“Seventy-two killed resisting gun confiscation in Boston!”
By now I’d be willing to bet that a lot of you have been exposed to the right-wing gun nut propaganda floating around the Internet with the headline above. If not, read it here, just for comedy’s/curiosity’s sake. Basically what you’ve got is a satirized re-telling of the conflicts between British occupying forces and American colonists in Boston back in April of 1775. You all know the story, because it ends with Paul Revere riding on horseback, warning everyone that the British were coming. One if by land, two if by sea, yes?
You’ve just got to love the audacity of the right to attempt to draw a line between the gun hoarders of today with colonial citizens who were living under occupation. I suppose the implication that the intellectually stunted piece is trying to make is that British forces tried to take our guns once before and Americans resisted, eventually fighting a bloody revolution for our independence and that when the evil Federal government comes for their guns this time, they’ll react in the same way. Of course, this kind of work just exposes the myriad holes and flaws in the author’s message.
Firstly, the difference cannot be understated between the situation that Revere and the other colonists lived in and modern America. We’ve been a self-governing nation for 237 years and haven’t had to fight for our own sovereignty in just about as long. It’s not even remotely a fair comparison to put 1775 New England up against 2013 American society. The “assault rifles” that the piece refers to are muskets, and while it’s true that they could be considered the “assault rifles” of their time, they were still front loading muskets that couldn’t kill at anywhere near the rate an AR-15 can. Regardless, there’s a difference between munitions being stockpiled for a coming revolution and munitions being stockpiled by paranoid doomsday preppers who think the government is going to come knock on their door and take their guns away.
This satirical essay is rife with inaccurate or off-base historical comparisons, all of which of course cast the modern-day Tea Party movement as some kind of reborn American Revolution, because you know, taxes. They just love to point out that the American Revolution was started by a bunch of people tired of being taxed too much. What about the other aspects of the revolution? It wasn’t just that we were being taxed; it was that we were being taxed exorbitantly by an occupying government that wasn’t even doing us the courtesy of having representation in the government. Taxation without representation was the central issue.
For all the moaning and kvetching the Tea Party Patriots do about taxes in our era, they’re not paying taxes to a government they have absolutely no say in. In fact, if any group proves that the notion of a large group of voters still has a chance to make a difference in electoral outcomes, it’s the Tea Party. No, they’re not the grassroots organization that they claim to be, but they’re still a group of people who managed to shakeup the balance of power in Washington so much in 2010 that the country is still trying to figure out how to work with sycophantic mouth-breathing Neanderthals like Senator Ted Cruz. They are represented plenty, in other words.
The events described in the right-wing “satire” don’t really have a parallel in modern America. Back in 1775 the simple truth is that there was no Second Amendment. There were no constitutionally protected rights to bear arms. In fact the entire reason a right to bear arms was written into the Constitution was because an occupying government was on our soil and rounding up our guns. The Second Amendment wasn’t written to make sure we could take down our own “tyrannical” government — we have impeachment and recall proceedings for that. No, the Second Amendment was written as a crude foreign policy to mitigate the need for a standing army, something many Founders felt was a much larger existential threat to their new republic as anything else was.
It’s just idiotic, frankly, to try to remotely compare the events that led up to the signing of our Declaration of Independence and our eventual revolution with the current gun control fight. We have not only a large standing army, but the largest, most powerful standing army. We have laws in place that forever enshrine the people’s right to own and carry firearms. There’s nothing that says we can’t regulate what kinds of guns we deem to fit into that category of constitutionally protected firearms for personal use, but there’s also most certainly no one in a uniform marching down the street to confiscate anyone’s guns, not even their assault rifles, unless they were purchased illegally.
That’s the really pitiful part about the entire gun debate. You see the lengths to which the right will go to in order to avoid having to explain why an average citizen needs to own an AR-15. They’ll attempt to recast themselves as the modern-day Minutemen. They want to be Patrick Henry, Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, but they’re not anything like those men because we are not an occupied territory fighting for our own right to exist and self-govern anymore. They want to make everyone who’s asking for common sense gun reforms look like the Red Coats coming for the Patriots’ muskets, but how many people are actually calling for an outright disarmament?
I tend to shy away from telling people what the Founders would think or say about their particular political ideologies. The world we inhabit and the one that they inhabited are so vastly different that the only things we really have in common are what’s written on the 237 year old parchment. No matter how many times you tell the gun fanatics that the feds can’t and won’t take their weapons, you just can’t cure paranoia that’s rooted so deeply in every NRA commercial and pamphlet which vehemently insist a sinister plot to take away the Second Amendment is underway.
Sadly, that means we’re going to continue being subjected to more and more twisted and mangled historical revisions–because it’s still far easier for these people to live in their black and white, doomsday prepper, Red Dawn fantasy world than it is to live in the much more dynamic and nuanced real world.