Monday, July 4, 2016

Packing Heat

 M1911 Colt pistol.

Let's turn to a topic that makes people scream and yell at each other, as well as to simply quit listening to one another.

Let's talk about acts of violence and the carrying of concealed firearms.

I.e., let's talk about packing heat.

Indeed, let's talk about there being, perhaps, a societal obligation to encourage that, rather than a hysteric reaction in the other direction.

In other words, let's ask this.  If one person, just one, had been carrying a concealed pistol at the club in Orlando, maybe fifty wouldn't have died.

Indeed, let's state this, if more than one had been carrying, fifty wouldn't have died.

So maybe people should carry?

Like most things around here, let's take a historical look at this first.  Indeed, this oddly fits in fairly well with the era of focus of this blog in some ways, the early 20th Century.  But we'll start earlier than that as it makes sense to do so.

The history of concealment of firearms 

There were few, indeed darned near no, restrictions on the ownership of any type of firearms, until the 20th Century.  And this means everywhere.  A man with enough money to buy a pistol, in the UK, or Germany, or France, prior to World War One could do just that.  The only limiting factor was the income to buy one, and that was it.  But, at least in the US, carrying a sidearm was an act that could be more difficult, if the arm was concealed, prior to that, something that likely would surprise people.

If we go back to the early days of the republic, there were no restrictions on carrying a concealed arm at all.  There was a social constraint, however, in that carrying a concealed arm was regarded as "ungentlemanly" or even cowardly. The custom of dueling still existed, of course, so in the culture of the time, the restraint here was based on the deprivation of the offended to challenge.  So, for example, if a dispute broke out, and one person was carrying a hidden pistol, the other could be deprived of his rights under the odd and somewhat complicated rules pertaining to dueling, which was illegal but very widely tolerated.  The point of this isn't to go off on a discussion on dueling, which would have to be a post in its own right, but rather to note that the open carrying of arms was hugely common, and carrying one concealed was regarded as cowardly. At the same time, law enforcement was nearly nonexistent and protecting yourself was regarded not only as your right, but your duty.

 Duels could be with any weapon, but of course were normally with pistol or sword.  Swords were more common in Europe than in the United States, but pistols were widely used in in North America and Europe.  More often than not, the contest was intentionally not pressed to the point of serious injury, but of course the opposite could occur.

The first restrictions on concealed arms were passed in the rural South.  This has something to do with slavery although exactly how isn't clear, at least to me.  Southerners were widely armed so there was no desire to disarm the southern population, at last the white southern population, so that wasn't it.  Perhaps something that isn't apparent to people now is that black slaves were also widely armed, as it was easier to require them to hunt for food to supplement their rations than it was to fully pay to feed them. That's surprising at first but perhaps it shouldn't be.  A .36 flintlock rifle, with limited shot and and limited powder, isn't much of a threat in terms of a rebellion.  Perhaps the fear was that slaves might secretly arm themselves.  Additionally, it has been noted that many of the southern states laws, they all came to have them, followed Nat Turner's rebellion at which time southern states also made it illegal for slaves to carry arms.  Some have theorized that concealment of arms was banned at the same time out of the fear that both slaves and abolitionist would carry concealed weapons.  At any rate, interestingly, the early efforts to ban concealed arms was mostly a southern affair.

It also have been a bit of a technological one as well, quite frankly.  Early concealable handguns existed, but until the cap and ball era, they were really problematic at best.  People sometimes remark on the seemingly enormous caliber of black powder arms without appreciating that they had to be large caliber in order to be serious weapons, although at least one famous murder, that of Lincolns, was committed with an intentionally concealable Derringer type arm.  Oddly, John Wilkes Booth chose a pocket Derringer at at time when he could have chosen a revolver, a much more logical weapon for his deluded immoral mission.

Pocket Derringer used by John Wilkes Booth.

Of note, at the time Booth committed his evil deed, the carrying of pocket pistols was not only widely illegal, but it was also still fully regarded as cowardly.  This is perhaps illustrative of a variety of things, one being statutes banning carrying anything are pretty much useless, and secondly that Booth was not an honorable man.

Long after the Civil War the culture that regarded the carrying of concealed arms as unmanly (women were given a bit of a pass on this) and which also widely banned them carried on.  So as a rule, the carrying of concealed arms was frowned upon.  The carrying of arms openly was another matter entirely, however, and was very common.  In some societies, particularly heavily rural ones, it was basically the rule, and again for a variety of reasons.  Protection from animals was one (and actually one of the ones that cowboys routinely carried revolvers), but protection from other people was very much another, and not just in the West.  In much of the country law enforcement was remote at best, and actually did less than it later came to, and the concept generally existed that if you were going to need to be protected, you probably ought to man up and do it yourself.

In this context its often noted that many frontier towns banned the open carrying of sidearms, and that is in fact quite true.  This article isn't on that, but we should note that towns were actually the one place, but just about the only place, where there might actually be law enforcement.  To add to that, many of the bans on open carry, when they existed, tended to be temporary in nature.

