Saturday, March 02, 2013

Korea's Gunless Fight Against Tyranny

The memorial near Sandy Hook Elementary School

Regular readers of this blog are probably well-acquainted with the Korean's aversion to American gun culture. In the wake of the Newtown Massacre and the gun control debate that followed, Andrew Sullivan, popular political commentator and an immigrant from Great Britain, wrote:
Gun violence is one of those things that an immigrant is first amazed by in America. The second thing a non-American is shocked by is the sheer passion of those who own and use guns in this country.
As an immigrant to the United States, I share that sentiment. America’s gun violence, and its love for guns in the face of such gun violence, make no sense to me. To be sure, I understand the recreational value of guns: if you like hunting, for example, I have no objection that you love your hunting rifle. But we all know that the current gun debate is not about hunting rifles--it is about the widespread and under-regulated gun ownership.

Because I so relentlessly advocate for strict gun control, I have encountered equally relentless counter-arguments from gun advocates who would not countenance any regulation of their firearms. From those encounters, I found that every pro-gun argument falls into one of five categories. They are:
  1. Red herring: "Guns are not the problem; violent video games/mental healthcare/racial minorities are the problem."
  2. Legal:  "Gun ownership is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution."
  3. Public policy:  "More guns prevent crimes."
  4. Pragmatic:  "It is not practically possible to eliminate guns from the United States."
  5. Political philosophy:  "Civilian gun ownership prevents tyranny."
All five of them are wrong, and it is quite easy to show how they are wrong. The first argument is a genuinely dishonest red herring. When pressed, even gun advocates have to admit that guns make deaths happen much more easily and efficiently. Whatever murderous tendencies Americans may have, there is no question that guns provide an easy connection between murderous tendencies and actual deaths. A data point here would suffice: suicidal acts with guns are fatal in 85% of the cases, while suicidal acts with pills are fatal in 2% of the cases. (This is why we arm our military with guns, not pills.) And regulating a single category of item makes much more sense than, say, putting every single American through mental examination or pre-screening all video games to make sure none of them is too violent.

The legal argument is also wrong. Here, I particularly delight in exposing the self-made constitutional scholars, since I wrote a lengthy paper about the Second Amendment implications before District of Columbia v. Heller was decided in 2008. To be sure, Heller was a laughable decision. It was a 5-4 decision a la Bush v. Gore, i.e. straight along the partisan line. More importantly, Heller--which was decided only five years ago--was the very first Supreme Court case ever to find that the Second Amendment guaranteed individual rights of gun ownership, even though the Second Amendment has existed for more than 200 years. In doing so, the five conservative justices of the Supreme Court overturned hundreds of years of legal precedents that have held, consistently, that there is no individual right to gun ownership under the Constitution.

But even if we are to treat Heller as the law of the land--and we must, out of respect for the Constitution--the Heller opinion itself clearly leaves room for increased gun ownership control:  “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on . . . laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” In short, there is nothing unconstitutional or illegal about, say, banning all assault weapons or high-capacity magazines from civilian ownership. Likewise, there is nothing unconstitutional or illegal about instituting a gun buy-back program, or imposing a significant amount of tax on every gun and bullet sold (as long as the tax is not so great that it effectively acts as a bar to ownership,) or requiring every gun owner to purchase a liability insurance.

Public policy argument is just as easy to dispatch. Numerous studies confirm again and again that having guns at home doubles the risk of homicide. This holds true at an international level as well. Among developed countries, United States has incomparably high gun ownership rates, and likewise has incomparably high rates of both gun-related homicide and ordinary homicide. The developed countries that do have high (but nowhere nearly as high as U.S.) rate of civilian gun ownership have a level of gun control that would be unimaginable in the current-day United States. Switzerland, for example, requires that the citizens keep all their bullets in the army barracks.

The pragmatic argument appears to be sensible in the first blush, but quickly loses its strength in the face of a real world example. After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia instituted a gun buy-back program that reduced the civilian ownership of guns by 20%. In the next 10 years, Australia's firearm-related homicide plunged by 59%, while non-firearm homicides remained the same. What is more, the firearm-related homicide dropped more precipitously in Australian states that had higher gun buy-back rates. (As a bonus, firearm suicides fell by 74%.) In fact, Australia's example shows the hollowness of the "public policy" argument as well. In all likelihood, only law-abiding citizens would participate in a gun buy-back program. Then how is it that gun-related homicide dropped by nearly 60%, when (according to gun advocates) only "bad guys" would have guns?

That leaves us the "political philosophy" argument--the idea that we need guns to overthrow tyranny. And this is the real reason why I write this post, to address this risible argument.

(More after the jump)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at

Of the five arguments against stricter gun control, this "political philosophy" argument is personally the most grating. It is not just that the argument is wrong; the other four arguments are wrong as well, but they do not grate me as much. People are often wrong, and with enough facts and data, they can be shown wrong. This is a process that we go through all our lives, and peace of mind would be difficult to attain if this process unsettles you.

To me, the political philosophy argument is grating not because it's wrong; it is because the argument is absurd. A typical American gun advocate simply has no idea what it’s like to live in an actual, real-life tyranny, because America is the oldest and strongest democracy in the world. (And it is quite telling that the sub-population of Americans who did experience real-life tyranny, e.g. African Americans, are nowhere to be found among contemporary gun advocates.) Because American tyranny only exists as a fantasy, American response to the potential coming tyranny is also fantastical--thus, we have such risible statements as "there would have been no slavery if African Americans had guns" or "there would have been no Holocaust if Jews had guns." Yet the true believers can go on saying these absurdities for one simple reason: it is particularly difficult to have a counter-example that is "within all fours," as lawyers like to say. 

But there indeed is such a counter-example. South Korea suffered under tyranny for 40 years, then achieved freedom without resorting to armed revolt. But before they did, South Koreans tried an armed revolt first. That's the story I would like to tell here.

*             *             *

Although North Korea grabs all the headlines for its totalitarianism, it is lost on most people that, for the first few decades of its existence, South Korea was not much better than its northern brethren. The current Republic of Korea (South Korea) was established in 1948. Although nominally established as a democracy, the country was not fully democratized until 1987.

In the four decades between its birth and full democratization, South Korea would undergo three fascist dictators. The first one, Syngman Rhee (who was also South Korea’s first president,) ruled for 12 years by rigging elections at first, then later declaring himself to be the lifetime president. A popular protest overthrew him and established a democratic government. (Rhee fled to Hawaii, where he died.) That democratic government lasted a year and a half, until the second dictator, Park Chung-hee, rolled into Seoul with tanks to depose the democratic government. He, too, rigged elections and declared himself to be the lifetime president. Park proceeded to rule the country for 18 years, until he was assassinated. Amid the chaos that followed, the third dictator--Chun Doo-hwan--again rolled into Seoul with tanks and anointed himself to be the president. He ruled for 7 years, until 1987.

When I say Rhee, Park and Chun were fascists, I literally mean the term “fascists.” They were real, true fascists who commandeered the Korean economy and fattened their own coffers. (Chun was found to have collected more than a billion dollars during his seven-year reign into his slush fund, a staggering sum for South Korea of the 1980s.) They held up newspaper editors at gunpoints and dictated what the newspapers should say. If the Korean people criticized their rule, they were beaten, tortured and killed. If a leader emerged in the opposition, they jailed and/or assassinated the leader.

Yet today, South Korea boasts the most robust democracy in East Asia. In 2013, it is virtually unimaginable that South Korea would backslide into another round of military rule. South Korean democracy is operates efficiently enough to foster its world-class corporations. South Korean democracy creates peaceful resolutions to fractious political issues in accordance with the rule of law. In its quarter-century history, South Korean democracy already experienced two peaceful transitions of power--conservative to liberal, then again to conservative. 

What is more, South Korean democracy serves its essential function: check the excesses of power in accordance with the rule of law. In 1996, the democratic Korean government successfully prosecuted Chun Doo-hwan to life in prison. When the sons of presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung were alleged to have received bribes, Korea’s justice system investigated them and put them into jail. When president Roh Moo-hyun in 2004 was alleged to have violated election laws, he was impeached. Korea’s press serves their rightful role as the watchdog, being independent (albeit with commonplace journalistic slants,) loud and activist.

In short, South Korea is a free country--although, only a quarter century ago, it was not. And Korean people managed to achieve this peacefully, without resorting to guns.

*                 *                 *

I have told this story enough times to know that, right around this point of the story, the gun advocate would interject: “But you never know what would have happened if Koreans did have guns. If Koreans had guns, the dictatorship may have fallen in 10 years or 20 years instead of 40.” But actually, Koreans did try the armed insurrection option first.

The second dictator, Park Chung-hee, was assassinated in October 1979. But the Korean people’s brief hope for democracy was almost immediately dashed, when Chun Doo-hwan rolled into Seoul with tanks in December 1979. For the first few months afterward, Chun attempted to co-opt the democratization activists into his faction, hoping that the activists would support the military’s role in politics. But Korea’s democratization activists soon saw through Chun Doo-hwan to be as much of a dictator as Park Chung-hee. In early May 1980, the activists resumed their demands for democracy and protests in the streets. In response, on May 17, 1980, Chun Doo-hwan declared martial law nationwide, dissolved the National Assembly and arrested 2,699 opposition leaders and democratization activists. Pursuant to the martial law--which is really no law at all--Chun Doo-hwan sent the military to all major cities to quell any organized opposition to his ascendance. One of the objectives of the military was to drive out the students from college campuses, traditionally the epicenter of democratization movement.

In the southwestern city of Gwangju, the sixth largest city in Korea which many of the democratization movement leaders called home, the protesters took a stand. On the morning of May 18, the day after the nationwide martial law was declared, some 800 Jeonnam University students gathered outside of the gates of their campus in Gwangju, and demanded the paratroopers who were guarding the gate to step aside, so that they may attend their classes. The paratroopers beat the students with billy clubs; the students responded by throwing rocks at the paratroopers. Students then retreated into the city; the paratroopers gave chase, and began indiscriminately beating any Gwangju citizen who got in the way.

