Thursday, April 15, 2004

I can't say I wholeheartedly agree with David Kopel on everything although I must confess I'm more in agreement with him than Ted Kopel. But over at the High Road someone linked an article Mr. Kopel & Stephen D'Andrilli wrote in 1990 about Switzerland & its militia system. It's called The Swiss & G U N S ~A Success Story~. It's a bit dated as some changes to the gun laws in Switzerland occurred in the 90's. In fact the Swiss pro-gun group Pro-Tell is busy fighting these efforts as we speak. But the bulk of the article is correct in its assessment of Swiss firearm laws.

Now here's something to think about:

"Indeed, the militia is virtually synonymous with the nation. 'The Swiss do not have an army, they are the army', says one government publication. Fully deployed, the Swiss army has 15.2 men per square kilometre; in contrast, the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. have only .2 soldiers per square kilometre. Switzerland is 76 times denser with soldiers than either superpower. Indeed, only Israel has more army per square kilometre."

I'd venture to guess that only certain parts of the American South & Southwest could even begin to approach that kind of coverage by the militia. If I'm looking at the correct conversion table (hey - it's late) a square kilometer is 0.3861 square miles, & a square mile is about 640 acres. So the U.S.A. figure mentioned above would equate to (if my calculations are accurate) about 2.5 soldiers per square mile. Now a mile is 1,760 yards so at the dead center of a square mile you'd have 880 yards in all directions (actually a little more than that in the corners). That's along way to shoot. But throw in the other man & a half & you could cut it down to something a bit more reasonable - say just shy of 600 yards. Now for a rifleman with a rifle that'd be no problem, but for a soldier with an M16...let's just say I'm not optimistic. After all, no matter how good Hank Aaron was ain't no way in hell he could've hit anything in a meaningful way if he substituted his Louisville Slugger for a flyswatter.

But the Swiss can field 38 men per square mile. That's a man for every 16.8 acres. They'd be spaced so close together that they could effectively cover each other with rifled muskets!

Now Kopel & D'Andrilli don't take into account the U.S. militia which would boost our numbers a bit. But probably not by that much. If someone tried to invade Switzerland almost the whole citizenry would show up to stop them. In the U.S. we'd expect the Marines & Army to show up & do something. But the average citizen for years & even decades has been bombarded with the idea of letting the professionals handle things. Hell, lowly peasants often get arrested for shooting criminals in self defense or merely partrolling private land on the borders. So it wouldn't surprise me in the least to hear a chorus of "let the Marines handle things - that's what we pay them for" echoing through the countryside if anyone ever tried to invade the U.S.

In Texas, the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Colorado, New Mexico & Arizona I'd expect a little more turn out than average but only in the rural parts of those states. Any state with a medium to large urban area (i.e. a big city) can almost write that part of the state off. This isn't so much because people in big cities are cowards but rather they've been indoctrinated so long into government dependence that it'd be difficult to get them to change their views in time to do any good. The rural areas of every state won't have the same mindset as most rural folk are used to doing for themselves - well at least to a greater degree than their citified brethren.

Another reason is that in urban centers (i.e. big cities) gun control is usually more strictly enforced. That means the confidence that comes with developing skills in arms will be lacking & create another psychological barrier. & that's not even dealing with the issue of having arms in the first place. After all, would you feel positive about repelling invaders when your most potent weapon is a bottle filled with gasoline & a lighted rag? I'd like to think the city dwellers in D.C., Chicago, NYC & other places where possessing arms is legally difficult to impossible ignore those laws, but I can't see more than 10% or so being armed with anything more than a small pistol.

The Geek With A .45 touched on a related subject in a post of his a few days back. His focus was on gun control laws on the federal level being harmful to small arms development that is essential to national defense. A few months ago I wrote about an article on the National Matches & their relationship to national defense, or more specifically how the government has been withdrawing its support of this important primer for national defense. But as important as those two issues are to address I feel they are insignificant compared to the one I'm talking about now, which is an apathy on the part of the populace. After all, if we could buy newly designed & manufactured machine guns over the counter & the government was actively involved in civilian matches as it once was it would accomplish very little if the majority of people simply looked to the government to protect them.