Before we move on with the history of this, we should note that in Frontier conditions carrying of firearms for self protection was an absolute rule.  Again, the thought was that if you were attacked, it was up to you to protect yourself, and your family.  Nobody else was going to do it for you. The movie image of the cavalry riding in to save the day is popular, but it didn't happen very darned often.  Indeed, outside of cavalry units arriving at ongoing battles in the West, I can't think of a single instance of it happening.  Maybe it did, but I can't recall one off hand.

American Horse, left, and Red Cloud, right.  American Horse likely killed Fetterman with a war club at the Fetterman Fight, in spite of the commonly believed myth that Fetterman went down in a suicide pact at the end (no bullet wounds were noted in the post mortum and his skull was crushed), but in later yeras he packed a Colt Peacemaker, as he's doing here.

The reason that this is significant is that this concept was widespread and not solely American by any means.  A man protected his family (and for that matter, a mother did as well).  If he lived in an area that was likely to be attacked, he better take that into account.  This would have been regarded as not only prudent, but a person's moral obligation.

 Young Appalachian woman, allegedly the daughter of a Moonshiner, armed with a muzzle loading black powder rifle, early 20th Century.  The rifle, of course, may have been a studio prop.

Coming into the 20th Century somethings began to change a bit in regards to the concealed story (and the open carry as well).  One of those things was technological.

Early concealed weapons, like the Derringer depicted above, were sort of a dicey proposition really.  They were hard to conceal, and a lot of times they didn't work.  Indeed, no sane person went into an armed spat armed with a single handgun. You took more than one.  Period photographs of soldiers in the cap and ball era on the frontier who were armed with revolvers show men carrying three or more at a time.  In part because they were hard to reload, of course, but in part because they didn't always work.

Cartridge arms, however, began to change a lot of that as they were a lot more reliable than black powder arms.  And, additionally, by the ealry 20th Century semi automatics had been introduced and were pretty reliable.

Now, a person might question why that would matter, but it did.  With the early semi autos came a bunch of smaller cartridges, indeed for both semi autos and revolvers.  Carrying a cut down Colt Navy was one thing, carrying a police model Colt cap and ball revolver another things.  Even carrying a cutdown Colt Peacemaker was difficult. But carrying a small Browning was something else entirely.

 Civil War era Union cavalryman armed with sabre and two revolvers, one of which is a giant 1st Model Dragoon.

Indeed, only shortly after the perfection or near perfection of semi automatic handguns a new class of them came in to being, and the market was basically the gentlemanly market.  With the arrival of semi autos came an entire class of handguns meant just for personal concealed carry.  Revolvers followed suit soon thereafter, but the semi auto market was really the significant one for this story.

 Early Browning semi automatic pistol, from Google Patents.

As this occurred, true urbanization also very much increased.  And as this also occurred, the concept that a person might need to be armed in some civil society to protect themselves and their fellows arose with it. The stigma against concealed carry, at least of some sorts of arms, therefore began to decrease.  And indeed, to some degree, light automatics began to be regarded in some circles as part of a gentleman's accoutrements in some circumstances.

Indeed, Theodore Roosevelt is known to have carried one on odd occasion, and well before he became anything in the government.  This is known, in part, because he used a pocket pistol to shoot a dog that charged him while horseback, in New York.   George S. Patton, who was not only a famous career officer but quite well  to do as well, also carried light concealed pistol at times.

 John Pedersen designed pistol.  Mostly remembered for the Pedersen device, a device designed to give semi automatic capacity to the M1903 Springfield Rifle through the insertion of a second action into the action, Pederesen was a prolific gun designer who lived, for much of his working life, in Jackson Wyoming.  He holds more patents than any other Wyomingite.

Indeed this later example was in keeping with the fact that the carrying of sidearms was particularly associated with certain classes regarded as gentlemen in that era.  Military officers not only carried them, but they owned their own sidearms in many examples, and that was the rule in quite a few armies.  In the British Army, for example, officers of this period purchased their sidearms, they were not supplied them.  In the U.S. Armed Forces officers were supplied with sidearms if their duties required them, but quite frequently they purchased their own as well.  Indeed, Colt had trouble producing sufficient numbers of M1911 pistols, after that pistol was adopted in 1911, as private orders from serving officers made fulfilling the government orders difficult.

 Browning patent for the design that would become the M1911 pistol, one of the most famous pistols in the world, and one which has been in continuous service since that time.  The design was recently re-adopted by the Marine Corps as the M45 thereby causing an official designation to apply to a version that replaces, in some usages, the pistol that was supposed to replace it.

This is significant in that it wasn't until this same period that the first attempts, basically anywhere, to control private firearms ownership came about.   And looking back, its glaringly obvious that early gun control efforts had very little to do, really, with gun control, so much as they did with social perceptions.  I.e., "them" and "us".

The first efforts at modern gun control were principally directed at handguns and they came about at the same time that modern pocket pistols arrived. They didn't come about because of it, however, but rather because there were fears in the wealthier and more established classes about the others.

While people tend to look back on it as a charming Victorian or Gilded age now, the late 19th Century was a time of mass immigration and global radical politics.  The US saw floods of immigrants coming in, many of whom were poor, and a few of whom had been politically radicalized.  Irishmen came in desperate, and in some instances with strong (Irish) Republican leanings.  Italians came in poor and, in some instances, with strong Communist or Anarchist leanings.  Russians came in who were also poor and, in some instances, Communist or Anarchists.  The wealthier and older American classes were worried.  And not without some reason. Desperate immigrants formed ethnic gangs that did in fact resort to crime, the most famous being the Mafia, which became the most famous but which was hardly the only ethnic gang.  And just as worrisome, radical terrorists actucally did conduct terrorist campaigns in the United States, although hat has largely been forgotten.

Aftermath of the September 16, 1920, Wall Street Bombing.  Thirty-eight people killed, 143 wounded, and two horses killed.  Remains unsolved.

Added to this, certain members of "them" committed terrible murderous acts.  In 1881 an insane man,Charles Guiteau, assassinated James Garfield with a revolver, using a fairly large British "bulldog", similar to what Custer is believed to have carried at Little Big Horn, in the effort.  In 1901 American born (to Polish immigrant parents) Leon Frank Czolgosz killed William McKinley in the name of anarchism, using a diminutive .32 Iver Johnson pistol to do it.  In 1912 German immigrant John Flammang Schrank attempted to kill Theodore Roosevelt with a .38 revolver, but TR's iron constitution and his heavy speech text, located in his pocket, prevented the attempt from being successful.  All of this lead to a view amongst the established that society, or at least their society, had to be protecdted from the unwashed, insane, radicalized recent arrival masses.

These fears were not unique to the United States by any means. The same pattern, with some regional differences of course, repeated itself in Europe.  In the United Kingdom the first, minor, and ineffective gun control arrived in 1903 and was directed only at handguns.  Following World War One, however, a huge upper class fear that returning soldiers would become Communist revolutionaries prompted new legislation that started the UK down the path to its currently very restrictive set of laws. Minor in comparison to the present draconian British provisions, it is none the less interesting that a prime fear was that the returning Tommy Atkins might be a Bolshevik.   Britain's ongoing struggle with Irish Republicans no doubt must have added to this fear, as the IRA did conduct an urban assassination campaign using pistols, for hte most part, and may IRA "soldiers" were discharged Irish servicemen who had served in the British Army.

Germany's history in these regards is also interesting.  Germany basically lacked any firearms regulation prior to World War One but its defeat imposed one upon it. Following this, of course, Germany went into a civil war, and the Weimar government attempted to simply ban firearms and ammunition entirely, a fairly ineffective approach to things at a time when the German Army was handing out firearms and ammunition to right wing Freikorps.  In the late 1920s the Weimar government officially legalized possession of firearms again, recognizing that it couldn't prevent it, but with tight controls reflecting the ongoing disasters of all types it was trying to deal with.  Contrary to widespread popular myth, gun control under the Third Reich was less restrictive than it had been under the Weimar Republic.   That last example might seem particularly peculiar, but we have to keep in mind that the Nazi government effectively imprisoned or killed anyone it, or the German upper class, had to worry about, so it had no real need to control access to firearms very much.

 Patent for the "Luger" pistol, a pistol adopted by Germany, Switzerland and Portugal, and oddly used in small numbers by Australia during World War Two.  A military arm, private officer ownership of them was common and quite a few went out of Army stores into private hands during Germany's post World War One revolutionary period.  From Google Patents

Which gets back to the point.  Gun control turns out to be much less about controlling guns, but about controlling people whom those in power regarded as a danger or undesirable.  Indeed, its' interesting that the modern movement got rolling coincident with efforts to control the insane, or, as one modern organization that exists today with the expressed goal of planning births got rolling, limiting the number of blacks having children in the United States. All of these movements expressed a certain horror at the others. . . blacks, immigrants, political radicals, who just weren't, well. . .  the right kind of people in the eyes of some.  So controlling the activities of those folks, well that was just fine. 

Eventually the others become us, of course, and we accordingly saw a lot of these social movements pass away or at least modify their focus.  As we started to worry less about slave rebellions, radical Italians, and the like, we, as a society returned to the earlier position of a century ago that decent folks could carry a concealed arm.  It was just that there were more decent folks, so to speak, around.  So legislation that was designed to restrict that fell increasingly away, and now most states allow for concealed arms carry in some fashion.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that you should do that.  Or should you?

Well, some clearly shouldn't, but before getting into that, why should anyone?

Looking at concepts of a duty to defense.

In looking at that, we probably need to get back to taking a look at the Common Law concept of a man having a right to defend himself and beyond that, we probably even need to get back to that often cited but rarely understood amendment in the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment. As I'm sure we will all recall, that most controversial provision states:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Really short, isn't it?  And pretty easy to understand.

Except people often choose not to understand it, or become oddly baffled by the syntax of the sentence, seemingly not realizing it was written in the 18th Century, or, like people who want to be comfortable with most of a doctrine but whom aren't comfortable with all of it, they define away the parts they are uncomfortable.  Basically, the provision clearly means what it says.  People, i.e., regular folks, have the right to keep arms and the state isn't supposed to interfere upon that in any fashion.  With the incorporation of the Bill of Rights into the Federal Law (originally the Bill of Rights only applied to the States, as nobody thought the Federal government was actually going to do much), the Federal government isn't supposed to mess with that either.