Paratroopers beating Gwangju citizens, on May 19, 1980.
The next day, Gwangju was in a full-blown rebellion with tens of thousands of protesters, as regular Gwangju citizens, enraged by the paratroopers assault on the city, joined the student protesters. The military government sent reinforcement, with orders for a more brutal crackdown. Paratroopers were now armed with bayonets, and went on a beating and stabbing rampage across the city. They would kill the first Gwangju citizen that day; a thirty-year-old deaf man was dead from brain hemorrhage after having been beaten from the paratroopers. The fight continued the next day, with the protesters setting up barricades and raining rocks upon the paratroopers. The events would take a fateful turn at around 11 p.m. on May 20. At the Gwangju train station plaza, the paratroopers opened fire to the protesters. Three protesters died on the spot; dozens more were injured. Having learned that the military government was ready to shoot and kill civilians, the citizens of Gwangju began to arm themselves.

This scene might warm the heart of an American gun advocate. Indeed, this scene may as well be the exact type of romantic image that the “we-need-guns-to-fight-tyranny” folks have been dreaming of. Because the citizens of Gwangju were able to raid the nearby military armories, they were armed with military grade weapons, including walkie-talkies, assault rifles, M2 machine guns, hand grenades and TNTs. The citizen militia even had KM900 armored cars (!) as they raided an automobile plant in Gwangju that manufactured armored cars. What is more, Gwangju’s citizen militia actually knew how to properly use these weapons. Because nearly every Korean male served (and still serves) two years of mandatory military service, Gwangju’s citizens did not face a deficit of disciplined organization against the incoming military government’s forces.

In fact, the entire city of Gwangju organized with discipline. Although there was no police or any other law enforcement, there was no looting or disorder. Although every man was armed, there was no robbery. The citizen militia took over the local granary and distributed food in an orderly fashion. Those with medical training volunteered to tend the wounded; people lined up to give their blood. Womenfolk delivered food, ammos and messages to the militia in the forward positions. Most importantly, just like they learned in the military, the armed citizens of Gwangju fortified key buildings of the city, and waited for the advance.

Women of Gwangju preparing rice for the civilian militia. Photo taken on May 22, 1980.
(For more photos of the Gwangju Uprising, visit the official online photo archive here.)

The city would remain free for one week. On May 27, 1980, the paratroopers, escorted with tanks, overran the provincial office of Gwangju, the citizen militia’s last holdout. The entire episode--later termed Gwangju Democratization Uprising--claimed more than 600 lives, including eight young children under the age of 14. More than three thousand Gwangju citizens were injured; nearly 1,600 people were arrested, and were tortured for days, months. The trauma from the arrest was so great that more than 10 percent of those arrested committed suicide after release.

*               *               *

Does freedom require civilian gun ownership? If your answer is yes, here is a follow-up question--why is it that so many oppressed people around the world, who are keenly aware of their oppression and are doing everything to fight for freedom, are not clamoring for the right to civilian gun ownership? American democracy is the envy of the world, the ultimate model for the emerging democracies. How is that none of those emerging democracies have guaranteed a right to civilian gun ownership, even as they emulate American democracy?

This was also the case for the South Korean democracy, which was explicitly modeled after the American one--after all, the first constitution of South Korea was practically written by American attorneys and legal scholars. Korea’s democratization activists enthusiastically called for all the peculiar features of America’s democracy to be incorporated into Korean democracy, such as freedom of speech and press or the checks and balances of the three branches of the government. 

But not civilian gun ownership. In fact, South Korea has been one of the most gun-free societies in the world from the beginning of the republic, through the military dictatorships and as a democracy today. This is not because Koreans are effete sissies who are irrationally afraid of guns. Nearly every Korean male serves his military duty, during which he constantly handles weapons. Indeed, as a society, Korea may have a healthier “gun culture” than the U.S., since everyone who is likely to handle firearms undergoes a rigorous and proper training. Yet, even in the face of the murderous tyranny, Koreans did not even consider the possibility of demanding civilian gun ownership. Why?

Because Koreans understood that freedom is a social movement. Freedom is not a piece of golden fleece that a bullet-spraying, Rambo-like hero can snatch off from a mythical beast. (Indeed, only someone who never truly experienced tyranny--i.e. majority of Americans--would think this way.) Your ability to fend off one or two lackeys of the dictatorship who are coming to arrest you means nothing, when the dictatorship can easily send one or two dozen more. As we could see from Gwangju, even a whole city organized and armed is no match for the tyranny that is able to bear down the rest of the country’s forces upon that city. Freedom in a society happens when, and only when, that entire society demands freedom. When the entire society earnestly demands freedom, even the most murderous tyrannies are rendered powerless.

Only seven years after the massacre in Gwangju, South Korean citizens would prove this point. On January 14, 1987, a student activist Park Jong-cheol was killed while being waterboarded under police custody. The Chun Doo-hwan dictatorship initially attempted to cover up the death. But on May 18, 1987, at the seven-year memorial mass of the Gwangju Uprising held in Seoul, Father Kim Seung-hoon revealed that Park in fact died because of torture. Another round of protest erupted across Korea. On June 9, 1987, Yi Han-yeol, another student activist was fatally wounded by a tear gas shell while marching in the ensuing demonstrations.

Citizens of Seoul march in the June Struggle, with a giant photo of Lee Han-yeol in memoriam.
Korean people have had enough. Over the next three weeks, the country would erupt in waves of protests, at a scale never seen before. The Chun dictatorship deployed 60,000 armed police to crack down the protests, but the police was overrun by the sheer number of the protesters. The protesters were no longer just college students; they were priests in robes, high school students in uniforms, white collar workers in suits. The protesters asked the drivers to show their support for the movement by waving white handkerchief out of their windows while honking their horns as they passed by the protesters. It was an incredible scene: the streets of Seoul were a cacophonous din of white, with every car pressing down on its horns and waving a white handkerchief.

The protests crested on June 26, when more than 1.3 million Koreans marched for democracy in 37 cities across the country. Three days later, the dictatorship capitulated, and issued a statement promising direct elections and transition to true democracy. In December 1987, South Korea would hold the first free and fair presidential election in the republic’s history. Thus, Koreans achieved what Mahatma Gandhi achieved in India, what Martin Luther King Jr. achieved in America--they defeated tyranny without guns.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I know an African-American who also happens to be an extremely religious and conservative Republican. This individual, although reluctant to embrace the idea of banning guns and assault weapons, expressed a refusal to ever personally own a gun.

    I never would have made the connection if not for this post.

  2. I'm from Finland and we do have a very high rate of gun ownership here. Actually, we rank 4th after US, Yemen and Switzerland. It is true that we have rather strict laws about owning, storing and using the guns (you have to get a permission to each weapon, you have to have a locked cupboard to store them, you have to store bullets separately albeit unlike in Switzerland you would store them at home etc.), but nevertheless, amount of gun violence in Finland is VERY low. I mean very low. Finland unfortunately is in a more violent end of the European countries meaning that more people are killed yearly here than in other Western European countries. Of all those killed around 17 % are killed with a gun and half of the guns used are illegal.

    Simply put: we have a helluva lot of guns. We don't really kill people with them.

    What comes to suicides, I think that is a bad example. People will use means available to them to kill themselves and also culture has a high impact on suicide rates. Japan, for example, has a very high suicide rate even though gun ownership rate is very very low - private person cannot own a gun, I suppose. And I'm sure you know that South Korea also has a very high suicide rate.

    Finland also has a high suicide rate and yes, guns are used. Hanging is the most common way for men to end themselves but firearms take a second place - 35 % of men who kill themselves go for hanging, 27 % use firearms. Women use poison (pills or whatever they can) or hang themselves, mostly.

    All in all, I don't really see that guns are problem at least here.

    1. You guys have a lot of guns, and you don't really kill people with them, because as you noted, your gun ownership is strictly regulated. The point is not that presence of guns magically kills people. The point is that unregulated mass ownership of guns (as is the case in the U.S.) leads to more gun deaths and more deaths generally. If U.S. had as strict regulations as Finland did, I would not be writing this post.

    2. It's not only that. It depends on the culture.Most killings in Finland happen in small group gatherings at somebody's home and if the said person has weapons (and as seem, a LOT of Finns do have them), it would be rather easy to use it. You go fetch the gun, load it and BAM.

      But no, a Finn will most likely use a knife or something similar. Guns are used by criminals, in mass shootings or in "family suicides" (a parent, usually father, kills his whole family).

      In US you have, for example, a lot of gang violence. We have virtually none of it. I could also check statistics of Britain but I would bet even not seeing them that in UK percentage of killings made with firearms is much higher than in Finland even though guns are prohibited there. Criminals will have them and UK has a higher organized crime rate than Finland.

  3. 2nd Admendment my friend...apparently it doesn't mean anything to you. Typical commie liberal! Any gun our government has ...the people should have period! After all that was the purpose of the second admendment to give the people the right to defend themselves from government tyranny.

    1. Please read the post first, then comment. Thanks.

    2. We could have had it all~ Trolling in the deep~

      But on a more serious note, I'll raise an issue that a Facebook friend left in a comment when I linked this story. I have my own thoughts about it but I'm curious as to how you would respond, TK:

      "The ability of many Koreans dissatisfied with society to work together in a nonviolent and non-weapon-needing way to "defeat tyranny without guns" seems to end at the 38th parallel. This fact seems to be extremely relevant to the political theory you're trying to build here."

    3. It's a silly point that is irrelevant. It's what I call "guns as voodoo gods" theory. There is zero reason to think that North Koreans with guns would be able to overthrow the Kim dynasty, but that does not enter the heads of the guns-as-voodoo-gods folks.

    4. In fact, we know that North Koreans with guns have already tried - and failed - to do so. "Remembering the Coup d'etat in 1996"

  4. You betray your non-American roots by -in the course of analysis of an American a social, political or economic issue - consulting any experience beyond a fictionalised version of US history.

