Vigil for Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims and Survivors

The First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG) held a vigil on the 20th to honor the victims and survivors of the masssacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on December 14th. 28 people died, including 20 children. The shooter committed suicide when he heard police coming. The reaction from Americans has been to call for gun restrictions. Hopefully, this time, that call will not simply fade the way it did after other massacres.

Candles set up for the vigil.

Having read a good deal about possible solutions to the problem of crazy people with guns over the last few days, I'm especially horrified by this piece, which is about someone who calls for unorganized people to have the same weapons that the government does. The idea here is that people will then not be helpless before tyrannical governments. But historically, the period during which the Constitution was written saw an unusual levelling between the destructive power deployed by the government and the people. Flintlock rifles meant that both soldiers and hunters had the same hand-held weapon to fight with and it was a weapon that didn't require as much skill as a sword or bow and arrow did. Yes, the military had heavier weapons available to it, but cannon were difficult to move around and fire.

Our Pastor
The third person from the right is our pastor Reverend Lorelei Toombs.

In ancient times. the government used horses and chariots and bows and arrows to fight with. Even if civilians were to get access to these, it took training to use the bow and arrow and a whole team of experienced people to use the chariot. In later centuries, knights in armor had an easy time of it when they were called upon to put down peasant rebellions.

Most peasant rebellions were short-lived affairs ending in bloody defeat. Peasants could not afford being away from their farms for sustained periods, they could not make a living by robbing peasants such as regular armies did, and they were inferior to their opponents both militarily and organisationally.

Note that the advantages the military had were more than just weapons. A small group of knights that fought as a team could overwhelm a disorganized group of peasants pretty easily.

close up
A comment from a good thinkpiece on military forces versus civilian rebels:

Bottomline is that countries are conqueored (sic) or defeated by unity. A smaller unified group that works together can quite often -- with the assistance of superior technology and group tactics -- conqueor (sic) larger groups who refuse to work together.  Take a look at the Imperial expansion of the West and you will see countless examples. A result that really has very little to do with he fighting prowess of the individual or the "superiority" of his personal fighting system.

Of course, today military forces have even more superiority over civilians than before. From a blog post on how civilians would fare against the Army:

Before his ROTC posting, my friend had commanded a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. I remember him wondering what the fuck these nuts thought they were going to accomplish if they had a real skirmish with the Army. He knew what his unit could do, and he knew any band of civilian insurrectionists would be utterly destroyed by them. That’s such a completely obvious point, but apparently these idiots think there’s some kind of Red Dawn scenario where the largest military on earth wouldn’t roll over them if they have a couple of assault rifles in their flabby inexperienced hands.

Now, this doesn't mean that an authoritarian US government would be guaranteed to win a guerrilla war against the populace, but neither the Iraqi rebels over the past decade nor the Vietcong (as opposed to the North Vietnamese Army) were able to drive out their American occupiers all by themselves. In both cases, America got tired of the conflict and couldn't see any point in continuing it. The blood spilled on the American side was inconsequential compared to that spilled in the Civil War or either of the World Wars, but the point of our doing so was eventually lost in both cases. It's hard to say how a guerrilla war against an American dictatorship would work, but getting the proper weaponry to the people would be only one factor and probably not the most important one.

From the online comments section in our local paper (All online comments are deleted after a few days):

You can enact all the gun-control laws you want, but it won't change a thing. First, the laws already in place must be enforced, judges must hand down severe punishments instead of letting folks off the hook with a slap on the wrist. Second, someone will ALWAYS find a loophole in any law. Can't do anything about the mentally ill either, the ACLU will step in and drive it all the way to the Supreme Court that they are being unfairly targeted. And around and around we go, where it stops nobody knows.

As I wrote in an LTE to the same letters page:

Of course progressives don't expect gun control to completely eliminate all gun violence. They've never expected any such thing.  We do expect, however, to be able to dramatically lower gun violence to the level that every other civilized country in the world has managed to lower it. Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) said last year that "The U.S. gun homicide rate is 20 times the combined rate of other western nations." Politifact quibbled a bit about his definitions, they claimed that by "Western" nations, he was really referring to "high-income" nations, but they agreed that, using the data that Moran used, that the US suffered a gun homicide rate of 4.1 per 100,000 and that those other countries suffer only 0.2 per 100,000.

So how much help can we expect from Republican governors on the issue? Doesn't seem like we'll get much. Soledad O'Brien asked Florida Governor Rick Scott what he'd do about guns and yes, he managed to appear concerned, but just said a few inconsequential, meaningless things. When asked again, he repeated his talking points.

But I heartily and cheerfully agree with Bob Beckel here, this is precisely the time to have a discussion about what to do about guns and no, I don't think we need to have an extended, drawn-out commission. We've been studying the issue for a few decades and have plenty of legislation that's all ready to go. Let's do this!