But why, and does that have lessons for us today?

Indeed it does.

Let's start out with the lead in clause, which seemingly baffles so many, and which cause so many ignorant sophistrist to try to define the text out of its meaning. "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state". Whats up with that.  That meant you had a constitutional right to join the National Guard, right?

Nope, nothing of that sort was meant by that.

And what we have to keep in mind, in looking at this, is that the Second Amendment was written at the height of the Do It Yourself Era.  People who think they are self sufficient now pale in comparison to Americans of the 1700s. Those people were self sufficient in everything, by necessity.

Which gets us to the militia and what it was, and why it was.

 Militia at Lexington.

The concept that people might need to arm themselves, both to protect themselves and their nations is an old one in the English legal world, even if its one that no longer seemingly exists in the UK itself.  Prior to the introduction of feudalism by William of Normandy, Saxon freeholders were expected to be armed so that they could show up and defend the realm when needed. The only standing troops were the Housecarls and there weren't many of them at all.  The right was as early in 1689, but just for Protestants, when King James II was overthrown and the right to keep arms was accordingly restored for the right thinking sort of folks (note how the social element of gun control was already around)
Whereas the late King James the Second by the Assistance of diverse evill Councellors Judges and Ministers imployed by him did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant Religion and the Lawes and Liberties of this Kingdome ... by causing severall good Subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when Papists were both Armed and Imployed contrary to Law, ... thereupon the said Lords Spirituall and Temporall and Commons pursuant to their respective Letters and Elections being now assembled in a full and free Representative of this Nation takeing into their most serious Consideration the best meanes for attaining the Ends aforesaid Doe in the first place (as their Auncestors in like Case have usually done) for the Vindicating and Asserting their ancient Rights and Liberties, Declare  ... That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.
That was on Great Britain. Already by that time, however, the concept of a militia had really taken off and developed.

The militia, in North American prior to any area being independent, and well after that until after the Civil War, wasn't something you joined.  If you were male, you were in it.  And it was something that basically required you, at first, to show up with your musket as things had gone bad in a really ugly way.

Now, at that time, that every household was armed was given.  The concept of calling the police didn't exist, as there weren't police.  Only later when courts were fairly well established were their sheriffs, but while they could and did arrest people who broke the law, their role in that regards was actually quite restrained.  They were a lot more likely to be out delivering writs.  Magistrates with the authority to enforce the law came on a bit later, but again, there weren't a lot of them and they were unlikely to be resorted to for the most part.

So, given that, if you were anywhere outside of a fairly well established town (and maybe even if you were in one) protection was a do it yourself deal.  Indeed, it was an obligation.  Nobody was going to save you or your family from Indian raids, bandits and highwaymen.  You had to do it. And if you didn't, you were some sort of freaky oddball, and probably very shortly dead.

And beyond that, your colony, and early on that only meant the immediate colony, like Jamestown, as opposed to a big colony, like Virginia, could and would call upon you (if you were male). So, not only did you have to have a musket or rifle to defend your home (and to hunt), you better have one when the local militia was called up.  At first, if you didn't, it would have been something like "What?  Jones?  Where's your musket. . . oh escort this fool home sergeant and have him get it. . . "

Early militias, in fact, were so local that there were examples of one militia refusing to assist another when things got hot.  Early in King Philips War, for example, one of the colonies got things stirred up when others didn't feel they should have, and the other colonies simply refused to assist.  Defend yourselves was essentially the answer to the request for help.

In later years, as the colonies became proto states and bigger, the obligation became more defined, but it still fully existed.  At the time of the American Revolution most of the men who served in it, on the Congressional side, served in militia units, although more than a few American Loyalist also fought in militia units.  After the war, and going on to the point in time at which the Bill of Rights was drafted, Americans feared a big standing army a lot more than they feared not having an army at all, and the basic inclination was not to have a national army.  There was one, of course, but it was very tiny and capable of doing next to nothing.   The Navy was more substantial as you can't really throw together a navy, and there isn't a strong history anywhere of navy's proving to be a threat to a civil government, Allende notwithstanding.   This wasn't thought to be any sort of a problem as the new states all could call upon their militias to deal with any immediate problem.

The nature of those militias varied widely, and always would.   Congress tried really early on to standardize some things about them, including arms, but it never really succeeded. Some states bought official pattern muskets from the national arsenal. Some had muskets made more or less to pattern by local arms manufacturers. Some just didn't worry about it and went their own way, ro depended upon men to show up with something.  But that every male was in the militia was a given.

But they were regulated, right?  I.e., they had a bunch of regulations and checked out their Assault Muskets from the armory and signed a hand receipt for the same, correct?

Well, not so much. That's because "regulated" in the 18th Century context doesn't mean the same thing as it does now.

