Members of the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups are determined to stop any and all gun control laws. They fear the government will attempt to confiscate their weapons, and they are desperate to hold on to them.

Why? These people generally do not live in crime-infested urban neighborhoods. They don't need their guns to protect themselves from armed criminals — no, they need them to protect themselves from the government. They think gun-control is the first step to dictatorship. They believe dictatorships happen when governments get too strong and the citizens get too weak. They believe a well-armed citizenry could prevail against the military, should the need arise.

I believe they are wrong on all counts. Dictatorships occur when the government is weak. Hitler took over Germany because the government was weakened by World War I. The Nazi party was a citizen group that used violent tactics to take over their weak government. A strong, functional government does not decide to "turn evil" and start oppressing its people just because it can.

Presently, the U.S. military is the strongest in the world — by far. If, against all logic, the president decided to become dictator — declare himself ruler for life, suspend elections, dissolve Congress, seize news organizations and outlaw all opposition — there would be hell to pay. He would have to count on the military to put down the inevitable protests and seize civilian property to fund his takeover. An armed populace would not be able to prevent this and might in fact be counter-productive.

Our only hope in such a situation is that the members of the military would not go along with it. We have to count on these good men and women to do the right thing. We have to be confident that they would not follow orders to attack American citizens. That instead, they would subdue their commanders, and drive their tanks onto the White House lawn to demand the president's surrender. We have to believe they are more loyal to America, her people, and her Constitution than they are to the president and the Pentagon. I have that confidence. I can't imagine troops, who pride themselves on protecting our freedom, would willingly rob us of that freedom.

Unless ... we started shooting at them.

If we attempt to prevent this hypothetical dictatorship by armed revolt, we are no longer civilians in need of protection but insurgents in need of pacifying. Our military has a lot of experience in that arena. We would almost certainly lose, and if we won, what would we win? The nation would be destroyed and our way of life over. Factions would coalesce around warlords, and perpetual violence and poverty would ensue. There is no good result from a war between the military and the citizenry, so we should be working toward maintaining a country where such a conflict would never come to pass. The pro-gun groups, with their stockpiling of arms and violent rhetoric, are working against it.

Ed Hopkins

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts