successfully used firearm violence to counter what they perceived as government oppression:
- The violence by Southern whites before the Civil War to get the South to succeed;
- The violence by Southern whites during Reconstruction to reestablish the power of the white planter elite.
For the white planter elites and their supporters, they perceived that they were fighting for their liberty from what they thought of as an oppressive Federal government. However, former slaves, poor whites and most people a hundred years later would doubtless have a far different perspective.
Based on these examples, I believe that guns help authoritarian, elite power and really haven’t moved us closer to a more just society or even kept government from being oppressive. In the examples above, they have been used to foster oppression.
The larger issue I get from my albeit brief analysis is that when firearms are used by those not in power, then they will be opposed by the larger society by all means necessary (see the examples in the earlier post). When those with firearms do have power, then there isn’t a need to resort to firearms or if they do, then they can use the power of the state to full effect to back them up.
In my mind, the historical examples don’t back up the thesis that an armed citizenry keeps oppressive government at bay, but I am still willing to hear about other examples.