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It can happen in America.

In an earlier article I discussed the primary intent behind the creation of the Second Amendment. Simply stated, it is intended to preserve the individual's right to keep and bear arms. The reason behind this primary intent is to enable the people to resist possible future acts of oppression by the central government, should that central government ever degenerate into a despotic dominator. Our Founding Fathers knew that the only true guarantee of freedom was the deterrence generated by a "universally armed population." There are other valid justifications for the existence of the Second Amendment, but they are all over-shadowed by this primary intent.

You will find that when you explain this primary intent to someone who has little or no interest in firearms and related issues they will often smile and say something akin to: "You've got to be kidding. This is America, not Russia; it can't happen here!" They may even laugh at you and then walk away muttering to themselves about your sick preoccupation with unrealistic and paranoic scenarios. This reaction is understandable, because not many Americans know what it is like to have their country turn from the ideals of a free society to the horrors of dictatorial enslavement. A few Americans, however, are familiar with the hopeless qualities of life in the slave state. I am referring to naturalized citizens from such countries as Cuba, East Germany, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Poland and even the Soviet Union. These citizens can certainly tell you what slavery is like, and in the cases of countries that have recently fallen, they can often point to the warning signs of impending trouble.

At this time, it is necessary to clarify one important point before this article develops any further. After going to bed last night, I did not lie there worrying that in the morning I would awake to find federal troops marching down my street. The idea that the dawn might reveal the chilling sight of tanks positioned at every major intersection in town is another prospect that did not precede my dreams. Actually, at this moment in history, I feel quite free in the good old U.S.A., and I cannot point my finger at some sinister collection of evil conspirators about to seize power in some daring coup or foreign-inspired revolution. The American system appears to be working well. So well, in fact, that I, like most other Americans, often forget that our way of life has been very much the exception in this world and not the rule. Yes, I do plead guilty to frequent feelings of security, and, for some reason, it is very difficult for me to imagine that our freedoms could ever be threatened by anyone at home. The very idea is "un-American."

If the above statement accurately reflects the intuitive feelings at most Americans (including myself) about the stability of our government, why then should I attempt to disrupt your peace of mind with this article? If we are all so certain of our immunity to internal tyranny, why should I endeavor to contaminate your sense of well-being with a moderate dose of insecurity? The answer is simple: history clearly shows that all human institutions evolve. The process of change within a society and the shifting of power from one sphere of influence to another is unstoppable and continuous. The political force that seems puny and insignificant today may very well dominate every aspect of your life tomorrow. Therefore, it is a wiser thing to base our plans for the future on the historic realities of human nature and not on the transcient circumstances of the present. Our Founding Fathers knew very well that all governments are capable of great evil. With an eye to the sobering lessons of human history, they realized the idealistic institutions of their own creation would not be totally protected by the ingenuity of lofty designers alone. The creation of the Second Amendment is rooted in the insecurity of our Founding Fathers, and it is this very insecurity that is in need of reaffirmation today.

We must look beyond our own cradle of assumed stability to other societies (both historic and contemporary) if we are to discern the common threads of impending oppression. As mentioned earlier, few Americans can testify to the peculiarities of emerging despotic enterprises from first-hand experience; it is by necessity, then, that we are compelled to look beyond our own borders. Once you have taken the time to examine the predicaments of only some of the world's oppressed peoples, you will discover a fact that is every bit as inviolate as any timeless law of physics. The fact is, before a government can oppress its population, that population must first be disarmed! And, of course, if such a government is to permanently retain its power, all attempts by the citizenry to acquire arms must be ruthlessly discouraged. Consider the following examples:

Just prior to his declaration of martial law, President Marcos of the Philippines required all of his people to register their firearms. The people of the Philippines were told that such registration was not a step towards confiscation. Shortly after the imposition of martial law, the people were ordered to surrender all of their firearms (registered or not) to the government. Today, any Filipino found with an illegal firearm is either sent to prison for 20 years or executed. Martial law was declared by President Marcos in 1972, and since that time he has established himself as one of the world's most durable dictators.

In the 1970s, Iran saw the fall of one dictator and the rise of another. With the demise of Shah Pahlavi and the triumph of the Ayatollah Khomeini, another lesson on the subject of the people's right to keep and bear arms was in the making. During the revolution, the fanatic disciples of the Ayatollah saw to it that his followers in Iran got the arms that they needed to overthrow the Shah. Once the Shah had been deposed, the triumphant Ayatollah Khomeini returned to his homeland to consolidate his power. Since his return, the Ayatollah has indulged in a degree of oppression and religious persecution that makes his predecessor seem saintly by comparison. One of the first commands handed down by the omniscient Khomeini after his return was an order requiring all of Iran's citizens to turn in their fireamrs. The Ayatollah Khomeini is certainly one of today's finest examples of that class of human beings known as demented despotic rulers. But, as disagreeable as he may be, he is not stupid. He knows that if he and his fanatic religious sect are to retain power, he must see to it that the average Iranian citizen does not have access to firearms. If the Iranian people today enjoyed the same right to keep and bear arms as Americans do, the Ayatollah might find himself suffering the same fate as the Shah. Before leaving the topic of Iran, I must mention the current penalty for possessing an illegal firearm in that country. The penalty consists of an obligation to participate in the Ayatollah's favorite pastime--execution.