Pay attention over the next week or so to the news & other forms of mass communication. In newspaper articles, news stories, billboards & magazine ads & articles you'll see that anytime the public's role is mentioned in anything its merely to be a good witness &/or informant. No cop has ever said (in recent times at least) for a citizen to get directly involved in preventing crime. Illegal aliens crossing on your land? Call the cops. A little old lady getting her ass kicked? Call the cops. Someone's being gang raped in the alley beneath your window? Call the cops.

What this message is doing is conditioning the populace to not getting directly involed. It's taking them out of their proper place in society a sparticipants & making them mere spectators. Now I'm not saying you should go out on "patrol" every night looking for drug lords & pimps to place under citizens arrest. But if you see a person getting beaten up & robbed, even if its by the cops, you should try to intervene if you can. Yes, it's risky as hell; you don't know if the attacker will turn on you or just run away. But here's the thing - that attacker whom you let get away because you feared for your own safety could very well be the attacker your wishing someone will save you from 3 weeks from now. Or worse: he'll be the one who beats up &/or kills your wife or daughter or son 3 weeks from now. C'mon - didn't you watch Spider-man? He let a guy go because he didn't want to get involved & that same guy ended up killing his uncle. There's a message in that which most people seem to ignore: if you tolerate someone you don't know being mistreated then don't be all shocked when it happens to someone you care about.

That's one of our problems as a society: we do not want to get personally involved. If we won't get involved when crime threatens our community, then what makes you think it'll be different if an invasion threatens out community? Do you think the Jews in Hitler's Germany just accepted their fate? Do you think they were all pacifists up till the very end? No, it was conditioning that made them too susceptible to inaction. That same conditioning is present today in the U.S. It's perhaps a bit more varied than what the Jews in Nazi Germany were taught, but everytime you here that "it can't happen here" or "we'd be no match for a modern military so resisting would be futile" I hope you'll recognize it as a modern variant of the reasoning that caused millions of people to allow themselves to be murdered with little if any resistance.

More from the article:

"Since 1291, when the landsgemeinden (people's assemblies) formed circles in the village squares, and only men carrying swords could vote, weapons have been the mark of citizenship. As a Military Department spokesman said, 'It is an old Swiss tradition that only an armed man can have political rights.' This policy is based on the understanding that only those who bear the burden of keeping Switzerland free are entitled to fully enjoy the benefits of freedom."

I can't say that I'd be opposed to something like that over here. Hell, can you imagine the looks on Schumer's, Feinstein's & Brady's face if on election day everyone showed up at the polls with their pistol, rifle & best web gear?

"In 1977, the M√ľnchenstein Initiative proposed allowing citizens to choose social or hospital work over military duty. It was rejected at the polls, and in both houses of parliament (the Bundesversarnmlung's Nationalrat and St√§nderat). There are provisions for conscientious objectors, but this group only numbers .2% of conscripts."

& keep in mind Swiss militia service isn't about getting job training or money for college. These people are very serious about defending their country. They want to serve.

"In 1978, Switzerland refused to ratify a Council of Europe Convention on Control of Firearms. Since then, Switzerland has been pressured by other European governments, which charge that it is a source for terrorist weapons. As a result, in 1982 the central government proposed a law barring foreigners in Switzerland from buying guns they could not buy in their own countries and also requiring that Swiss citizens obtain a license to buy any gun, rather than just handguns.
Outraged Swiss gun owners formed a group called 'Pro Tell,' named after national hero William Tell. In 1983, the Federal Council (the executive cabinet) abandoned the restrictive proposal because "the opposition was too heavy" and suggested that the cantons regulate the matter. A few months earlier, the Cantonal Council of Freiburg had already enacted such a law by a one-vote margin. A popular referendum overturned the law the next year, by a
60%-40% vote."

Apperently they want to vote as well. Can you imagine what the press would do if gun owners got off their ass, stopped making excuses for the lesser of two evils & elected pro-gun politicians to repeal gun control laws? Imagine every time a gun control law is passed it gets repealed right after the next election. But imagine is all we can do because gun owners are petrified of Kerry even though Bush isn't all that different on the gun issue.

But go read the rest of the article. It does a good job of explaining the Swiss mindset when it comes to guns & culture. I still think in theory America has the best system going, but in practice the Swiss aren't that far behind, if at all as far as arms ownership goes. Switzerland isn't perfect by a long shot, but if you read your history you'll note that several American institutions were copied from the Swiss. One of those was the militia. It's a shame it's more a part of history for us than anything else, especially when the Swiss seem to be doing well with it after 500 years or so.

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