This will be my last foray (part 1, part 2) into the whole gun debate issue and so I would like to address a common objection to “ordinary” citizens owning “military” grade weaponry. I received this question from a friend recently: “How do sovereign people adequately defend themselves from their government that has vastly superior weapons?” The assumed “gotcha” response is that such defense is obviously futile and thus having demonstrated such futility ipso facto there can be no legitimate reason for a citizen to posses such weapons. This was not my friend’s intent in asking this question though; he raised a legitimate question and was seeking a thoughtful answer.
To answer this we must first ask: What is the objective of such people defending themselves? Is it to achieve an outright resounding victory or is it to merely resist? Although the former objective may be the desire clearly the difference in weaponry would make that an unlikely immediate outcome. However, resistance is a different matter. Resistance does not require equivalent weaponry, merely minimally repulsive weaponry. The truth of this is found throughout a history replete with stories of rebelling forces that were vastly outgunned and outmanned resisting against superior forces for years on end. For example, the American Indian (various tribes) resisted the growing incursions of the United States into their various territories for decades. They did ultimately lose that battle, however there was resistance. Had they been completely disarmed the resistance of the Indians would have lasted days rather than decades.
There are also examples where resistance can ultimately translate into victory. If your goal is not to win but rather to simply wear your enemy down, then it is often possible for the “weaker” party to prevail. For examples of that look no further than our own American Revolution. An army of farmers armed with muskets defeated the mightiest military on the face of the earth. Likewise the tables were turned in Vietnam when we, with the mightiest military on the face of the earth, were defeated by a grass roots militia. Some might quibble over the details of these examples, but there are plenty of others and it does not detract from the underlying point, which is that a weaker party can overcome a stronger party even when they may only posses the most basic defensive weaponry. Don’t believe me, believe history.
So if resistance is a legitimate use of such weapons does that mean possession of such weapons by citizens should be legal? Yes. Does this mean then that everyone is going to rush out and buy their own bazooka and surface to air missile launchers? Of course not – those things are expensive! According to the Internet a bazooka costs around $50,000 and a single round costs $500. In other words the market already has a built in regulation of such weaponry as they are simply financially out of reach for 99% of the population. The 1% that can afford them have no interest in them and the 0.001% that can afford and do have an interest in them are not going to risk losing them by doing something stupid.
If our government were actually serious about restricting weapon sales they could do so today without passing any laws or regulations. Simply make it a condition of any purchasing contract with arms manufacturers that any weapon the military purchases may only be sold to them (e.g. an exclusivity contract). The arms manufacturer is free to sign such a contract or not. Violations of such a contract would entail loss of future multi-million dollar contracts and other damages. Additionally, the military should destroy all weapons when they are designated for retirement rather than selling them through “surplus” stores or to other governments that are not so careful about where they end up. This might not eliminate every instance of these types of weapons getting into the hands of citizens but even advocates of gun laws agree that gun laws won’t eliminate every instance either. So all things being equal it seems a contract based market approach coupled with common sense prevention (destroy, don’t sell, old weapons) will have greater success (today) in achieving the goal of reducing weapon supply. It would limit supply to both criminal and non-criminal alike whereas weapon laws restrict only non-criminal possession.