Today, hundreds of millions of people are living (if you can call it that) under the brutal weight of communist slave masters. Actually, more people are oppressed today in communist bloc countries than at any other time in human history. For these poor souls, the prospects of ever enjoying the kind of freedom that we as Americans take for granted is virtually nonexistent. There is some variation in the way these totalitarian regimes are run; there are even some differences concerning the amount of oppression inflicted on people by the various communist governments. In some of these countries, life is merely bland, heavily regulated, depressing and hopeless, while in others torture and genocide are common or even routine aspects of everyday life. There is, however, one principle upon which there is no variation to be found among the followers of Marx and Lenin. That principle is the absolute necessity of keeping the people away from firearms. The right of citizens to keep and bear arms is an alien concept in the communist world--I wonder why?

In recent years there has been an unsettling trend in some of the so-called free nations of the West. This trend reinforces the fact that as government control over the lives of the people continues to grow, so too does the erosion of the right to bear arms. A good example of this can be found in Australia. For quite a few years now, Australia has been leaning to the left side of the political spectrum, and just recently the socialists have become the dominant power in that country. As the socilist influence on the government has grown, so has the number of muddle-headed gun control laws designed to eventually disarm Australia's population. One such law from down under could be viewed as somebody's idea of a joke--if its implications weren't so sinister. This recently enacted law now makes it illegal to import or sell any rifle with a pistil grip. The anti-gun logic behind this strange kind of law goes something like this: The vast majority of the anti-gun-oriented segment of the population may be persuaded to support increased gun control laws or outright gun bans if they are shown firearms that have an ugly, menacing or military appearance. And since a pistol grip is often found on military-type weapons, the anti-gunners believe that they can brainwash the public into viewing all rifles (with postil grips) as being too lethal for civilians to possess. To gun owners with even a small knowledge of firearms, this logic is laughable. I caution you not to take this new anti-gun tactic too lightly, though. The anti-gunners of this world want to portray every gun owner as a potential terrorist to be feared and disarmed permanently. The push for this type of legislation is even now beginning to appear in the United States.

The purpose of this writing is not to simply inventory some of the oppressive governments that have sought to maintain power through the process of disarming their populations. Rather, it is to explore the possibilities of such a government coming to power in America. Now, at this point, I'm sure that some of you are beginning to react like the skeptical individual mentioned in the second paragraph of this article. No doubt, a few of you are thinking: The author has to be some kind of a reactionary nut. After all, this is America. Doesn't he realize that it can't happen here! Well, if I'm a reactionary nut, then I'm in good company because the fears that I harbor are the same as those felt by George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee and Samuel Adams (just to name a few). These individuals represent perhaps the finest bunch of "reactionary nuts" that the world has ever produced, and the collective expression of their concerns on the subject of tyranny is the Second Amendment. This Amendment was their way of saying: Be forever vigilant, because it can happen in America!

Exactly how can it happen here? There are many answers to this question, and in recent years a growing number of books have been authored on the subject. These scenarios range from the ridiculous to the plausible. Some of them are little more than trite adventure stories centred around some near super-human hero or group of heroes who single-handedly save America from tyrannical hordes. These John Wayne-type adventure stories can certaintly make for some fun entertainment, but I wouldn't waste my energy trying to read into them something that isn't there. Then there is another (and thankfully much smaller) category of books that couple the shallow adventurism of the first group with a generous dose of racism and bigotry. This second category of books is nothing more than the same old pathetic message from America's traditional hate groups, thinly disguised as patriotic literature. The very existence of these hate groups (and nearly every society has them) is reason enough to justify the Second Amendment.

I picked Seven Days in May, by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey, Jr. The book Seven Days in May was published in 1962 and quickly became one of the most popular and gripping suspense novels of its day. The authors (Knebel and Bailey) were both Washington D.C.-based journalists and were therefore able to inject into their tale of intrigue the kind of detail and texture that made its implications plausible and unsettling. If you haven't read the book, then perhaps you've seen the movie. The film version was released only a few years after the popular novel hit the literary scene. Thisfilm was no low-budget cult flick, but rather a highly successful major motion picture with an allstar cast, including Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, Edmond O'Brien and Ava Gardner. The next time that this movie is run on your local late show be sure to stay up and watch it, because this is one of those rare situations where the movie is almost as good as the book.

Before delving into the story of Seven Days in May, there is one general observation that I feel needs to be made. The authors of this novel based their scenario on the belief that the imposition of despotic rule in America would be a result of pressure from the political right. Perhaps, at the time this novel was written (early 1960s), such an idea seemed more believable. At that time, the dictators of World War II were still the best examples of rulers obsessed with the tyrannical pursuit of nationalistic self-aggrandizement. The communists' efforts at world domination were certainly moving well along in the 1950s and early 1960s. But to most Americans during this era, the more easily understood symbol of enslavement was still the individual ruthless dictator.