    Anywhere else, at least in the Anglo-Saxon world, it is routine when confronted with any kind of social issue to see how others (including the US) have confronted the issue and how successful they have been. That Americans almost never do this lends truth to Churchill's quip that Americans can be counted on to do the right thing after all other possibilities have been exhausted.

    You have correctly pointed to the Australian experience with gun control as being relevant to demonstrate that strict controls leads to fewer violent deaths. It is also relevant to pro-gun advocates in a way that they ought to consider.

    In the days leading up to the massacre that triggered Australia's strict gun control laws the state of Tasmania was unique amongst Australia's states in having no laws governing gun ownership whatsoever. The gun owners were in the past usually able to fend off gun control by arguing in effect that this or that state's laws were fine but the cops were too dumb to enforce them.

    Martin Bryant, the perpetrator to the massacre, was well known to law enforcement as the village psychopath. There is even news footage of a teenaged Martin Bryant looking very strange saying to the camera that he did not regret having committed arson (a wooden dock as I recall) and would do it again.

    When Bryant shot all of those people with an assault rife at the Port Arthur tourist attraction , the gun lobby had no where to hide. The Prime Minister of the day, John Howard, told the states the details of the legislation they would be required to enact or he would move a constitutional amendment that would permit the Federal Government to it.

    The once powerful in rural Australia gun lobby tried to be heard, but no one was listening. Their past success in thwarting sensible gun legislation made them irrelevant to the debate that took place after Port Arthur. The result was one of the just about strictest regime of gun control imaginable short of outlawing private ownership of firearms altogether. Stricter than anyone would have dared advocate prior to the Port Arthur massacre.

    So gun advocates, be careful what you ask for.

    1. Big thumbs up for: "You betray your non-American roots by . . . consulting any experience beyond a fictionalised version of US history."

  5. 호헌철폐, 독재타도!
    Ah... good times...
    I miss 1987...

  6. Just a quick reply. No guns for the American colonists--no United States of America as we know it. No guns for the Allied powers--a world with millions of less diverse people ruled by Hitler and the Japanese Emperor (there'd be no "Comfort Women" or "Liancourt Rocks" issues today). No restrictive gun laws in Mexico--maybe 26,000 Mexicans still alive over the last six years thanks to extremely restrictive gun laws that aren't protecting average citizens there as the Narcos continue their reign of terror along the U.S. border. No guns used by Americans in the Korean War--there'd be no democratic South Korea of today.

    "Thus,(South) Koreans defeated tyranny without guns." Yet, it took guns to get them to that point. And the ROK still relies on their own military's guns, and those of the United States, to ensure their freedom from the tyranny of the North.

    1. You know very well that I am not advocating for abolition of the military, so I don't see how any part of your comment is relevant.

    2. Great post. I love how you systematically deconstructed all the arguments in favor of lax gun control.

      The only argument I thought of that you didn't address is the original poster's point. That is, I often hear the argument that the Japanese didn't invade the U.S. largely because every citizen was considered armed.

      I think you address "internal tyranny" well, and there is probably some overlap with tyranny exerted from outside the country.

  7. I agree the red herring argument is stupid. Everything else...

    Legal: With all due respect, this one is just silly. Let me make something clear: PREVIOUS COURT DECISIONS DON'T MATTER. You can't have it both ways, it's either one or the other. Another thing, there WERE court cases that ruled in support of the 2nd Amendment: Marbury v. Madison and Houston v. Moore. The first court case allowing gun control was Dred Scott v. Sandford which prohibited any and all slaves to have guns. This was in 1857, long after our Founding Fathers died off. Here's a sentence structure diagram of the 2nd Amendment proving, without any shadow of a doubt, that the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right fr individuals to keep and bear arms:

    Policy: I can give links too. Many of your studies are outdated and have been debunked. These links will covers pretty much all of them:

    Pragmatic: There's something about Australia you don't know. Three years after Australia’s controversial ban was implemented, when 643,000 weapons had been surrendered, Inspector John McCoomb, the head of the state of Queensland’s Weapons Licensing Branch, told The Sunday Mail, "About 800,000 (semi-automatic and automatic) SKK and SKS weapons came in from China back in the 1980s as part of a trade deal between the Australian and Chinese governments. And it was estimated that there were 1.2 million semi-automatic Ruger 10/22s in the country. That's about 2 million firearms of just two types in the country. For more, read this article:

    Political Philosophy: I have an honest question, was the entire country up in arms during this Gwangju incident? Peaceful protests work sometimes, they make it impossible to portray the protester as the bad guys and show the masses who's the good guys. After the Gwangju incident, A LOT more people people new about what really happened, didn't they?. What would happen then if Chun Doo-hwan regime persisted? If the peaceful protests failed? I feel a full scale revolution would've taken place at that point. You miss the reasoning behind this argument entirely. Armed insurrection is purely a last resort, when the dictator is to hard-headed to give up to peaceful protests. It didn't work too well in Tianenman Square.

    1. I think you should step outside of your political bubble to get the facts.

      Legal: Here, you are spectacularly wrong. You so confidently declares that previously court decisions don't matter. That's just not true. You learn stare decisis literally on Day 1 of your law school: "let the previous case stand." This is the bedrock principle of American law.

      You are also wildly incorrect about the case law. Marbury does not even mention the Second Amd. Read the text of the case. Houston is not about the Second Amd either; it is about someone who refused to serve in a state militia. Nor is Dred Scott about guns. Try and actually read the cases, instead of relying on the spins from the Internet lawyers.

      Policy: It's funny to see that you argue my studies are outdated, and try to prove it by giving studies that are even older. Try again.

      Pragmatic: I don't understand the point you are trying to make here. So what?

      Political philosophy: To answer the question, no, not the entire country was up in arms during the Gwangju Uprising. In June Struggle, the entire country participated, and that's why Chun's regime fell.

      I don't see the point of asking what would happen if the peaceful protest (=June Struggle) failed. It didn't fail--that's a historical fact that cannot be altered. It did not fail because the entire society demanded freedom, not just a single individual or a single city.

    2. "I don't see the point of asking what would happen if the peaceful protest (=June Struggle) failed. It didn't fail--that's a historical fact that cannot be altered. It did not fail because the entire society demanded freedom, not just a single individual or a single city."

      I can sort of see the relevance here. Another way of phrasing the point would have been to ask, "What was the relationship between guns and gun control, and the effects of the Arab Spring on Tunisia and Egypt on the one hand, and Libya and Syria on the other?"

      Of course, I also feel that TK has already answered this question in this post.

    3. Also important to note: the Chun regime raised a media blackout on Gwangju (and cut every telephone line coming out of that city) so that people thought of it as a NK sponsored commie riot. Some still do.

    4. @The Korean

      Legal: During WWI, the Supreme Court ruled that you couldn't say anything positive about the Germans. Saying that the 1st Amendment has it's limits. Funny how this Court case has no relevance to today. Your definition of stare decisis is warped. Stare decisis says that that judges apply the same reasoning to lawsuits as has been used in prior similar cases, not that previous court cases MUST have a bearing on current ones. Chief Justice Roberts himself says it's neither a inexorable command nor a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision.

      Marbury v. Madison claims that ANY laws on a Constitutional Amendment are null and void. That doesn't exclude the 2nd Amendment. Houston v. Moore distinguished the Militia powers and the right to keep and bear arms. Dred Scott v. Sandford outlined that slaves do not have a right to keep and bear arms.

      Policy: Apart from not reading the links yourself, you clearly misunderstood the bit about me saying your studies are outdated. I was saying that in the context of them already being debunked.

      Pragmatic: The point I'm trying to make is that there are still MILLIONS of guns in Australia that weren't turned in. The ban didn't do anything.

      Political Philosophy: Stop avoiding the question, what IF these peaceful protests failed? Would they have just given up? No, if they failed, South Korea would be plunged into a revolution. The WHOLE country was ready to fight Chun's regime. Chun was smart enough not to set them off.

    5. - Legal: If you want to talk about the law, cite the actual language of the cases and point to the languages in the case law that supports your propositions. As it stands, all you have is a series of bald assertions. If this exchange happened before a judge, you would be laughed out of the court right now. (Not in the least because of your furious backtracking--first, you claim in all caps that previous cases don't matter, then now you claim previous cases do matter.)

      - Policy: I did read all the links, thanks. I see none of the three studies I cited debunked. If you want to point me to something that purports to debunk the studies I cited, feel free.

      - Pragmatic: The ban resulted in 60% drop in gun-related homicide. So clearly it did do something. Also, note from the Slate article that I linked: "There have been some contrarian studies about the decrease in gun violence in Australia, including a 2006 paper that argued the decline in gun-related homicides after Port Arthur was simply a continuation of trends already under way. But that paper’s methodology has been discredited, which is not surprising when you consider that its authors were affiliated with pro-gun groups. Other reports from gun advocates have similarly cherry-picked anecdotal evidence or presented outright fabrications in attempting to make the case that Australia’s more-restrictive laws didn’t work. Those are effectively refuted by findings from peer-reviewed papers, which note that the rate of decrease in gun-related deaths more than doubled following the gun buyback, and that states with the highest buyback rates showed the steepest declines."

      - Political philosophy: Stop asking an irrelevant question. Do you have any reason to think that the June Struggle would fail? And even if I generously accept your irrational premise, what reasons do you have to think that there would be a revolution? And what does that have to do with gun ownership?

  8. This article moved me to tears; very powerful words

  9. I don't understand. You use 21st century achievements to spread and illustrate your words, but not willing to use achievements of 19th century to protect your life? It just doesn't make sense... But it's your choice, after all.

    By the way, illustrating Koreans and firearms - different conditions require different approach, not everything is black and white, not everywhere this "gunless stuff" would work.
    For example it's Koreans who resisted riots in LA with guns, by killing criminals, protecting their lives and property.

    Comment on this, prohibitionist Korean, I dare you.

    1. "different conditions require different approach, not everything is black and white"

      You should tell that to gun advocates, because they are the ones who are making the categorical argument that guns are needed at all times, regardless of time and place, to secure freedom.

