Gun Control: A Class Element

in Politics by
   

George Orwell once wrote that the more complex the weapon for the working classes, the less power the State has over the individual. Orwell personally knew this. As a Loyalist soldier he saw that the working classes obtaining weapons during the early days of the Spanish Civil War was what repelled Franco’s attempted coup by three years. When Stalin wanted to stamp out his fabled Trotskyites in Spain and assume complete control over the Loyalists, he had the secret police confiscate weapons.

Even a cursory look at the history of gun control shows that there is class — even at times a racial element — involved in confiscation.

One of the bedrock restrictions on slaves in the antebellum South was a refusal to allow them weapons. White southerners were so determined in their racist gun control policies that they countered Reconstruction granting weapons to former slaves with the Black Codes, which forbid former slaves access to guns. But with the military occupation of the South in the post-Civil War periods, white Southerners had to get creative about keeping blacks from firearm possession. They devised high taxes for gun control purposes, the intent of which was not to restrict white access to firearms, but black. An article in Virginia’s official university law review made their purpose clear, advocating a “prohibitive tax…on the privilege” of selling handguns as a way of disarming “the son of Ham,” whose “cowardly practice of ‘toting’ guns has been one of the most fruitful sources of crime…. Let a negro board a railroad train with a quart of mean whiskey and a pistol in his grip and the chances are that there will be a murder, or at least a row, before he alights.”

The Nazis applied it racially in the year of Kristalnacht, 1938, by confiscating all weapons in the hands of Jews; while Stalin applied it broadly, confiscating the weapons of all citizens.

Nor is it necessarily fair to blame Stalin, as many do, for gun control. His predecessor, V. I Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik coup in 1917, issued as his first directive the confiscation of guns from private homes. He did this under the guise of disarming “counter-revolutionaries” and the wealthy. But this directive was extended to competitive Marxist parties. Lenin knew what armed revolutionaries could do, and courtesy of a counter-coup by White Russians, knew what his opponents could do. But for those who saw this as a temporary measure for a unique war-like situation, they were soon disabused as Lenin extended not only the confiscation of guns but also had gun owners put into a Gulag.

Lenin, and Stalin, knew what an armed citizenry could do if they felt, as did the purist communist sailors at Kronstadt, who rebelled—sans guns—against what they saw as the betrayal of the “revolution” (Lenin and Trotsky had them violently put down.)

Consider for a moment how history might have changed or been delayed if these victims had kept their guns. Some of the slaves might have been able to fight their way North. German Jews might have been able to actually win some street battles in the 20s (the Weimar Republic had banned weapons themselves) or even make the Nazis temporarily pay for Kristalnacht. The Kulaks might have been able to force Stalin to re-think collectivization or concentrate troops in that region. Weapons in the hands of Stalin’s opponents might have added reality to the “conspiracy” that served as camoflague for killing off his opponents during the Purge Trials.

Today, the upper classes, personified by Hollywood, wish to replicate history. The Rosie O’Donnells and Barbara Streisands want more gun control, even confiscation, while they employ heavily armed bodyguards.