A reader asked as part of a general discussion of whether the adoption of European (or Japanese) gun laws might reduce the frequency of mass shootings in the United States.
A simple question…..What do you think the government of the USA would do, if the population was totally disarmed, without recourse, and the only people with guns would be government officials and the police? If the government had the power to do *anything* to the US population it wanted? The government with 100% power, and the population with 0% power? Tell me that the US government would not turn into a large version of Pinochet’s Chile, killing, torturing, and disappearing US citizens at will, when all of these policies of Foggy Bottom and the CIA in Chile and elsewhere, were really practice to someday use these same tactics of repression on us?
I’m generally disdainful of the “cold, dead fingers” crowd (because they’re actually system-lovers most of the time). But I do think the “anti-gun” side discounts the guerrilla warfare/armed struggle argument mostly because they’re just squeamish about violence generally or because they simply don’t like the politics of the people making the argument, and not because such arguments are “wrong” from a factual perspective. For example, I’ve often heard it said that “terrorism doesn’t work.” To which I would generally say, “Uh, yes it does.” https://www.politicalresearch.org/…/standoffs-and-the…/ One can oppose terrorism on other grounds but the claim that “it doesn’t work” rests on a range of dubious presumptions. As for the utility of particular gun policies in reducing common violent crime in the United States, my own background in criminology (which I minored in in grad school) tells me that the answer is we just don’t know, as was confirmed by this recent RAND Corporation study: https://www.rand.org/…/more-research-could-help-prevent…
As for the question of the relationship between stricter gun laws and increased state repression, the two parties are essentially the kind of center-right/far-right duopoly you find in some of the more reactionary Latin American countries, and you’re right that it seems they would hardly be averse to using the same methodologies that their puppets have used. Although here may be certain legal, cultural, or pragmatic barriers to using such methods on a domestic level. It seems to me they already go up to the line and lean over with some of that stuff anyway. I think if the government tried to impose Japan-like anti-gun laws in the US, there would be an outbreak of right-wing terrorism (and some left-wing and black nationalist terrorism, as blacks would be a primary target of such laws). How successful it would be would be anyone’s guess. Obviously, stricter gun laws would require an expansion of the police state we already have built up around the wars on drugs, crime, gangs, terrorism, etc.
A disagreement I would have with those who favor gun laws like the ones in Europe, and who cite Europe as a model for controlling gun violence, is that Europe and America are much different places. America obviously resembles Europe in some ways, but we more closely resemble Latin America in other ways (criminal homicide rates in Latin America and the Caribbean are actually the highest in the world, btw, even worse than sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East generally.) Homicide rates are higher in the US than they are in European countries and some East Asian countries, but lower than they are in Russia (depending on whose data you believe) and some of these other places.
But the US is much more like Latin America in the sense that we have a more rigidly stratified class system, a traditional racial caste system, a larger “underclass,” the history of having been a frontier society, a deeply ingrained “gun culture,” and (in much of the US) a warmer climate (there is a worldwide correlation between warmer climates and higher rates of violence, for instance, the US South has a higher per capita homicide rate than the North). America is also more similar to Latin America in that organized crime, gangs, and large drug trafficking organizations are more common here than in Europe. Europe has some of that but not nearly on the level we do. Comparing the US and Europe is an apples and oranges comparison, and even more so when you compare the US and somewhere like Japan. Also, many of the Latin American and Caribbean countries have stricter gun laws than the US and higher homicide rates (see Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Honduras as prime examples).
A big issue as far as American crime is concerned are the mass public shootings, which are largely an American phenomenon. The same is true of serial killers. The majority of cases I know of concerning both mass shooters and serial killers have been Americans, and I think there is something social or cultural about that. Years ago, I heard a lecture by an FBI serial killer profiler who said that he thought serial killers were a uniquely American phenomenon because Americans are an unusually rootless, detached, atomized, isolated, competitive, acquisitive culture, and he thought that bred pathological personalities like serial killers and mass shooters. It makes as much sense as any other explanation I have heard.