      As to the 1992 riot, look up which ethnicity suffered the most damage as a result of the riots. And also look up who killed the one Korean who died from the riots. I dare you.

    2. Please, don't simplify. If you have a gun, you don't have to shoot it. If you don't have one- you don't have much choice, now do you? Gunless protesting is all you have left.

      Single killed Korean was killed by friendly fire. If Koreans were better organized, the count would be zero. Single victim vs how many saved? Why would you advocate 'gunless approach' after this? It just doesn't compute...

      By the way- South Korea can face a serious threat from North. I don't see how GA can be possibly applied here.

      All I'm saying is that you can't rely on gunless approach in all situations. North Korea is a good example. Tibet is another good example. There're situations when you have to fight back. Whether it's enemy country or your wife's rapist.

    3. I really have no idea why gun advocates just have such a hard time distinguishing banning civilian gun ownership, and not have an armed military. NO ONE is advocating the latter, but gun advocates almost always conflate the two. Why is that? I refuse to believe that stupidity is the answer, because that would be just too bleak.

  10. Good article! I am an American, and by an American, I mean someone whose family participated in the American revolution, owns guns, has a big 4x4 truck, has worked as a cowboy, etc.
    This wonderful piece, among others, has brought me to realize that the argument for gun control is completely rational, and that I still hate it.
    Towards the end of the piece, the democracy that Gandhi, King, and the Koreans have achieved was mentioned as a standard by which societies could be judged. I do not like that type of democracy, and want nothing to do with it.
    One thing that these three 'democracies' have in common, is that they prevailed over tired opponents who lacked the will to defeat them. Gandhi seems particularly disgusting to me when viewed in this light. The British of a bygone era would have whipped him to death in full public view, then accepted the ensuing riots as a challenge, slaughtered as many Indians as possible in them, used their superior military technology to hobble the countries infrastructure and let them stew in the ensuing famine to think about how great Gandhi was for a decade or so before taking the reigns more firmly in hand and resuming control over the sub-continent. The British that Gandhi defeated were weak, and had been softened by decades of listless prosperity followed by world wars that killed most of their best and bravest.
    This does not seem like a glorious achievement to me. To make an admittedly silly metaphor, it seems more like a middle aged child suffocating their aging parent with a pillow in a hospital room than like a spectacular, youthful rebellion.
    I am not a civilized person, and do not wish to become one. I want guns and violence to be a part of my life and the lives of the people I love. I do not want my children to grow up in the soft mediocracy of a peaceful world, and am actually a little disgusted by the idea that they might. I respect Chingis Khaan, but not Gandhi. I would rather go to Valhalla than heaven. And I would prefer death to yielding up my arms...

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks for the insight. My sense was that the gun advocate's arguments were more about aesthetic instincts than rational desire for peace, and your comment really illustrated that point.

  11. This is the best gun control argument Ive ever read! Great work TK!

  12. TK this granny loves you, but what part of "shall not be infringed" do you not understand?

    1. Neither can I nor can anyone understand that sentence fragment without seeing the entire clause in which the fragment appears, as well as the centuries of constitutional law that was built on top of that entire clause.

    2. Granny, what part of "three fifths of all other persons" do you not understand?

  13. I sent this article to my friend, he claims you're cherrypicking your information and not presenting the whole picture. And that your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is "flat out wrong".

    He also says the South Korean government publicly stated that the strategy for an invasion by the north is to surrender the top 1/4 of the country to the communists, leaving the people to fend for themselves. Which sounds ridiculous. Is that even remotely true?

    1. You should ask him which law school he attended in order to formulate his legal philosophy on the Second Amendment. His claim about South Korean "strategy" is completely insane.

    2. SoOoOo...what law scholl did u attend???...btw...u should go back home an study sum more your prob from china neways trying to pit the Koreans against Americans I hope u go to a ball game an chock on a hotdawg ya commie basterd

    3. Well, isn't this lovely. Someone abusing their freedom of speech to be rude to a person that he doesn't even know. You definitely make my beloved home country seem like a great place that is SUPER accepting. Oh, by the way, awesome grammar. You should be proud of that.

  14. TK, you're a smart dude and wrote a good post. If you don't like guns, then you should't get one. If you don't like your neighbors having guns, then you should live somewhere else. Lets not forget... the U.S. wouldn't exist if it weren't for its armed civilians. I don't like Salsa or Merengue blasting out of cars but I put up with it because that's the individual price I must pay for us to enjoy freedom of speech.
    I love being a Korean-American and I love my handgun collection. If the price of having the freedom to bear arms is the occasional murder, then fine. I live in CT, only a couple towns from Newtown and the incident really hot home. However, to blame all guns or gun owners to me feels no different than locking up Japanese-Americans in internment camps because they might be a potential threat.
    Guns aren't the problem. The lack of love and compassion by the murders are. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy my guns, not to shoot people but to shoot paper targets. You don't have to like it.

    1. A lot of interesting points there.

      - First, the U.S. wouldn't exist if it weren't for its armed militia. Big difference.

      - A partner of my law firm (another Korean Am) is an ex-military attorney and also quite fond of shooting and owns a large collection of handguns. And he keeps them all at a nearby shooting range. I have shot guns with him, and I have no problem with gun ownership in that manner. What I don't understand is why it must be the case that the guns must be owned, kept, stored, and used with little regulation.

      - "If the price of having the freedom to bear arms is the occasional murder, then fine." That's quite a statement.

    2. It is quite a statement, but it is very honest. If gun control advocates were equally as honest they would say "If the price of gun control is the occasional genocide, then fine."

      Individuals kill a total of millions...governments kill a total of hundreds of millions...and you want to disarm the former while arming the latter?

    3. Yeaup number one killer in history DEMOCIDE FUCKER LOOK THAT UP!!!

  15. I've really come around on the gun issue, thanks to being statistically literate and active in the skeptic movement. I did grow up with guns, and with people who emphasized safety and responsibility, but when the evidence is this strong, I can read the writing on the wall.

    I guess that one of the big conceptual obstacles for responsible pro-gun types is their (correct) perception that most anti-gun sentiment is driven by irrational gut reactions from people who have no real experience around guns, rather than by science. People do overblow sensationalist news stories, do readily quote ridiculous statistics (like absolute deaths rather than rates for nations with very different populations), and this pisses me off to no end. I'd even go so far as to say that most people could stand to be less viscerally afraid of guns, and more afraid every time they get into a car.

    However, there's irrationality on the other side as well, and it's one of the deepest and hardest to shake: a tendency to hugely underestimate the chance that one's loved ones or oneself will in the future become inclined to act homicidally or suicidally, relative to strangers. This is an obvious form of ingroup-outgroup bias, yet even people who are well aware of the phenomenon usually fail to apply the analysis to themselves. The studies are crystal clear, though. When you control for all of the other factors implicated in violence (drugs and alcohol, prior mental illness, poverty, criminal record, broken home) the takeaway message is that guns are a large independent risk factor.

    Yes, it's true that a hardened criminal will easily kill me with a kitchen knife. The point I need to grasp, though, is that my chance of being confronted by a dangerous criminal is substantially lower than the chance that I (during the large percentage of my time that I'll be spending in the company of myself) might flip out at myself, a loved one or a neighbor. Or my loved one might. Nobody wants to think this, and I'm no exception. But science simply has to trump our self-serving biases.

  16. The civil rights movement understood only too well that if they resorted to violence, particularly with firearms, the government of the day would have seized on the excuse to ruthlessly suppress them with even greater violence. The best defense the public has against tyranny is not guns but mass organization and protest.

    1. I wonder when the NRA will declare that Trayvon Martin, or any other Black American unfairly targeted by the authorities should've been armed to protect their liberty.

  17. @Cambyses Sonofcyrus:

    Wait, what?

    Are you The Judge from Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN??!!

  18. I really enjoyed this article! Thanks!

  19. Love this! So well thought out and written. I appreciate the insight into Korean history as well!

  20. I'm surprised The Korean never mentioned gun regulations on military bases, which are more strict than civilian laws. As far as I know based on laws when I was in service, concealed weapons are strictly forbidden on base while if living on base, you have to turn in your weapon to the Provost Marshall office, which is usually leads to it being stored in the armory. Owners get around this by storing their gun at a friend's house outside the base. As far as your issued weapon, it's also stored at the armory while the ammunition is stored at another depot under armed guard. Many servicemen are conservative gun owners and while they gripe about base policy, they don't seem to rage themselves. Perhaps it's because they, like the superior officers who run the base, know that having guns in close proximity with 18-25 year olds who may have had quite a few to drink during liberty on base is a bad bad bad idea. As far as I know, spree shootings on base are very rare. I can only think of one that happened these past two decades.

  21. Interestingly enough, there are frustrations between the US Pentagon and the NRA over soldier's personally owned firearms, which soldiers often use for suicides.

  22. Korean, while I agree generally with your gun control views (ban on assault rifles, more regulations, etc.), I think the points several posters brought up warrant a discussion. Arawn brings up an interesting point about Britain and Finland. Also, I think cosmolyne is proposing a thought experiment -- what if a tyrant won't relent after people peaceably demonstrate? In fact, that is exactly what gave rise to the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

    The reason Americans are into guns is that it is rooted in tradition. This is how we won our independence. Back in the 18th century, the insurgents didn't have the benefit of having their civil disobedience broadcasted on CNN for the whole world to see, which would make a tyrant back down. Case in point, throwing the tea into the Boston Harbor wasn't a strong enough protest for King George to relent. It was when England came to DISARM the insurgents that the battle of Lexington and Concord happened. And this brings me to the definition of militia. Militia back then was just a bunch of regular CILIVIANS in different communities who would assemble to fend of attacks against Indians and loyalists. Back then, almost every civilian (men, anyway) was already armed because they were pioneering in a new land and needed guns to fight off Indians, intruders, wild animals.... The possession of guns in real home came in real handy because it allowed civilians to quickly mobilize into militias to fight the redcoats and the loyalists. So I'm not sure that Scalia's interpretation of the Second Amendment is that crazy - that it was an understood right that citizens already had and that no law should abridge that right. Stare decisis isn't absolute, as you know. We all know from Brown vs. Board of Educ. and numerous other cases that courts have overturned their prior rulings.

