It's Pearl Harbor day, and in light of that surprise attack, I have been thinking about the recent events in Mumbai. (Mumbai is the correct name for the city that has been known as Bombay for the past 100 years or so.)
The Mumbai rampage has left me wondering about the rights we have to protect ourselves. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, a handful of terrorists, armed with small bombs, grenades, and automatic weapons, took over in India's financial capital. Over parts of 3 days, they killed randomly, before finally being killed themselves by Indian security forces. Only one was taken alive.
India is a somewhat unique place when it comes to firearms, for firearms restrictions there are strong and old. A little research shows that the British first imposed firearms restrictions there in the latter part of the 19th century, hoping to avoid a repeat of the Mutiny of 1857. There is a good discussion of it by Abhijeet Singh and he has put together a coherent and interesting article, many of the quotes I use are from his site.
However, I will try to condense it to give a sense of the current situation.
The British rapidly recognized that having a huge population with weapons was not conducive to Colonial rule, so they systematically began disarming the populace, starting with the Indian Arms Act of 1878, which basically restricted firearms ownership to the Europeans, or to the Indians that the Europeans thought were loyal to the Crown.
From the British point of view, James Burgh very adequately explained it thus:
"No kingdom can be secured otherwise than by arming the people. The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave. He, who has nothing, and who himself belongs to another, must be defended by him, whose property he is, and needs no arms. But he, who thinks he is his own master, and has what he can call his own, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses; else he lives precariously, and at discretion."
Note that he specifically states, "The possession of arms ins the distinction between a freeman and a slave"!!
Interestingly, although India gained Independance in 1947, the 1878 act wasn't changed until 1959, and the Indian government continued in the belief that the populace should not own arms.
They subsequently imposed new acts in 1959 and 1962, and the effect was that Indian arms makers basically were very limited in what they could produce, and the people were even more limited in what they could buy. Few, if any, locally produced weapons were of any quality, and imports were the only way to access decent weapons.
In the 1980's however, the laws became even more draconian, when the government ceased importation, and the prices of even borderline weapons began to climb precipitously. Like the United States, however, there were few, if any, registered firearms ever used for crime.
"A system of licensing and registration is the perfect device to deny gun ownership to the bourgeoisie." -- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Interestingly, even the most successful of the passive resistance, Mahatma Gandhi, recognized that what the British had done was wrong, and said: "Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."
And so we come to Mumbai, where the death toll is now around 200, with approximately 300 more injured.
Fingers will be pointed at the Police and Military for not acting more rapidly and appropriately. Some will say that the way the Police reacted was cowardly. But the bare facts are these:
1) The Indian people have been conditioned by more than 100 years of passivity.
2) The Indian people do not and cannot carry weapons to protect themselves.
3) The Indian police were not trained to deal with multiple attacks by trained aggressors.
4) The lack of appropriate police weaponry was very similar to the Noth Hollywood shootout in Los Angeles in that the aggressors possessed more effective weaponry than the defenders initially did.
5) Determined attackers, willing to die in the undertaking, are very difficult for government authorities to stop.
The Mumbai attacks were well planned, and they serve as a perfect reminder that "When seconds count, the Police are only minutes away!" In this case, even being minutes away and acting rapidly would have saved lives, but the Indian Police are evidently NOT trained to deal with multiple attackers with high powered weapons, and so they did not do so. Even special security forces, who arrived later, took almost 2 days to finally neutralize the last of the attackers.
Sounds like a large force, right? Nope, just 10 or so bad guys!
How did gun control affect this situation? Well, unlike most American cities, no Indians carry weapons unless they are on the Police force or in the military. Since Indians have no way to fight back against men with weapons, the attackers had essentially a shooting gallery of targets, with no real reason to fear that anyone could or would shoot back.
Now lets look at weapons in general:
What distinguishes men from animals? When I was growing up, we were taught that it was all the size of our brains, but whales and elephants have bigger brains, so that was dismissed. Then we were taught it was our ability to use an opposable thumb, but, well, that doesn't seem much of an advantage, and some other primates fall into the same category. Then we were taught it was language skills, but pretty soon we realized that whales, dolphins, and chimpanzees, among others, all seemed to have communication skills that allowed the group to act as one in pursuit of a common goal. Then we were taught that it was the use of weapons, but recent evidence has shown that chimps and some birds, as well as sea otters, among others once again, all use weapons to hunt.
BUT....Man does do one thing that no other known animal does, he makes tools to defend himself.
Anciently, it made great sense. Puny man against Lions, Tigers, Bears, and Wolves, all who had significantly better physical attributes than we did when it came to killing prey. All too often, especially when it came to our young, I suspect we WERE the prey. So we came up with defensive weaponry, something to use to protect us from the greater predators.
Our tools got so good that it wasn't long before we were hunting those same predators, even though physically they were our superiors. Since we could defend ourselves more than adequately, our numbers increased, and so did our ability to live long enough to gain experience, thus improving our ability to make better defensive weaponry. Once we could defend ourselves, we found ways to go on the offense, often using that same weaponry. But more importantly, women learned to use those tools defensively as well, protecting the young. That meant even more humans could reach adulthood.
So what changed? Why did a basic necessity, a right given to all, become a bad thing in some situations? Was it because too many used those tools inappropriately, and killed members of their tribes or families?
Of course not!! What happened is governments! As people formed alliances, and then formed bigger alliances, local and then national governments soon evolved. It didn't take long for those in power to realize that if the populace had easy access to weapons, they could rise up and throw out those in power, so by the Dark Ages, European Lords and the remainder of the nobility were restricting weaponry to the "nobility" or those appointed to represent them.
The Founding Fathers recognized it, and Thomas Paine said, "The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside...Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them..."
That horrid mischief is exactly what happened in Mumbai, where the population could not take up arms to defend themselves, and the attackers refused to lay theirs down!
Even the villain Hitler talked about it: "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed the subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty."
If we in America are to avoid situations like Mumbai, we must recall that the Japanese refused to attempt a land war on the United States for one reason. They were convinced that every American could and would defend his home with his own personal weapon. In every city were common citizens have access to weapons, through the right to self defense by concealed carry, the crime rate has dropped or remained stable. In cities such as Chicago and Washington, DC, where they do not, the crime rate is much higher.
Now a quote from Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, "Gun control? It's the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. If I'm a bad guy, I'm always gonna have a gun. Safety locks? You'll pull the trigger with a lock on, and I'll pull the trigger. We'll see who wins."
If the crooks recognize it, why is it so hard for elected officials?