What that meant is that they had some sort of a structure and could drill.  I.e., they mustered once a year, elected officers, and practiced marching.  Marching was a big deal at the time which can be dealt with elsewhere, but hit mattered hugely.  Indeed, one of the real problems the American forces had during the Revolution is that its forces were, in general, very poorly regulated.

Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand Steuben regulating the troops at Valley Forge.  Steuben was a Prussian who came over to whip the undisciplined Americans into shape, which actually gave the American army a permanently vaguely Prussian character which it retains to this day.

Militia remained the primary ground force of the American military establishment all the way up until World War Two.  It's sort of returning to prominence once again. But obviously it's highly evolved.  Be that as it may, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War were all predominantly fought with militias and "state troops" or substantially with the same. State troops are a bit different, but only in that they were essentially raised for the war in question.  The giant Civil War, which modern people who are not terribly familiar with the details of, wasn't really fought by a giant national Confederate Army and a giant Union Army was actually fought by a large collection of state units, two smaller national armies, and a collection of regular militias.  Indeed, so significant were militias at the time that even during the Civil War, when every state had raised forces for the war, you still find local militias being called out by state governors when the enemy showed up locally, which had to be a fairly horrifying experience for those militiamen.

Even a few post Civil War Indian campaigns saw state forces called out from time to time, which isn't something we typically associate with the Indian Wars, but it did occur.  And even when it did not occur the Regular Army of the Frontier period routinely locally augmented itself with armed civilians.  Two of the eighty some men who died at the Fetterman Fight were armed civilians.  Armed civilians were a feature in almost every Indian campaign in the American West after 1865 to some degree if only because packers were routinely contractors and newspaper men went on the big campaigns, always with arms.

This system only really began to change a little during the Spanish American War and the militia system was statutorily revised after that to bring the National Guard, as we recognize it, into existence.  But even as late as the 1940 mobilization of the American armed forces a large percentage of the American military establishment was in those forces, not in a standing army.

Yeah, but so what? What's that have to do with anything?  That's just a weird American example, right?

Okay, well what's that have to do with anything?

Well, maybe quite a lot.

The early conditions in North America basically assumed that conditions that prevailed in continental France or Spain didn't exist here (I've omitted the UK which obviously had its own fears about us nasty Papist, rather obviously).  That is, if you were going to meet with trouble, and there was a fair chance you would, you better be prepared to take it on.  And if your community was going to meet with it, you were expected to be ready to take it on.

Before we leave this aspect of this topic and go on to see if this has any application to modern life at all, maybe we better first consider if this was something that sort of freakishly only occurred in the United States. After all, maybe this is just a one off obsolete if interesting historical topic, that hasn't replicated itself anywhere else.

Well. . . nope.

This story, the arming of civilians in a militia to take on sudden dangers turns out to be very common.  Just starting with where we left off, North America, its the story to the north of the American border as well.  This can't be regarded as very surprising, of course as the conditions were much the same for much of the same time.  What is notable about it, however, is that it was amazingly successful.

Canadian militias formed the real backbone of the British Empire's defense of Canada in the War of 1812. Frankly, in spite of the way Americans like to remember the war as a sort of victory (which it only is at best, sort of) Canadian militias can legitimately claim to be the ground combat champions of that war. They pretty much universally beat any American force that came their way.

Indeed, Canada has had a standing army pretty much, well. . . never.  It has a small one, which makes sense for a country with a small population, but th e Canadian government is traditionally extremely cheap and it just won't pony up for much of an Army. So it's always relied upon reservist or forces raised druing a war itself for its defense.  As it has no real natural enemies, this has worked out pretty well for it.

Now, proponents of gun control like to point to Canada as a model (although it isn't a good one, Canadian gun laws aren't even reallyi understood by Canadian city dwellers and there are a lot of guns in rural Canada, as there's almost have to be) but one thing they don't note is that it retains, interestingly enough, an armed militia of a type, the Canadian Rangers.

 Canadian Rangers, Wikipedia Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0, File:Canadian Rangers.jpg Created: 18 June 2011. U.S. Embassy Canada.

 The Canadian Ranger were formed during World War Two to patrol the Canadian far north and were issued the standard British Empire rifle of the time, the Lee Enfield. They're still out there patrolling, and a lot of them still carry Lee Enfields.  Basically, they pay for a lot of their own stuff, but are issued a rifle and ammunition to take home.  The rifle is now quite old, and its being replaced by a modern sporting rifle, but its suitable for its use.  Indeed, the Lee Enfield is probably at this point one of the two most enduring combat rifles in modern history.

Stepping outside of the continent, another spectacular example would be the Boers.

The store of the Boers, their two south African republics, and their two wars with the British is, of course, well known.  Part of that well known story is that the Boer republics, being poor, provided for their defense by simply requiring every male of military age, which in their case went down to the mid teens and up to around age 60, to be a member of the national militia. They lacked uniforms save for the very few artillerymen in the Boer armies, and, interestingly were required to buy their own arms.  Indeed, the countries specified what hte official military rifle was and everyone of military age had to buy one.

Boer soldiers, probably "bitter enders" as the two men in front are equipped with captured British rifles.  The solider in the back to the left is equipped with the official 7x57 Model 95 Mauser that Boer men were required to buy prior to the war.