    Now the argument about whether it is a collective right or an individual right gets complicated for me. If one argues that it is a collective right and, therefore, no one can have a handgun in his home, how exactly would civilians be able to bear arms if our leader should go crazy? Do we all run to the nearest gun store? Is there a weapons cache that will be accessible to us? What modern day militias are there? There isn't any. It would be us -- civilians -- bearing arms and forming militias to fight against tyranny just like the colonialists did during the AR War. But how do we bear arms if none of us have guns? So, the question is -- what force does the Second Amendment have if we were to accept the collective right argument? This collective right to form a militia seems pointless if we don't have weapons. An interesting point is the French Revolution. The first thing the common people did was to strom the Bastille, where there was a weapons cache, so that they could arm themselves to overthrow the monarch. What can we do now? Raid the nearest army base?

    So back to the thought experiment. Could Korea have fought off Japanese colonialism if every Korean man had been armed? Could India have fought off British colonialism in the first place if it had been armed? I think so. I think most tyrants would think twice before fighting millions of people who are armed.

  23. (continued) The only reason I am for gun control is that I can't imagine a society where everyone walks around with assault weapons. There are just too many criminals, crazy or impulsive people out there. But I couldn't care less what people had in their homes so long as they don't bring it out in public (unless there was some revolution against tyranny going on). So I am not convinced that an individual shouldn't have the right to have a handgun in his home for self-defense (the issue in Heller). If I am a single mom living with my child in a crime-ridden slum, who is the government to tell me I cannot have a gun inside my house in a lockbox so that I can protect myself against potential rapists and murderers? When I read the news about that singlemom with a baby who fended off her attackers (who came into her house with a knife) with her rifle, I think "Thank God she had a gun." When I think about that Connecticut family who was brutally raped and murdered in their home, I wonder if having a gun would have made a difference. My husband, being a typical egotistical Korean golf afficionado that he is, thinks he can fend off intruders with his 3-iron. I would rather use a gun, theoretically. The only reason I don't have one is that I'm too much of a chicken shit to use it and I have kids who like to ransack my closet.

    1. I'll point out just a few of the most basic errors:

      - Brown actually did not overturn anything.
      - "Raiding the nearest army base" is essentially what citizens of Gwangju did. The same is the case with many, many armed insurrections of history.
      - Korean men were in fact armed and organized volunteer forces. There were three major rounds of guerrilla warfare against the Japanese, in 1894, 1905 and 1907. They were slaughtered.
      - If you have a gun in your house, you and your family are much more likely to die because of that gun than because of any intruder. This is proven beyond any reasonable doubt.

    2. (1) I thought Brown overturned the doctrine of "separate but equal" set forth by Plessy v. Ferguson. But then, I went to law school almost 20 years ago so I don't recall much, esp. those Con Law cases that seemed to go on forever.
      (2) I don't know what errors you're referring to. My point is not that a few guns would have undone history. My point is that an entire armed populace may have made a difference. Maybe the Gwangju citizens wouldn't have had to raid the nearest army base if they all had guns. And if they had been armed, they could have been shooting guns instead of throwing rocks. How many civilians had gun in Korea during the time of the massacre? Almost none, right? Gwangju is not a country. Imagine if Korea had over 90% gun possession, do you think Chun would have killed almost all of its citizens?
      (3) Same point here - yes, there were armed guerilla fighters. I don't dispute that. But how many Korean civilians were armed when Japan came to colonize Korea? Not many.
      (4) Proven beyond a reasonable doubt - can you cite links and statistics? I've heard that point before and I am genuinely curious about where they get this conclusion. What exactly are they comparing - accidental gun deaths vs. gun-related homicides? Within a home? Is suicide included and if so, in what category? I just checked Wiki because I was curious and for the year 2000 in the U.S, here is the firearms stats: 29,000 deaths (1.2% of the total number of deaths) -- Suicide: 16,586; homicide: 10,801; Accidents: 776; Legal intervention: 270; Unknown: 230. But alas, there's no definition of what constitutes homicide and what is "an accident."

    3. Korean, I am curious - when Stevens and the other dissenting Justices argue that the Second Amendment only provides a collective right - how are they suggesting this collective right be exercised?

      If someone argues that we should do away with the Second Amendment because the concept of a well regulated militia is outdated (like Meri did below), I think that is a valid point although a theoretical counterargument can be made in terms of deterrence of tyranny. But for people to argue that someone can't have a gun unless it's for the purpose of having a well regulated militia, that just doesn't make any sense to me because then when would anyone have a right to bear arms in this modern age? What is a well regulated militia in the modern sense? Do states even have armies? Since you wrote a paper on this issue, maybe you can weigh in.

    4. (1) Brown distinguished previous cases based on the fact that it was about public schools, which was not an issue with Plessy.

      (2) If Gwangju citizens could so easily arm themselves, don't you think the rest of Korea could have done so as well?

      (3) The "guerrillas" were not actually guerrillas at all. They were former Korean soldiers who were disbanded by the Japanese. And they numbered in the tens of thousands.

      (4) It includes suicides and accidental discharges:

      (5) Justice Stevens and the dissenters are suggesting: go form a militia, and nobody can take away the guns from that militia. In a modern sense, a state can call anything a militia. And in fact, 21 states currently have a militia.

    5. (1) Plessy established a "separate but equal" precedent. Brown carved out an exception to that for public schools: "Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of Plessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority. Any language in Plessy v. Ferguson contrary to this finding is rejected. We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

      Thus, with respect to public schools, Brown overturned Plessy's precedent that you can have separate but equal facilities.

      (2) How many Gwangju citizens (percentage wise) were able to easily arm themselves? When you say "easily", were there no casualties in trying to arm themselves? I don't know how easily it would for civilians to arm themselves by storming army bases. I would think it would be pretty difficult in the U.S.

      (3) I thought the KLA was mostly operating out of China and part of North Korea. How does that even equate with having almost every civilian armed against Japan? Do you think Japan would have left if Korean people peaceably demonstrated like Gwangju, without guns? Wait, they did that but that didn't persuade Japan. You say tyrants relent when "the entire society earnestly demands freedom." I think that presupposes that the tyrant cares. I don't think Japan cared much.

    6. Regarding your sentence: "Yet, even in the face of the murderous tyranny, Koreans did not even consider the possibility of demanding civilian gun ownership. Why?" I think the answer is that a murderous tyrant would never give guns to its civilians. So why would they bother asking?

      (4) I think suicides shouldn't be included. Just because I don't have a gun doesn't mean I won't commit suicide. Look at Korea. People may use guns over other options because it is quicker and perhaps more painless but that doesn't mean they wouldn't commit suicide absent a gun. Also, the abstract overview doesn't explain deterrence and the reduction in likelihood or the severity of injury. I can't access the full study. But I note that American Academy of Pediatrics are not the most critical thinkers when it comes to these studies... like how they say TV before 2 may lead to ADHD... even though the study itself says they found no causal relationship.

      (5) You mean I can go out and round up some people and arm ourselves and call ourselves a militia and they can't take our guns away? Or do only states have the right to form a militia? The latter interpretation doesn't give me much comfort in defending ourselves against tyranny.

    7. (2) Anyone in Gwangju who wanted to fight could access a gun. There were no casualties in the course of raiding the armories.

      (3) You are mixing up two very different situations: internally developed tyranny, versus a foreign invasion.

      (4) Success rate of suicide attempt with pills is in the single digit, while the same with a gun is over 85%. Gun dramatically increases the number of actual suicides.

      (5) Only states have the right to form a militia. Considering the structure of the Constitution at the time of its ratification, that is the correct result--and your comfort does not have much to do with that.

    8. (2) I don't know much about Gwangju. But I highly doubt people in the US could easily get access to a weapons cache for an insurrection. Do you?

      (3) The Second Amendment doesn't specify internal vs. external invasion. Security of a free state can refer to both.

      (4) Look at countries with the highest suicide rates. Korea, Japan, etc. There are no guns there. Possession of guns doesn't lead to higher rates of suicide. There's no reason to believe these people who shot themselves wouldn't have resorted to other definitive methods. For example, men are more likely to use guns while women are more likely to use pills. To argue that men would resort to taking pills in the absence of a gun isn't a strong argument. Maybe they would try jumping off the Golden Gate bridge.

      (5) "Structure of the Constitution" - where are you getting that? Back in the days when the Second Amendment was written, almost everyone had guns. So it's more plausible that that is what the framers intended. If you make the argument that it doesn't matter what the frames intended, Second Amendment should be abolished because it no longer makes sense, then I think that is a legitimate argument. What part of Stevens' opinion did you find so convincing?

    9. Interesting article in the Sunday NY times re: suicide rates and gun ownership

    10. @Hellenic Mellon...I get wut ur saying bout tha suicides if there tht depressed there gonna do as far as gun control and mass shootings...if someone really wanted to kill a bunch of people they could do it for ALOT LESS OF THE COST OF GUNS AND AMMO just go get uh bunch of manure and diesel fuel an make a bomb...takes care of everybody if they release wanted to kill a lot of ppl y not go that route???

  24. I would be interested to know if there is a recent example in which a population was able to defend itself from tyranny because it was armed. I can't bring one to mind. The revolutions that I have seen in my lifetime occurred thanks to civil resistance (Egypt and Tunisia) or with help from foriegn military powers (Libya). I can see how guns helped the American colonies achieve independence in the 18th century, but what good are they against modern military technology? I think that argument is a dud.

    I don't personally allow weapons in my house, but I can see the case for a person owning a rifle or handgun to protect his or her home. What I can't see is a justification for private ownership of assault rifles.

    1. Meri, I don't think we will ever be able to see such an example because most countries don't have a great majority of households with guns (like back in the 18th century). I would think theoretically, though, that it would give tyrants some pause if the entire populace was armed.