Today, however, our domestic picture is much clearer, and one can see that any realistic threat to our freedom is far more likely to come from the left side of the political spectrum and not the right. However, to truly appreciate the implications of the story Seven Days in May, it is best to set aside the political flavor of the time in which it was authored and instead concentrate on the "process of seizing power," which is so beautifully revealed in this book. After all, I doubt if an enslaved population is really going to care much about whether their slave masters represent extreme left-wing totalitarianism or extreme right-wing fascism.

The novel centers on three primary characters--Jordan Lyman, the President of the United States, GEneral James M. Scott, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Colonel Martin J. Casey of the Marines.

The monumental struggle for control of the United States begins with the signing of a treaty. President Lyman negotiates with the Soviet Union and produces an agreement obligating both the United States and the Soviet Union to dismantle their nuclear arsenals. The immediate public reaction to the treaty is one of disapproval; but in spite of the nearly universal public outcry against the treaty, President Lyman is still able to push the agreement through the Senate, achieving the necessary ratification for full implementation of the treaty's requirements. As a reward for his efforts, President Lyman receives the lowest public approval rating for any U.S. president in modern times. Even the major newspapers of the country are doubtful about the treaty, and many other public figures accuse the president of selling out to the Russians.

At the Pentagon, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General James Scott, is outraged by the treaty. He is convinced that the Russians will cheat and use the advantages gained from cheating on the treaty to launch a successful nuclear attack against the United States. So he begins secretly plotting the military takeover of the government. The political climate of the nation (as outlined in the book) shows that the public would almost certainly support the general's sudden rise to power. At this time of great national insecurity, General Scott (a multi-decorated Korean War ace) uses his hero status and considerable persuasive powers to attack President Lyman's treaty. As a result, the increasingly popular general becomes the most likely opponent for President Lyman in the next presidential election. The general and his conspirators, however, decide that the election is too far off and the nation needs to be saved immediately.

The basic elements of the plot are as follows: First, the general establishes a new military base near El Paso, Texas. The unofficial designation for the base is ECOMCON (Emergency Communications Control), and its existence is kept secret from the president. The base is intended to be a training and staging area for the purpose of seizing control of the major communications systems of the country. Second, a routine alert to test the ability of all our armed forces to respond to an attack is scheduled. It should be noted here that such alerts, complete with simulated attacks in order to test the abilities of our defenses, actually do occur. Now, let's get back to the plot of our novel. The president, as commander in chief, will of course be present at Mount Thunder (the military's communications nerve center) to take part in the alert. What President Lyman is not supposed to pay attention to is the fact that the alert has been scheduled for a day when the vice-president is out of the country on a goodwill tour, and the Congress is in recess.

At this point, you should have a pretty good idea what General Scott has in mind. When the president arrives at Mount Thunder for the alert, he will be taken prisoner, and the ECOMCON forces will spring into action, taking control of the country's television and radio networks. The general will then go on the air and announce to the public that he has taken control of the government in order to save the nation from the suicidal policies of the Lyman administration. With the vice-president touring abroad and the members of Congress scattered throughout the country, there will be little to prevent General Scott from quickly consolidating his position as America's first military dictator.

Colonel Martin Casey of the Marines is in many respects the pivotal character in this story. Acting on his suspicions, he is the catalyst that sets in motion the cloak and dagger elements of the colossal struggle between the president and the ambitious General Scott. Colonel Casey is almost the most complex and tortured player in this drama, as he is forced to choose between his own dislike for the nuclear treaty, his loyalty to his superior officers and his oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. The good colonel is a high-level Pentagon bureaucrat; his position is not quite high enough to warrant his inclusion into the exclusive circle of conspirators surrounding General Scott. Colonel Casey, however, is in a position to notice many little strange and unusual things going on at the nation's military headquarters. Individually, these things are meaningless, but when put together, they lead the colonel to the inescapable conclusion that an attempt to seize the government is coming. Armed with his suspicions, Colonel Casey comes to the distasteful conclusion that he must go to the president and inform on the general. When the president becomes convinced that the plot against his office is genuine, the no-holds-barred struggle to preserve our Constitutional form of government begins.

it's not supposed to be the proper thing to reveal the ending of such a novel or movie--so I won't tell you what happens in the end, but I will say this: Every American gun owner, with even a slight interest in what the Second Amendment is all about, should be familiar with the story of Seven DAys in May.

Should a real-life General Scott ever take control of our government (there is no reason to believe that it can't happen in America), he would then face the problem of retaining his power. This would mean suppressingly any and all opposition from the people. If, in such a situation, the people of America still enjoy their rights as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, such a dictator's fate would be sealed. No standing army of such a despot could ever hope to defeat 100 to 200 million armed and angry Americans. But, if we should ever allow the radical left-wing element in our country the advantages of first disarming us . . . well, let's try not to think about that. It can get rather depressing.
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Title Annotation:right to bear arms by citizens to defend way of life
Author:Kavey, Fred
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:column
Date:Aug 1, 1985
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