2nd Amendment, Ben Carson

Faux Outrage, Ben Carson, and the Right (and Obligation) of Self Defense

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Like most Americans, I’m impressed by Dr. Ben Carson’s personal story and achievements.

But since I’m a policy wonk, I have to admit that I’m equally impressed by hisinstinctive understanding that a flat tax is both fair and good for growth.

Moreover, it’s also worth noting that one of my buddies from grad school is now his chief economic adviser.

So I’ve been observing his presidential campaign with interest and I view his steady climb in the polls as an indication that voters like the idea of a principled outsider.

But his political success means that he’s also a target. Anything he says is fair game for his opponents, particularly the folks in the establishment media who are reflexively hostile to what Dr. Carson represents.

And since he’s not a practiced politician with years of training in how to artfully discuss certain topics, he has given his opponents some material. His comments about whether he would vote for a Muslim created a kerfuffle about whether he favored a religious requirement for high office. And his comments on homosexuality being a lifestyle choice definitely rubbed people the wrong way.

That being said, the latest flareup regarding Dr. Carson’s comments about self defense strikes me at entirely contrived (at least I hope it’s contrived since other possible explanations are even more unseemly).

Here’s how a Washington Post report described Carson’s supposedly controversial remarks.

Ben Carson said Thursday that Adolf Hitler’s mass murder of Jews “would have been greatly diminished” if German citizens had not been disarmed by the Nazi regime. The comment, which came during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, was similar to arguments Carson made following last week’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., in which he defended the Second Amendment and suggested that the victims should have fought the gunman.

Carson’s campaign says some people are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

…some…have called his remarks insensitive… Armstrong Williams, an adviser to Carson, said…that the average voter does not scrutinize candidates for verbal missteps. “They care about intent. I think people understand what Dr. Carson is trying to say.”

A column in The Hill was much more aggressive in portraying Dr. Carson’s remarks as being flawed and self-destructive.

A series of controversial remarks by Ben Carson is raising new questions about whether he’s ready to take the Oval Office. Carson this week suggested the Holocaust would have been less likely if Jewish people had been armed, and appeared to criticize the victims of an Oregon shooting for not fighting back. …The retired neurosurgeon drew the ire of Democrats, liberal advocacy and Jewish groups…strategists believe the comments will dog Carson down the stretch and could dissuade those from backing him.

Maybe I’m just strange, but this supposed controversy is baffling. Why is self defense against evil suddenly a bad thing?

Didn’t the heroic actions of the three Americans in Europe demonstrate that charging a crazed gunman can be successful? And even if they hadn’t been successful, isn’t it better to die fighting than die cowering? I hope I’m never in that situation, and I don’t know how I would react, but I hope it would be in a similar fashion.

Regarding resistance to the Nazis, I accept that Dr. Carson shouldn’t have said such efforts would have “greatly diminished” Hitler’s monstrous actions, but surely he’s right about the principle.

Let’s look at some of the reality from World War II. Writing for the Washington Post, David Kopel explains that armed resistance against the Nazis was quite effective.

During World War II, 30,000 Jewish partisans fought in Eastern Europe, in their own combat units. In Western Europe, …in France, Jews amounted to less than one percent of French population, but comprised about 15 to 20 percent of the French Resistance. One of the most successful battles of the Jewish resistance was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Nearly every Jew who participated was eventually killed — but they were going to be killed anyway. By choosing to stand and fight, the Warsaw Jews diverted a significant amount of Nazis resources from battlefields elsewhere, thus hastening the Nazi defeat.

He provides extensive analysis of the Warsaw uprising that began in early 1943.