  25. If you think the value of having a gun to protect against (A) an armed intruder or (B) "government tyranny" outweighs the volumes of crystal-clear, stone-cold statistical evidence that your gun will far, FAR more likely be used by you or someone in your household for a suicide, heat-of-passion crime, or in an accident, then go ahead.

  26. Surely I'm not the only person who noticed a lot of people were bringing a knife to a gunfight in this comments section?

  27. "In short, South Korea is a free country"

    Can you buy, own, possess, carry guns?

    Can you do the same with drugs?

    Can you hire a hooker legally?

    Can you marry a person of the same gender?

    Can you start a business without a permission slip?

    Can you modify your home, or build a new one, without a permission slip?

    Can you keep 100% of what you earn?

    1. Has there ever been any society in human history in which all of the above were answered with "yes"? And since when must the concept of "freedom" encompass all of the above?

  28. A perspective from Germany:
    Having only spent a year living in the states, i never quite figured out what motivates the whole gun culture. To me it always seemed somehow connected with the much greater nationalism, military pride and "rugged" individualism that differentiates american culture from most europeans. And while almost unregulated gunownership itself is a silly and very alien concept to me, im not convinced it is the source of the much higher crime and murderrate in the US.
    There has been a steady fall of the homicide rate among the developed world in recent decades even in the US without any change in gunownership policy that i am aware of. Would a change of policy caused an even greater decline? Probably, but im unconvinced that is the biggest driver behind it. If we compare the current homicide rates between western european countries (france, germany, netherlands all around 1 per 100.000) and some asian ones (japan at 0,5, taiwan at 3,2, south korea at 2,6 singapur at 0,3) i doubt we would be best served by just copying policies of the best performing country (statistics are from ). For comparison the US is at 4,8 in the most recent statistics. I personally dont think it plausible that you could more than half the homicide rate by even the most draconian gun regulation, given that the US is in many parts a very different society from those that do better. And any semi serious attempt at this would have course have a great political and economic cost. Im convinced its impossible to find any policy that would prevent the amok shootings that make the news headlines. Of course that doesnt mean it isnt worth trying, but i do not think it would stand the cost benefit test if policy makers are concerned with saving lifes given how fierce the resistance is to this issue.
    My personal pet cause would likely be traffic related deaths. The spread of the US to the rest of the developed world is even more substantial than gun violence. From my personal experience getting a license is trivially easy and the training of drivers insufficent. Drunk driving seemed more prevailant too.

  29. @tobin

    Just part of the culture?

  30. Now you've done it TK, now you're going to end up spending the next few week refuting asinine comments

  31. 1. Sandy Hook, however awful, was a mass shooting with many contradictory statements by the media. The initial reports stated the only weapons used were handguns (including a Glock), but later they said there was a rifle – although those same initial reports said the rifle was found in the perpetrator’s car trunk.
    2. Mass shootings are relatively rare, and they generally do not even involve these so-called “assault rifles.” and the rifles which the media uses to frighten people into accepting gun control laws are not even “assault rifles” to begin with. Semiautomatic rifles like the civilian AR15 can only fire bursts at a time in addition to single shots. Fully automatic rifles – the ones Rambo uses – are technically and theoretically available to US citizens outside the police or the military, but they are prohibitively expensive: they start at $20,000.
    3. Sandy Hook, like the Colorado movie theater shooting, involved an individual who was mentally disturbed and who was most probably under the influence of pharmaceutical drugs. I find it strange that the media focuses less on mental issues and drugs and so much on firearms.
    4. For those who emotionally demanded tougher gun laws: before Governor Cuomo pushed through the unconstitutional “NY Safe Act” in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, there were already approximately 20,000 gun laws in America. Crime and evil cannot be legislated out of existence! The problem is not that we need tougher gun laws. We need to look at societal decay. Decades ago target shooting was taught at NYC public schools. Guns were available for purchase through mail-order catalogs. Why isn’t this possible anymore? (And, as for Connecticut, Connecticut was already before Sandy Hook home to some of the most restrictive firearms laws in the nation.)
    5. Firearms have prevented MANY robberies and thwarted MANY criminals, and saved MANY lives. In fact, a few weeks ago, a Florida minor had a firearm in a school bus and wanted to shoot another teenager; other boys wrestled him and took the gun away – and now the unbelievable laws of that state have resulted in the boys who disarmed the gunman in getting suspended.
    6. And, as you are a Korean person, you surely know many of your compatriots (and mine – I’m Korean too) own businesses in urban neighborhoods here in America, and that these neighborhoods are often dangerous. This is why some of our fellow Koreans in LA wielded firearms to protect their businesses during the 1992 LA riots, and that’s why those businesses were not looted. Those crazed hordes thought that numbers meant they could do as they wished. Thankfully, those Koreans took ownership of their hard-earned businesses and guarded them with firearms. And, not too long ago, a Korean woman nearly 70 years old was shot in the leg as thugs attempted to rob her store. Her son, though, a 40-year-old military veteran, had a firearm and used it to defend himself, his business, but most importantly, his mother.
    There are TONS of such cases – when armed robbers meet storeowners or homeowners who have firearms and fight back. In almost every instance, the criminals retreat IMMEDIATELY. Which brings me back to what I wrote earlier: power flows from the barrel of a gun. We should not emulate Mao’s policies, such as his suppression of liberty and democracy and dissenting thoughts. But he knew how human nature worked. And so did the LA Koreatown merchants and so did Bryan Lee, and so do all the law-abiding gun owners in America who have legally purchased firearms. I would know – I’m one of them.

  32. Freedom – liberty – is NOT a social movement. It is a God-given right by Our Creator. Every man and woman are born in inalienable rights, and this includes the right not to have the state intrude in his/her personal affairs in an undue manner.

    Throughout history, colonial states won freedom by taking up arms. There are extreme situations in which violence is the only answer. Not all people are educated, white-collar, New York City-residing professionals like yourself. You as a Christian have surely read in Proverbs that fools only understand beatings. Ignorant, brutish, retrograde individuals will not sit down for dialogue. They only understand FORCE. This is why Mao Tse-Tung said that power flows from the barrel of a gun. Mao was a conniving, lying, opportunistic murderer, but he was also pragmatic, and he had no choice but to take up arms against Chiang Kai-Shek and against the Japanese.

    Both the British Colonies in North America and the Spaniard colonies in South America were liberated in large part because of armed struggle. The British and the Spaniards did not simply one day wake up and realize that the descendants of the original settlers were now “Americans,” “Colombians,” “Chileans,” and such, and quietly handed over power. No – the colonial subjects in North America and the subjects of the Spaniard Viceroyalties wanted to part ways–they wanted to chart their own paths–and when London’s and Madrid’s loyalists wanted to enforce their respective crowns’ wishes, those who wanted independence had one choice: to fight. And to combat rifles, they had to use rifles.

    The Japanese occupation of Korea was brutal, and a major reason that the Korean people were subjugated was not only the thoroughly cruel and harsh aspect of the Japanese authorities. Korea lacked a tradition of war and of gun ownership that could have come in handy. Granted, Korea’s previous dynasties, as did China’s, did fight wars. Yi Sun Shin brought Korea a series of remarkable victories against the Japanese in the 16th Century. But Korea lacked a warrior class and it had no standing army. And Koreans didn’t have access to firearms during the occupation unless they were part of the Kempeitai or later, during the Pacific War, conscripts in the Japanese military. In other words, when Koreans in the imperial period did have firearms, they were granted access to them by the very people whom Koreans most wanted to shoot and kill.


  33. (... continued from above)

    If you say Korea won its victory over tyranny through non-violent means, let’s remember first and foremost that the “tyrant” (the military dictatorship) wasn’t a foreign occupier the way Japan was or the way Britain was in North America or Spain in South America. As such, Chun Doo-Hwan and his cronies could massacre their own citizens for only so long. The Kwangju Uprising was shameful, and the existence of terroristic (I do not use this term lightly) social control mechanisms like the 안기부 (just like the SAVAK secret police in pre-Khomeini Iran) were simply tools of the government to keep people in their place. I frankly think you conflate the end of military rule in Korea with Korea’s coming of age as a modern, industrialized nation which ultimately did embrace democracy.

    Furthermore, going back to the previous tyrannical system under which Korea chafed – Japanese rule – Korea was FIRMLY in Japanese hands up until Hirohito surrendered. If, say, the US and Japan had come to a ceasefire and Japan had been allowed to keep certain territories including Korea, Korea would never have been liberated. Under such a scenario, the only possible liberator of Korea would have been the Soviet Union, as Moscow had its own agenda in the Far East and as the USSR declared war on Japan 2 days after Hiroshima and 1 week before Japan surrendered (and as its troops descended on Manchuria and northern Korea immediately, several weeks before the first US troops landed in southern Korea). An armed rebellion would have been the only alternative, but the odds of it were next to none, as Korea had been under tough and strict Japanese control for more than 30 years.

    The Japanese would have never negotiated with fledgling Korean freedom groups. This is why the Provisional Government was based from China. The Japanese only bowed to superior force, and the Americans understood that all too well. In summary, power that flowed from the barrel of a gun–and in the ultimate expression of this, from two B-29 bombers known as Enola Gay and Bockscar–was the power that vanquished the tyranny of Japanese rule over Korea.

    I do not wish to digress into too many tangents, but I bring up these historical precedents to illustrate that even in 2013, with globalization and political correctness, there are many people out there who believe that certain quarrels are and can only be solved through a fistfight. And herein lies the value of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Firearms in the home are a very valuable asset against home invaders – thieves, rapists, robbers, murderers.

    1. Can you please distinguish between having an armed military (which absolutely no one disputes,) and having unregulated civilian ownership of firearms (which is the point of this post)? I get the point about how a nation needs to defend itself against foreign aggressors with soldiers who carry weapons. (This is also exactly what the Second Amendment protects.) But why is that relevant with civilian gun ownership? If foreign aggression is your concern, why is it not enough to have many weapons caches located throughout the United States, from which people may grab guns in case of a national emergency? (Which is essentially the system in Switzerland?)

