I became aware of this post just today. I lived in Switzerland as a child for awhile. The country is a veritable fortress. By law, homes are built with bomb shelters. Even scenic tourist spots feature an occasional pill box and concrete tank barriers. I believe the Swiss have an vast amount of armaments safely stashed in mountain tunnels. When I lived there (in Bern and Zurich) it was a common sight to see a young man with a rifle or automatic weapon riding a street car, on his way to target practice. At the time (and it may still be true), all young Swiss men were required by law to be in the reserves and to shoot some number of rounds a month.
Yet Switzerland is a pretty safe place with a low incidence of gun violence.
One final comment: You stated:
The Second Amendment is not premised on the concept that you and I will stand with our deer rifles against professional armies (like the vast armies of China).
I disagree. I think the Second Amendment was very much intended for ordinary citizens who belonged to their village militias to have the right to bear arms – even military grade weapons for the time. I think the framers had Lexington and Concord (as well as frontier conflicts) in mind when they drafted the second amendment. The colonial system of self defense in 1775 was probably more like the Swiss Reserves today than the relatively few Americans today who own and know how to operate weapons. The Second Amendment is about more than hunting; it’s about giving the people the capacity to overthrow oppression from their own government should it ever occur again.
No matter what the framers foresaw or didn’t foresee, I believe that guns today should be regulated. I think the gun laws in Washington state are reasonable and work well. And I think the restriction against fully automatic weapons is reasonable.
And I also agree with you that it’s wonderful to live in a country with a strong tradition of peaceful dissent and political contest.
We, the armed citizens, are definitely the last line of defense against foreign and domestic enemies. Deer rifles are good but military weapons are better. One of the goals we have in promoting discussions within this format is to promote cooperation between the civilian militia-at-large and organized police and military organizations. Lebanon and Iraq are both examples of what happens when the armed forces and civilian militias are working at cross-purposes. The concept of a militia-at-large is still a working legal concept in the U.S. Federal law recognizes the unorganized militia, a general class of citizens available to defend in times of trouble, but not organized under a chain of command that poses a threat to law order.
We would like to hear more about the Swiss militia. If one of our readers submits an article we will be glad to publish it.
See Gun Grabbers for more details related to the militia-at-large.
Additional Comments from Doug King:
I don’t know much about the Swiss Reserve system today. I lived there for awhile more than 35 years ago while I was still a kid. A business colleague who was Swiss told me the rate of gun violence is low. He said there are two reasons for that. First, criminals expect potential victims to be armed, at least when they are at home. Second, if anyone uses a military-issue weapon (found in nearly every home) in the commission of a crime, they are tried by the military courts, not the civilian courts. The Swiss philosophy has always been to be militantly neutral with regards to foreign policy and to make the costs of conquest too high for any invader. They are therefore armed to the teeth. That policy helped them avoid two world wars. It also promoted their reputation as a safe and neutral banking haven.
It does make we think, however, about why people need guns. I like having them for self-protection, but my main interest is in target shooting. Go back a few hundred years, and every New England village had its own militia primarily for self-protection against hostile Indians. When the relationship with England turned sour, the militia were already organized and were used to fight the British. Eventually, Washington organized a Federal Army, but that took some time. The frontier rifles (Kentucky rifles) used for hunting were more accurate and deadly than the short-range muskets used by the British. But it raises an interesting question – do we need a militia today? We have the National Guard and the police. It’s hard to imagine that if those agencies turned oppressive that citizens could stand up against them and fight. I can’t imagine, for example, having a militia per se in my neighborhood. On the other hand, the Neighborhood Watch concept comes close. So much of our battles (in war, in law enforcement, in politics, etc.) today depend on timely and accurate information, and building up a healthy network of trusted friends is perhaps the closest thing we can have today to the New England militias of long ago.
Regardless of whether militia are needed today, I still support the 2nd Admendment.