…an uprising began. In the beginning, the Jewish Fighting Organization had about 600 volunteers; the Jewish Military Association had about 400, and there were thousands more in spontaneous small groups. The Jews had only 10 handguns… After four days of fighting, the Germans on January 21 pulled back from the ghetto… Not only the Germans were shocked by the unexpected resistance, but also the Jews were astonished. They could not imagine until then that the beaten, exhausted victims could rise against a mighty enemy who had conquered Europe. …In February 1943, the Polish Home Army transferred 50 revolvers (many of them defective), 50 hand grenades, and four pounds of explosives to the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. The Warsaw Jews also manufactured their own explosives, including Molotov cocktails.

The Nazis paid a heavy price.

The Germans suffered over a thousand casualties in the first week of fighting alone. The Germans had to spend more time subduing the Warsaw Ghetto than they did conquering the entire nations of Poland or France.

But since the Jews were hampered by having very few weapons, that made it easier for Hitler’s thugs to eventually prevail.

 The Warsaw Jews knew they had almost no chance of survival. They decided that it was better to die fighting than to die in a gas chamber. …the key impediment to resistance was shortage of arms. According to Holocaust historian Abram L. Sachar: “The indispensable need, of course, was arms. As soon as some Jews, even in the camps themselves, obtained possession of a weapon, however pathetically inadequate—a rifle, an ax, a sewer cover, a homemade bomb—they used it and often took Nazis with them to death.” Thus, “the difference between resistance and submission depended very largely upon who was in possession of the arms that back up the will to do or die.”

And what’s the bottom line?

…“If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first,” says the Talmud. [Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 72a.] That is the best response to mass murderers — in 1943, today and always.

If the manufactured outrage about Dr. Carson’s remarks are any indication, though, it appears that some people don’t believe in fighting back.

I’m not sure why, but I can’t help but suspect that statists want people to depend on government. Even if that means they are more vulnerable. And even though governments historically are the biggest threats to human existence!

Here’s another column worth sharing. It’s by Clayton Cramer for PJ Media and it’sa review of Stephen Halbrook’s new book about the Nazis and gun control.

The basic message is that gun control started out for ostensibly benign reasons under the Weimar Republic, but then was used for evil purposes by Hitler’s gang.

Stephen P. Halbrook’s…latest book, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State,” is an astonishing piece of scholarship: complete, careful, and thoughtful. …Halbrook traces the development of German gun control law… The problem…, as some pointed out when mandatory registration was under discussion in 1931, “in chaotic times, the lists of firearms owners would fall into the wrong hands, allowing unauthorized persons to seize arms and use them to commit unlawful acts” (p. 29). The lists did fall into the wrong hands — the Nazi government, after the 1933 elections. And they did use them to seize arms, especially from Jews and other “enemies of the state.” …when the time came that German Jews started to be loaded up on railroad cars and shipped to concentration camps, the writing was on the wall, and more than a few knew that they had little chance of getting out of this alive. But by that point, the Nazi government had used the registration lists dating from the Weimar Republic to disarm most German Jews.

Cramer adds his two cents to the analysis, pointing out that more guns at least would have made life more difficult for the Nazis without making life more difficult for the Jews.

Perhaps rifles and pistols in the hands of Germany’s Jews would not have seriously delayed the Holocaust, but the example of the Warsaw Ghetto, where Polish Jews with ten rifles and a few dozen pistols delayed the German Army for six weeks, suggests otherwise. How could Germany’s Jews being armed for resistance have made anything worse?

And that’s basically the moral of the story for the modern fight over gun control.

Bad people will always have access to guns, regardless of their legality.

And in some cases, those bad people will be in control of the government. And the track record of dictators and tyrants is clear. They want a disarmed citizenry.

But if guns are legal for law-abiding people (or if the people can keep their weapons in spite of bad laws), then at least the good people have a way of protecting themselves if circumstances require strong action.

Some clever folks on the left may assert that it’s not an either-or situation because they’re simply talking about provisions to promote “common-sense gun safety.” But as discussed the other day, their real agenda is the banning and confiscation of privately owned weapons.

So it’s easy to understand why most supporters of the 2nd Amendment prefer Dr. Carson’s plain-spoken wisdom over President Obama’s smooth-talking statism.

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