  34. The idea of a weapons cache scares me. What if an orgnized crime syndicate raids it? What if the foreign invaders targeted that before people had access to them. And the biggest problem of all - who is guarding it? The army. And what if our own army was behind the tyrant? How would we defend ourselves with no arms?

    I honestly believe that if a nation had all of its civilians armed, other countries wouldn't bother trying to invade it. Too much anticipated bloodshed. I think this is exactly what the framers had in mind. I almost never agree with Scalia but I actually found his opinion more convincing than that of Stevens' or Breyer's. I really think the government has no business telling me what I can keep in my house in a lock box, whether it be a gun or cocaine, so long as I don't pose a threat to others.

    1. The idea of a weapons cache scares me. What if an orgnized crime syndicate raids it?

      This is just silly. So you would prefer that everyone have a gun instead? Because you are worried that an organized crime syndicate might raid the weapons cache, you will just give the guns to the syndicate?

      I honestly believe that if a nation had all of its civilians armed, other countries wouldn't bother trying to invade it. Too much anticipated bloodshed. I think this is exactly what the framers had in mind.

      As far as I know, there is no support from the Framers as to your belief.

    2. There is a difference between a crime syndicate having guns along with civilians having guns vs. only crime syndicate having guns.

      There is no support to the contrary either. I would argue there is more support for my belief because that is how the US won its independence from the English.

  35. Just because people power has worked in the past (French Revolution, Russian Revolution, India/Gandhi, Civil Rights/MLK, SKorea, Egypt), it has also failed when the rulers that be decided that it was worth the bloodshed to keep power (Burma until recently, Iran multiple times, 3/1/1919, etc.)

    However much I would hope that people power could overthrow the North Korean regime, I believe Kim Jong-Un is as ruthless as his father and grandfather, and wouldn't hesitate to kill as many as it took to keep power. Maybe however much you dislike the reprehensible Park Chung-Hee and Chun Doo-Hwan, and however much you say South Korea really was like North Korea in its first few decades, it WAS NOT.

    Maybe using an anecdotal example to show the success rate of unarmed regime change vs armed regime change is an argument you'd like to retract?

    1. Just because people power has worked in the past (French Revolution, Russian Revolution, India/Gandhi, Civil Rights/MLK, SKorea, Egypt), it has also failed when the rulers that be decided that it was worth the bloodshed to keep power (Burma until recently, Iran multiple times, 3/1/1919, etc.)

      Whereas an armed insurrection has never failed in the history of mankind, right?

  36. Ban this, statist!





  38. Mr. the Korean sir, I really wish I could send you internet hugs. You basically wrote every single thing that I also believe, just didn't have the facts to prove. I'm really glad that I found your blog, even if what brought me here was something far less serious (fan death, actually), because reading this made me confident in my gun-related beliefs. Thank you, really.

  39. Guns are inherently efficient at killing.  The primary purpose of a gun is to kill.  Everything else is ancillary. So, when someone is intent on killing themselves, they look to the most efficient and simple method.  Most people who want to kill themselves don’t want to make themselves suffer in the process and they want an irreversible outcome.  Which is why they select guns.  

    From 1980 to 1981, I was stationed at Kadena AB, Japan.  In a single year, 998 people burned themselves to death.  More jumped off cliffs to their deaths.  Japan, like Korea, has strict gun control.  It didn’t stop people from ending their lives.  They chose an efficient, available method.  I would bet if they had access to guns, they would have chosen them.  Simply removing guns from the environment will not stop people from killing themselves.

    Guns are not inherently evil.  Guns are not jumping off shelves and murdering people.  You don’t see mass murder and mayhem in gun stores, where there are large concentrations of guns.  It takes a person to actively function the gun.  The gun is not the problem.  The person is the problem.  How do you regulate a person’s mental state in a free society?  Do you restrict a person’s freedom based on what you think they might do in order to protect society?  Who decides?  You?  The Government?  What if someone decides that you, as a blogger, are a threat and restricts your freedom based on what you might do at a later date?  You would sacrifice a right to bear arms for the illusion of being safer, trusting the Government to protect you rather than being self-reliant.  Worse, as the arbiter of right and wrong, you have decided that I should not be allowed to carry a weapon.  How very arrogant.  

    As a legal argument, you state, "In doing so, the five conservative justices of the Supreme Court overturned hundreds of years of legal precedents that have held, consistently, that there is no individual right to gun ownership under the Constitution.”

    Your deconstruction is selective.  United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876). This was the first case in which the Supreme Court had the opportunity to interpret the Second Amendment. The Court recognized that the right of the people to keep and bear arms was a right which existed prior to the Constitution when it stated that such a right "is not a right granted by the Constitution . . . [n]either is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.”  (emphasis added.)  

    In this one statement, the Supreme Court validated the legal right of a citizen to bear arms and that the right was not dependent on the Constitution.  

    continued below ...

  40. continued from above ...

    It is estimated that firearms are used over a million times per year to prevent crimes.  This comes right from the FBI.  The data is sketchy because the attempted crimes go unreported.  A citizen is confronted, pulls a firearm, deters a crime without a shot fired, then goes on about his or her business.  For additional information, please visit the Armed Citizen website and read the thousands of cases posted there, documenting how citizens protected themselves with legally possessed firearms.

    Chicago and Detroit are bastions of gun control, and in these cities, crime is out of control.  It isn’t the law abiding citizen that is the problem.  It isn’t the availability of legal firearms.  It is the culture of thuggery that embraces criminal activity that is the problem.  No amount of gun control is going to stop that.

    You cite a 59% decline in firearms homicides in Australia after the gun buyback (no sources cited).  Other sources  (I do not feel compelled to cite the sources) fluctuate between 3.2% decrease and a slight increase.  Your numbers are suspect, and just as you did with the Supreme Court, cherry picked. In addition, Australia never had a constitutional right to bear arms. The ability to bear arms was granted at the pleasure of the government. And, not all firearms were removed from the public. Many weapons remain legal to own, and certain groups or geographical locations were allowed to continue to own their firearms. The comparison between our two countries is apples and oranges.

    Public Policy.  You build a nice straw man and provide us your OPINION, but nothing factual to assess.  You state the public policy is grating and absurd.  Nothing factual there.  You assert that Americans have no idea about tyranny, because we have not experienced it.  Nonsense.  Our country was founded because of tyranny and our framers of the Constitution were determined to prevent future tyranny by arming citizens to prevent what they went through in Europe.  Americans deploy all over the world to fight tyranny. Rest assured, Americans recognize tyranny when they see it.

    Your coup de gras is the assertion that your homeland, Korea, achieved democracy through unarmed demonstrations.  While your analysis is feasible, it is an oversimplification of what happened, and who was twisting who’s arm to achieve the end result.  Korea does not live in a vacuum.  The USA and other nations were applying a great deal of pressure to prevent nationwide bloodshed, including US military intervention should the need arise.  As it turned out, it did not become necessary, but the threat of intervention, along with the nationwide demonstrations are ultimately what changed the course.  And, while the city of Kwangju may have been armed and trained, they faced a superior force. (I was stationed in Korea from 1981 to 1985 and 1987 to 1989. I remember the riots quite well.)

    You ask if freedom requires civilian gun ownership.  The very existence of the US is a strong argument that the answer is yes.  You asked your next question, “Why is it that so many oppressed people around the world, who are keenly aware of their oppression and are doing everything to fight for freedom, are not clamoring for the right to civilian gun ownership?”  How do you know they are not?  Who are you speaking of specifically?  Have you spoken with these people?  Is it possible that they don’t “clamor” for guns openly, given that they don’t live in a free society and going against the current regimes often results in sudden death?

    You are as entitled to your opinions as I am.  My opinion is that you should stop trying to make America into Korea, or any other nation on earth.  

  41. I just found another article that also shares TK's view that guns are useless for overthrowing a dictator.

  42. "Korea's Gunless Fight Against Tyranny"... a pretty broad title for a country with a border as armed as yours. Maybe if South Korean civilians had guns, U.S. soldiers could finally leave? Let's look into that before we start trying to change America.

    1. Doubt it. Why in God's name would armed South Korean civilians be the equivalent of a trained North Korean soldier?

  43. Honestly this whole argument is faulty, and your own argument can be used against you. Just because in 1987 Korea transitioned into a democracy through a peaceful protest, and Gwanju failed is not a legitimate reason for gun control. Gwangju didn't fail because it was an armed revolt. It failed mostly because 1 Gwanju was literally 166 miles from Chun Doo Hwan's power base in Seoul. 2 Chun cut all communication from within the city, and basically laid siege to it. 3 Chun covered it up as a North Korean backed communist insurrection, so other cities wouldn't follow in its example. Honestly when you launch a peaceful protest to topple a regime, you are relying on international pressure to force it to capitulate. That isn't reliable, I'm not saying that armed revolt has a 100% success rate. I'm saying that it has a higher chance of succeeding statistically, and that people aren't completely relying on international support. For every Peaceful protest that has led to a regime change there are probably 20 that have failed. Peaceful protest has failed Korea more than it has succeeded it. Do you remember what Korea's Independence Day is commemorating? The failed March 1st movement where Koreans tried unsuccessfully to declare independence from Japan and make Korea into a European style Democracy like the ones envisioned by Woodrow Wilson for war torn Europe. 2,000,000 Koreans a large percentage of the population of the peninsula at the time held peaceful demonstrations. And do you know what happened? The Japanese brutally suppressed it, rounded up all the ringleaders and tortured them to death, and the Western world who inspired the movement voiced their support for continued Japanese colonialism. There are even several other peaceful movements like the Donghak Rebillion which started out peacefully that were violently suppressed in Korea's long history. They're are more examples of armed revolutions that toppled numerically, technologically, and logistically superior regimes than there are peaceful protests that do. Like the Red Turban rebellion where bands of untrained Chinese peasants overthrew the logistically and technologically superior Mongol Yuan Dynasty and started the Ming Dynasty. Or the Bolshevik Revolution where discontent Revolutionaries overthrew the Czardom and the Imperial Army with legally purchased weapons. You can't reliably make this argument for gun control.