A giant, and entirely mounted, militia, it was also extremely effective and bested the British professional army early on.  Working almost entirely as isolated farmers in a hostile country, and with a population that was made up of nearly 100% hunters, the men used their military rifles for other purposes and turned out to be blisteringly effective marksmen who were armed with a rifle that was considerably better than than the British Enfield.  Only the fact that the British could equip a large army and keep them in the field indefinitely kept the British from being defeated in the war.

This situation, in some ways (albeit remotely), replicated itself in Rhodesia during that period in which the white minority government was struggling with two black guerilla movements.  I'm not commenting on the overall politics of that, but during that time period the civilian ownership of arms, by whites, was assumed and it came to be the case that combat weapons, such as submachineguns, came to be widely held by regular civilians.  This is interesting, however, in that its an example of a government that allowed very wide civilian ownership or possession of combat arms for self protection where it trusted that segment of the population.  This gets back, fairly obviously, to the social control element of this story we discussed earlier.

The same situation replicated itself in Indochina at least a couple of times during the long war with the communists there.  In some regions civilian populations were armed with military weapons by the French and organized to fight the Viet Minh during the French-Indochina War.  This didn't immediately repeat itself following France's defeat, but over time in the long war in South Vietnam it became the case. At first practiced by the United States, which armed ethnic minorities, following the 1973 departure fo the U.S. Army the South Vietnamese government was working on a plan to issue combat arms to civilians so that they could directly take on the failing Viet Cong.  This was only prevented from occurring by the invasion of the North Vietnamese Army in 1975.

Closer to our own time the Israeli government has provided notice that it intends to lighten up on its fairly strict gun control provisions in light of the ongoing terrorist threat. This is interesting in that Ireal is a very densely populated nation and really an almost entirely urban one by our definition.  There are sporting firearms there, but given the very densely packed nat ure of the country not to the same extent that exist in many other nations (including many Arab nations, where firearms ownership is almost completely uncontrolled in real terms, irrespective of what hte laws may be).  Israel recently announced that for areas of the country that are designated as subject to high terrorist threats civilians will now be able to purchase handguns with a permit as, in the word of the Israeli government, they are "force multipliers" in the event of trouble.

The Israeli Defense Force is, and always has been, based on the Swiss Army. That is, it's a giant militia system. Sometimes claimed to be unique, this type of army is actually quite common in Europe and the Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and even the German armies, are similarly modeled. What's unique about hte Swiss example, however, is that it has a Boer type mass membership and it doesn't bother to keep arms in armories, but just sends them home. this means that ever Swiss household with a man who is over 18 and under 60 has some sort of true combat weapon in it, and ammunition for it as well.

 Swiss militiaman with Stg90. This soldier will be taking this rifle home at the end of his two week training period and might be using it for competition purposes throughout the year.

It's sometimes pointed out, and correctly, that the Swiss government very tightly controls the use of the ammunition and a person can get into considerably trouble if they use it without a good excuse. This doesn't mean, however, that they don't recognize that good excuses do arise.  Moreover, rifle competitions are the national sport of Switzerland and the Swiss have long allowed Swiss civilians to buy military longarms as a result. Indeed, for quite some time aging members of the Swiss militia have been allowed to purchase their Stg57 assault rifles as they age out of the system, as the rifles are also aging out of the system.  It's interesting to note that the British defense establishment intend to fully adopt this same system until British gun control and the demise of National Service suddenly took it off guard.  That is, while post war British governments have been increasingly hostile to firearm possession the British Army was so comfortable with it that it intended to send reservists home with L1A1 battle rifles and GPMGs.

So then what does all of this tell us?  Well, in instances in which a government can't keep its population safe, and that same government trusts its population (or at least some segment of it), it generally lets them protect themselves.  In some circumstances it'll go further and require civilians to be part of the national defense system at their own expense by arming themselves.  And we've also seen that keeping civilians from doing this is almost always tied to social concepts about who is entitled to protect themselves ("us") and who is the threat ("them").  Indeed, as is well known, gun control itself has next to no impact on crime at all.

So what's your point, is there something relevant to the US here at all?

Well, again, is this relevant to something?

It would appear to be.

In some ways, the conditions of our earlier history have returned to us.  That is, maybe since the first time since the early 18th or 19th Century conditions can arise in which no policeman is going to be able to take things on in time, and like the 18th Century sheriff, he's only going to be there after whatever has happened, has happened.

Police are mostly effective an investigating crime, not preventing it, in teh first instance.  In terms of protecting civilians from criminal act they can be effective when there are a lot of them and they're a constant presence.  The reduction in crime in recent years in New York City, for example, seems partially tied to this and partially tied to other factors (its not tied to gun control at all).   A police presence, therefore, can have some impact in reducing crime, but it has to be a fairly significant presence.  That is a clear lesson however.

