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Gun Estimate Implications

November 5, 2016

One of the complaints made by pro gun control folks is that there are already “too many guns in the United States.” The number I hear and read most often is about 300 million. If accurate, that means there is approximately one gun for every man, woman and child in this country. That’s a lot of guns! What if I were to tell you that number is very likely wrong? In my experience, most gun control advocates would very much like for that number to be wrong – if wrong means lower. They would be delighted for there to be fewer guns in private hands, especially given the stated desire of many of them to either severely restrict access to them (arguably far easier if there aren’t as many) or remove them from private ownership altogether. As it turns out, there is a good chance the 300 million number is wrong. However, the real number may not be lower, at all. In fact, there may actually be twice as many privately owned guns in this country as previously believed. That’s right, there may be as many as 600 million guns in private hands in the US.

The implications of this, I believe, are significant. To begin, as much as gun control advocates have stated their desire to either severely reduce the number of privately owned firearms (if not virtually or effectively eliminate private ownership), many of them have admitted it’s not likely to happen if there are 300 million of them in this country. How much more unlikely is it if there are 400 million…450 million…600 million? It’s not likely at all. In fact, I’d call it so unlikely as to be impossible. It simply isn’t going to happen. But wait, there’s more.

Periodically, people on both sides of the gun debate discuss the purpose of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Almost to the last person, gun control advocates insist the right to keep and bear arms has nothing to do with resisting tyranny, whether it arises from without or within (but especially from within). “Besides,” they argue, “a bunch of rednecks in a home grown ‘militia’ have no chance against the US military.” Now, it has long been my contention that no sane, reasonable person wants armed conflict. Those who do certainly don’t meet my definitions of either sane or reasonable. What the gun control folks miss is that in the event such conflict comes, it likely won’t take the form of massed, untrained civilians attempting to go toe-to-toe with our professional military. They fail to consider, for what I believe are attempts to maintain their psychological comfort, that such conflict would involve not simply people who had always been civilians, but also tactically trained and experienced current and former law enforcement and military personnel. The latter would include some with training and experience in unconventional, asymmetrical and 4th generation warfare and experience training and building insurgencies. The number of firearms is very significant in this scenario.

We are assured there is no database of who owns what firearms. Believing that to be true does require a perhaps not quite realistic confidence in the veracity of government. I have previously expressed my dislike of conspiracy theories. I remain skeptical about them. One thing about which I am not skeptical is the tendency of government to always seek to increase its power and control. That is simply its nature. If there is a database, I don’t see it as evidence or proof of some vast conspiracy to disarm the American people. It is, if it exists, simply typical of government’s tendency to increase its power and control.  I suspect that even if there is such a database, it contains but a fraction of the previous estimate of 300 million privately owned firearms – and likely none of those “above and beyond” from the updated estimate. This is good news for those who love freedom, and increasingly good news as the number of privately owned firearms continues to increase with each passing month. While we are arguably already there in practical terms, we will eventually reach a point where disarming the American people becomes not just a practical impossibility, but a literal one as well. Still, gun ownership, even as it grows to epic proportions, is not the preferred method of dealing with an overreaching government. That method, I submit, is nullification.

Nullification has two major components. The first is “jury nullification.” This occurs when a jury, in the face of evidence a defendant  has, indeed, committed the crime of which he or she is accused, elects to find the defendant “not guilty.” Why might this occur? It could be that the jury finds the law or the application of it to be unjust. Perhaps they feel a mandatory or likely sentence is extreme. We can see examples of this in the years leading up to the Civil War, when juries refused to convict runaway slaves or those who helped them escape. We see it in the 1800s when juries refused to convict union organizers. More recently, it was used to protect those charged with violating Prohibition, antiwar protestors during the Vietnam era, marijuana users (especially medical marijuana users) and a host of others. Juries, made up of “we, the people,” truly sit in judgement of both fact and the law.

The second sort of nullification is that exercised by a state, county or city that declines to provide resources to enforce a law it finds unjust or unreasonable. It can also be seen in cases in which federal money is declined because it comes with the price of allowing the federal government an unacceptable degree of control. This form of nullification, too, has a long history in the United States, including when states like Michigan refused to enforce the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act or to provide resources for that purpose, many passing laws to that effect. The federal government must depend upon the states for resources to enforce many federal laws, simply because it lacks the resources to do so itself.

What, then, is nullification? The Tenth Amendment Center offers this definition: Any act or set of acts which renders a law null, void or just unenforceable. It is simply the people and/or the states declining to participate in a miscarriage of justice or the destruction of freedom. It recognizes that in the United States, the ultimate power is intended to rest with the people. They are to be the masters and government is to be the servant.

The relationship between ever increasing gun ownership and nullification, I submit, is this: it is the presence of a large and growing number of firearms in private hands that serves as an ever-present caution to government against violent oppression, even as the people exercise the power of nullification to reign in government when the electoral and legislative processes have failed to do so. Widespread, large scale gun ownership serves to keep government at bay while the citizens do to government what government will never do on its own – decrease its power and control. So, while I am delighted at the prospect of there being far more firearms in private hands than previously estimated, I see that as only one side of the coin of freedom. The other side is the responsibility of the people, folks like me and you, to do two things. First, we must determine to exercise our power of jury nullification, when appropriate. Second, we absolutely must work to elect state and local officials and representatives who understand their obligation to nullify unjust laws and policies and who also know their continued time in office is dependent upon the approval of a populace to whom, because of proximity and a much smaller electorate, they must give a far more immediate answer than do those in Washington, D.C.

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