  44. I think you have some major misconceptions about the right to keep and bear arms, guns, and the concept of armed resistance. I will try to explain my position on the subject:

    Regarding Heller, it was far from any laughable decision, nor was it the first Supreme Court case to find that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. It was the first SCOTUS case to explicitly rule as such, but prior cases cited the Second where it is very clear that it was understood as protecting an individual right.

    This is further reinforced by the fact that the right to keep and bear arms was well-understood as an individual right at the time of the ratification of the Constitution, and it wouldn't have made much sense to include a collective right interpretation into what was a list of protections of individual rights. The Second Amendment uses the same language to refer to individual rights as the other amendments.

    The Heller decision never overturned any "hundreds of years of legal precedent" on the Second Amendment. There was no such thing. There were some state and local level gun control laws, but there were also state and local violations of the other rights in the Bill of Rights as well, as that was before incorporation of the Bill of Rights where they came to apply to the states and local governments. We also know from the primary legal scholars of the Constitution at the time of ratification that the Second was understood as protecting an individual right. The collective right interpretation of the Second arose in the early 20th century with the Progressives and was basically based off of a complete ignorance of the history of the right and a willful ignorance of the history of the amendment. The causes of this were much of the history just having been forgotten and a misreading and misunderstanding of the word "militia" in the Second Amendment.

    The collective right interpretation proponents claim it referred to organized state militias. The problem with this is twofold: for one, there were no organized state militias at the time. Two, "the militia" was well-understood as referring to the general body of citizens capable of bearing arms. It had nothing to do with anything created by a government. That is why if you read the writings from the time, you will find distinctions between "the militia" and "select militia." Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper 29 explicitly calls for the creation of "select corps of militia" to supplement "the militia at large" and his reasoning for this is that there would be no way to discipline and train the militia to have the skill level of a professional army, because it would require every single person to in addition to their normal daily life and job, to have to train like a soldier. Others however were highly distrustful of select militias, viewing them as being a way for a dictator to keep the equivalent of a standing army on the cheap. When understood in this sense, the states rights interpretation of the Second Amendment falls apart.


  45. You mention "self-appointed legal scholars," but are you aware of the legal scholarship on this issue? There is a whole lot of it and the individual rights proponents and the states-rights/collective-rights proponents fought it out big-time in the 1990s, with the states/collective-rights proponents ultimately losing.

    Nor does the Heller decision allow for the banning of assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, or taxes and licensing. Laws on the right to keep and bear arms are only to be extremely limited in the same way that they are regarding any of the other rights. For example, obviously someone convicted of murder does not have such a right anymore. But otherwise, there would be no point in even having a protection of the right. One might as well say that the government can ban political speech within the First Amendment. Or require one to have to get a license to engage in free speech or to vote and pay a special tax (poll taxes which we created a specific amendment to outlaw).


  46. Furthermore, there is no such thing as an assault weapon or high-capacity magazine. Both of those are completely arbitrary, made-up terms created by gun control proponents. They arbitrarily define what constitutes an "assault weapon." Generally it just goes by the ergonomic features of the weapon (how said ergonomic features make the weapon more deadly is never explained; some, such as a bayonet lug, are particularly absurd as no criminal has ever fixed a bayonet and charged). As such, anything can be labeled as an "assault weapon." The same is true of "high-capacity magazine." The idea that anything over ten rounds is "high-capacity" was made up by the gun control proponents. In reality, what they have done is to redefine standard capacity magazines as being "high-capacity" and defined what are limited or reduced-capacity magazines as being the "normal" sized magazines. The arbitrariness of this was on particular display here in New York state when the state government passed a law right after Newtown that redefined high-capacity magazine as anything over seven rounds (because they already limit one to ten round capacity). Then when it was pointed out to them that there aren't really any seven round magazines, they modified the law to say that one could buy ten round magazines but only load them at home with seven rounds. Yes I am sure that would stop criminals. So technically, so-called "assault weapons bans" and "high-capacity magazine" bans would be among the most blatantly un-Constitutional pieces of legislation there are.

    Also keep in mind that the Second Amendment, if one goes by the collective right interpretation, refers to formal state militias, which would mean that then the pro-gun states could just form a "militia" which anyone could join, and then be able to own any and all guns they please and the federal government wouldn't be able to do a thing about it because the reasoning of that idea is that the Second Amendment was to protect the right of states to maintain militias to check a potential federal tyranny, so said federal government cannot then dictate to the states how they arm their militias.


  47. One thing people forget as well, or are not even aware of, is that unless otherwise stated in the Constitution, the federal government has very little to no power to limit any of the individual rights, whether the individual right to keep and bear arms or right to free speech or right to privacy or whatnot, regardless of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was just put in there to satisfy the anti-Federalists who wouldn't support ratification without one. But the Federalists themselves were completely against any bill of rights, seeing it as dangerous, because it says the government cannot do things for which it is granted no power to do in the first place, and thus could actually lead to the impression among politicians that the government DOES have the authority to infringe on those rights. We see this today where many think if a right isn't explicitly protected in the Bill of Rights, that the government has the authority to infringe upon it. Some even think the Bill of Rights "grants" we the people our rights. So even if one could claim that the Second Amendment in fact does not protect an individual right to keep and bear arms, that does not mean that there is no individual right to arms and that the government, without an amendment banning them from such, has any right to infringe upon it.

    We know for a fact that the right to keep and bear arms was understood as an individual right because the primarily political philosophers who influenced the Founders all stated it. Aristotle, Cicero, Algernon Sydney, John Locke, all spoke of the importance of arms and the right to self-defense. The modern concept of how a nation-state is to engage in warfare in a civilized fashion is itself grounded in the classical concept of the individual right to self-defense, and this right is spoken of at length in the original texts that established modern international relations in that sense. So the Founders would well have understood the right.


  48. Regarding homicide, keeping a gun in the home does not increase risk of homicide. 80% of the gun homicide in the United States is from inner-city gang violence and committed by blacks, and that is due to a complex cultural and economic situation with that group going all the way back to slavery. Remove that from the picture and ordinary gun-owning middle-America is extraordinarily peaceful, a model to the rest of the world in terms of showing that mass gun ownership does not lead to violence at all.

    Regarding the use of arms to resist a tyranny, well a few things:

    1) You mention a city that resisted a tyrant. And the city was over-run. And yes, that will happen. If it's just a small group of people armed against a professional military force of a tyranny, they will likely lose. If a tyranny took over control of the United States and it was just a few cities here and there trying to fight back, they'd lose.

    What checks the tyranny is the point you make later on, which is when the entire country rises up against the dictatorship, it runs into major trouble. That is where the people's possessing arms comes into play. Generally-speaking, the people can never match the government in terms of weapons and training. Where they check the government is in their sheer numbers. When the entire population stands against the government, and especially if said population is armed with small arms, the tyranny becomes powerless to fight back, because no amount of military might will stop such a resistance. There are only so many places you can send tanks and infantry, only so many places you can bomb, and so forth. If you're just focusing on one city, then sure, it's easy to oppress it, but the whole of the people themselves is a different matter entirely. And that is where the people's possessing arms comes into play. So your argument that the people possessing arms to resist a tyranny doesn't work because one city fought back and lost doesn't really work.


  49. 2) You are correct that non-violent resistance has a great history of working to defeat tyrannies, and that is what should always be tried before any kind of armed resistance. It undermines government propaganda that the resistors are terrorists (as such governments often like to claim) and it attracts people who are sitting on the fence about whether to support the resistance or support the tyranny.

    Also, violent resistance can easily spiral out of control and just lead to one dictatorship being replaced with another. This is written about right in the Declaration of Independence and has been understood since ancient times (in particular from Rome, when the Roman Republic fell and people saw first-hand the tyranny that breaks out when a representative system of government breaks down). So armed resistance is only for a very, very last resort against a tyranny. Peaceful resistance should always be tried. One reason the Soviet government was unable to send in the Red Army to suppress the Solidarity Movement as they wanted to was that Solidarity was a peaceful movement, so the public relations of it would have been horrible for the Soviets. Had Solidarity been violent, they could have used the Red Army under the guise that they just had to stop the senseless violence.

    A people in possession of arms is the ultimate check on a tyranny because any would-be tyrant knows that if he tries to oppress the people, it will be incredibly difficult as the whole nation is armed and thus it can stop any attempt at oppression from even starting. An un-armed people, the tyrant might try to oppress.

    As for why South Koreans are against gun ownership, I would say for the same reason that most in the world are against it:

    1) They have no understanding of the subject of guns in a society (they assume, wrongly, that civilian gun ownership = lots of violence)

    2) They do not have much understanding of guns themselves. Koreans undergoing service in their military can give them a basic understanding of guns in terms of their usage, but it isn't going to teach them many of the other aspects about firearms that a civilian gun rights proponent will often understand. We see this in the United States, where an infantry soldier will have a good understanding about the weapons he is issued and how to use them, but otherwise can be completely clueless about the subject of guns overall.

    3) No understanding of the concept of a right to arms. If people have no understanding of a right, then they are not going to defend it. Koreans are raised in an environment where they are made to understand that guns are only for the government and police to have and not civilians. They do not undergo any exposure to arguments that challenge this notion, that would say it is absurd to say that only the government and law enforcement should have guns.

    Interestingly, in the United States, many of our combat arms soldiers are among the staunch proponents of civilian arms ownership and possession.

  50. One other thing, but you said that the Korean constitution was copied a lot from the American constitution, written by American lawyers, but then you state it doesn't have anything about a right to keep and bear arms, as if that means anything. All that could mean is that the lawyers who wrote it were very biased against the concept of a right to keep and bear arms and/or themselves believed in the states right concept, and thus just decided to not include that aspect of the U.S. constitution in the new Korean constitution seeing it as not being applicable. It wasn't until the 1960s that the idea that the 2nd Amendment protected an individual right really began to surface due to new scholarship and it didn't really kick into high-gear until the 1990s.


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