But in regards to acts of terrorism, this isn't the case.  No terrorist is ever going to be prevented from carrying out an act of terrorism due to mere police presence alone.  Indeed, at some point, the police themselves become the target.  A good example of that is provided by the Anglo Irish War in which the IRA conducted its war against images of British Empire, including the police.  Britain responded with more police and troops, and special police, but none of that had any impact on the IRA nor did it deter it from acting in any fashion at all. Basically, ti just had to act smarter.

And this is a very important point.  Americans are so used to the concept of peace, as we haven't fought a war on our own soil since the Indian Wars, that we have a hard time conceiving of any act of violence on our own soil as an act of war.  It must be a crime.

Looking back at hte Indian War might be instructive.  Indian warfare of the post Civil War era was never deterred by policemen, and it wasn't really deterred by troops either.  Indian campaigners simply learned to take advantage of the presence of troops as targets.  The stationing of the Army at Ft. Reno, Platte Bridge Station, Ft. Smith, and Ft. Phil Kearney did not keep Red Cloud from raiding. Rather, he targeted transportation between Ft. Reno and Ft. Phil Kearney and targeted the troops at Ft. Phil Kearney itself, all while keeping up a guerilla raiding war against civilian targets.  Modern Americans would probably regard at least hte latter as a crime, rather than what it was, an act of war.

This is hugely significant for a wide variety of reason, not the least of which is that trying to figure out how to keep civilian safe from terrorist attacks is enormously different from trying to keep them safe from the mentally ill or the extremely hateful.  It's an entirely different project.

Which brings us to the most recent acts of "mass killing", or perhaps just some murders in general that have hit the news.  The attack at Newton Connecticut was not an act of terror. It was an act of violence by an extremely mentally disturbed young man whose loving, but negligent and deluded mother, had acted in such a way as to allow him to develop in to a misanthrope with violent means.  Things can and shoudl be done about that, although many of them are societal and we seem reluctant to admit that there are any societal problems.  Since then, however, the attacks in Orlando, Boston, and in California have been something else, as have those in Spain, France and Belgium.

They are acts of terror. I.e., they're acts of war a la Battle of Algiers, or Tet, and we're fooling ourselves if we think otherwise.

It's impossible to legislate away guerilla war.  And, frankly, it's impossible for the government to really   No matter how much we might like to pretend the contrary, laws regarding firearms or anything else are not going to keep this from occurring. They wont' even make a dent in the occurrences.  Indeed, for all the European gloating over their view that our laws on guns are too relaxed, more of these occurrences have happened in Europe than the United States.

In short, we can't hire enough police to stop this.  We can't put policemen in every bar or office in the US.  Maybe we can put them, at best, in every airport and train station, but that's about it.

So, maybe, we ought to let, and even encourage, people to protect themselves.

Let's look at that.

Let's start with Boston.

We'll first note that it seems unlikely that armed civilians could have stopped the Boston attack from occurring, but by the same token we can also safely assume that gun control is a moot issue in regards to that attack actually occurring.  It was done with a converted pressure cooker.  So, as with other bombing attacks, we can generally assume that there's nothing society can regulate that it hasn't already that would have kept the entire thing from occurring.

But we might actually want to consider the aftermath of the attack. The press later spent a lot of time talking about "brave Boston", but as harsh as it sounds, at least from the rural West, it didn't' look so brave.  A western city, save perhaps for the really large ones, would have been unlikely to  have been holed up in their houses so long while the suspected terrorists were being run to ground.  For good or ill, in a lot of them, the terrorists would have been in real danger of being shot pretty quickly.  Is that a good or bad result?  Well, given as the two brothers who committed that atrocity didn't attack anyone else, perhaps it was good, as one was arrested. But if they had been set to do any more harm, in a lot of places is the rural areas, they'd likely have been casualties themselves before that could occur.

Now let's go to the last two attacks in the United States (as of course we're using the US an examples).  In the most recent one, in Orlando, the attack occurred in a bar.  Would armed citizens have kept that from occurring, or perhaps made it less severe? There's good reason to think they would have.

Now, right away it's likely to be pointed out that there was, in fact, an off duty policeman on the scene and he apparently exchanged some shots with the terrorist, and that didn't stop it.

Let's first note that this was one person, not more than one. And that can be a factor.

And let's next an uncomfortable truth. . . a lot of policemen aren't exactly marksmen.

Now, in fairness, maybe this guy was.  But policemen aren't the equivalent of snipers, or even accomplished pistoleros.  They're policemen. Their job is pretty varied and most of them never fire a shot in anger, television portrayals aside.  And frankly the track record of large city police forces isn't necessarily all that spectacular in this area.  That may well be because, with all the various thing they do, shooting a pistol well, which isn't necessarily the first thing most policemen have in mind when they become policemen, isn't necessarily their first priority.  By way of some examples of surprising police gun play, police action in New York City on occasion provides a good example.  A person can easily find examples of New York police firing large numbers of shots and hitting comparatively little, or if they are hitting, firing far more shots that would seemingly be required.  Indeed, the New York Times has noted:
New York City police statistics show that simply hitting a target, let alone hitting it in a specific spot, is a difficult challenge. In 2006, in cases where police officers intentionally fired a gun at a person, they discharged 364 bullets and hit their target 103 times, for a hit rate of 28.3 percent, according to the department’s Firearms Discharge Report. The police shot and killed 13 people last year.
In all shootings — including those against people, animals and in suicides and other situations — New York City officers achieved a 34 percent accuracy rate (182 out of 540), and a 43 percent accuracy rate when the target ranged from zero to six feet away. Nearly half the shots they fired last year were within that distance.
In Los Angeles, where there are far fewer shots discharged, the police fired 67 times in 2006 and had 27 hits, a 40 percent hit rate, which, while better than New York’s, still shows that they miss targets more often they hit them.
New York Times, December 9, 2007.  The article goes on to note that the police departments in question argued that poor marksmanship was not the cause of their lack of hits, and they may be correct.  But we can still draw two conclusions from this at a bare minimum.  Maybe in an armed spat more than one man or woman with a pistol is a good thing and maybe police aren't the world's greatest pistol marksmen.  Indeed, hitting things with pistols requires some dedication.

 Illustration of a New York policeman who has passed the civil service examination.  He's stopping a horse that's apparently out of control and thereby saving an innocent damsel.  While dates, this photo this illustration does illustrate the truth that the police are a service that does a lot more than just get into gun battles and that its not an occupying army.  The fact that British police don't even routinely carry firearms perhaps accidentally illustrates this. Truth be known, police very rarely need them, and they aren't their main focus by a long shot.

Some would argue that this would apply to anyone, and perhaps it would, but in contrast to police, people who are single mindedly carrying a pistol may very well have a different mindset towards being proficient with a pistol.  Or at least they are not likely to be any worse, perhaps.

Here it should be noted that the legal requirements for carrying a concealed arm vary widely by state.  Some states, apparently, have no specific requirements at all, although they are a distinct minority (contrary to very widespread popular belief Wyoming does not allow anyone to carry concealed. . . no it doesn't. . . I know you think it does, . . . but it doesn't).  The point is that chances are that a person who has gone to the trouble of fulfilling the legal requirements to carry a concealed arm may have more of an interest in that arm than a policeman, who is carrying it as part of the load of stuff that he has to pack around everyday.

Indeed, by analogy, it often surprises historians on how little actual soldiers care about the history and specifics of their equipment.  Details that fascinate material historians often go entirely unnoticed by soldiers themselves.  You can find endless details on any military item, right down to canteens, while on the working end of the story, the men only recall they had a canteen.  The same is true of firearms, often to the immense surprise of firearms enthusiasts.  Troops often know next to nothing about the specifics of a firearm they are issued, and often have quite low interest in marksmanship. It's just a tool they carry to many of them.  People join the Army, more often than not, not because they're firearms enthusiasts but for other reasons.  The same is true of policemen.  Those who have concealed carry permits presumably have a more single natured focus on the firearms itself.

Given that, there's at least a chance that if one or two people in the crowd in the Orlando bar were carrying concealed, and therefore also located in places the terrorist would not be expecting, there's a chance the results would have been different than they were. There's reason to believe that had there been one or two armed customers in the club, the killer may have himself been killed fairly quickly.  Likewise, if a worker had been carrying concealed in San Bernadino the result may have been different.

And, where this is allowed, a surprising number of people do in fact do it.  Quite a few people I've known fairly well have carried concealed for years and I had no idea.  They routinely took pistols to work, and nobody would have ever guessed.

Backing all of this up, there are a surprising number of examples of attempts at mass killings being thwarted by a single armed individual that the assailant didn't expect to encounter.  Opponents to concealed carry like to claim that this hasn't occurred, but it very clearly has.  Some recent examples are.  For example in October 1997 a Mississippi assistant principal stooped a student who had  stabbed his mother and then killed two students when he retrieved a large caliber pistol from his car. In 1998 a banquet hall owner stopped a teenage killer after he had killed one person in the hall and wounded several others  when he produced a shotgun.  Armed students stopped a killing from becoming a mass killing at t he Appalachian College of Law after the killer did kill the dean and a couple of other individuals.  In that case ,they were slowed dowdn due to the need to go off campus to retrieve their firearms.  In 2007 a female church attendee shot and killed a man at the New Hope Church who was armed with the dread AR15 after he'd killed two.  In 2010 an armed civilian killed a man in New York Mills who was carrying a list of employees he wished to kill at an AT&T store.  In Clackamas Oregon, in 2012, an armed shopper stopped a shooter who had killed two by merely drawing his pistol, which he did not shoot.  In 2014 in Austin an armed man entered a construction zone and was stopped by a construction foreman after an exchange of shots in which he was wounded, but nobody was killed at all.  And other examples can be found. The point is, basically, that you don't hear much about incidents that don't become mass disasters, as they didn't become mass disasters.

Of course allowing this, and encouraging it, are two different things. But perhaps here we should, to some degree, encourage those who are willing to carry concealed to do just that.  The fact the matter is that we are at war with a persistent enemy and, on our own soil, the military and the police cannot be realistic protection. We can't legislate our way out of it, but maybe we can take courage and counter it ourselves.  If we don't feel up to that, we can at least encourage those who are to do that.

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