L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 249, November 30, 2003

From a practical standpoint

A Tale of Two Genocides;
A brief analysis of the similarities between the attacks on two American cultures,
American Indian and American Firearms

by Patrick K Martin
warhawke223@hotmail.com

Exclusive to TLE

Genocide; n. The systematic annihilation of a racial, political, or cultural group.
— Webster’s New Reference Library (1984 edition)

Background;

From the early 1500's until the present-day, American Indians have, collectively, tribally, and individually been the subject of attempts to destroy every aspect of their culture. The reasons for this are many and varied and will not form any part of this discussion. The purpose here is to examine some of the methods used to achieve this end, and the similarities between the methods used against the Indians and those currently being used against the members of the Firearms Culture in America.

I will not refer to American Indians as ‘Native’ because they are not. All human beings in North America are descendants of persons who arrived here from other lands. Humans descended from those who arrived here 25,000 years ago are no more ‘native’ than those whose ancestors arrived two or three centuries ago, or whose parents arrived just in time for their birth. Natives are those who were born here, regardless of other factors. Also, the term ‘Indian culture’ is a misnomer, as there was no single culture developed by the Indians of North America. The term ‘Indian culture’ is used to describe the totality of cultural factors which differentiated the customs and beliefs of American Indians from those of European colonists.

The references to ‘Firearms Culture’ must be explained as well. The firearms culture is unique among cultural movements in that the simple possession and use of an object, a lethal weapon, is the only unifying factor. The members of this culture emerge from all levels of civil society, all economic strata, all ethnicity’s, all educational levels, all political and religious persuasions. There is no other single factor or combination of factors which unite members of this community. The firearms culture is by no means monolithic, but rather made up of a variety of sub-cultures, based on the use and possession of different types of firearms and different uses, also members may belong to many different sub-cultures simultaneously. Levels of involvement very as well, from those who only engage in cultural activities periodically to those who engage in nothing else, from those who consider weapons simple tools, to those who venerate them to an almost religious degree. The reasons for this are many but I will attempt to provide a brief historical synopsis of some of the factors involved in the evolution of the firearms culture in America.

Early European settlers in North America were faced with a number of factors which not only allowed, but encouraged the private ownership of firearms. Unlike Europe, North-America was a large geographical area with few roads, widely scattered settlements, and unreliable communications, all of which reduced government interference in the day-to-day lives of the pioneers. The existence of large herds of food animals, heavy forestation, and the early failure of European crops and farming techniques increased reliance on hunting as a source of food, a situation which persisted even after the development of improved agricultural methods. Also, the existence of large bodies of hostile persons, not only Indians but other groups of Europeans, coupled with the aforementioned lack of governmental control necessitated the use of firearms for personal and community defense. These factors combined to make the possession of private firearms a necessity among rural communities, and a socially acceptable practice among urbanites. Europe (at least in it’s more heavily populated areas), by way of contrast, was crisscrossed by roads, canals, and other avenues of travel, firearms were extremely expensive and often regulated by government, hunting was an indulgence of the well-to-do and often the sole province of Royalty, and fighting between various groups was a matter of government concern, not individual or community action. All of which ensured that the peasantry had little if any contact with firearms at any level, and thus a firearms culture of the American type was never able to emerge until much later, and never to the same degree.

After the American Revolution, firearms became even more important in the newly formed American States, not merely as tools of survival, but as expressions of individual sovereignty. The ability of individuals to act in a military capacity as well as the tales of citizens militias (tales which often exaggerated the effectiveness of such groups), combined with a deep-seated distrust of regular military units controlled by a central governmental authority, resulted in a population jealous of its right to possess the tools of defense against perceived intrusions on its liberty. The technological advances in firearms design throughout the nineteenth century, which provided the average citizen with greater levels of firepower than concurrent military forces, served also to reinforce the concept of the citizenry as the penultimate power in the United States. Even as late as the Second World War, the military potential of the citizenry at large was considered as the best defense against military invasion. The self-image of the American as hunter, warrior, and citizen-soldier was ingrained in American culture, however new factors intervened in the early twentieth century which served to diminish this concept from its near universal status to a minority view.

The massive influx of European immigrants during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the first problem. Few of these new settlers had any experience with firearms, and most of that was not positive. Large numbers of these refugees from eastern and central Europe, many of these people were the victims of political and economic oppression, and guns in the hands of government thugs were the tools of that oppression. After coming to America, many of these persons were the victims of criminal activity and the heavy hand of certain business interests. The image of private security guards manning machine-guns to hold back striking coal-miners and factory workers became a common occurrence, though often more common in the newspapers than in real life. None of these situations were conducive to making firearms more popular with these populations.

Political opportunists also used these new populations as an excuse to institute measures of control. New York’s "Sullivan Act" was touted as a means of taking firearms from the hands of "Swarthy Immigrants." Similar laws were enacted in many other states aimed at Irish, Chinese, and Slavic settlers. Many of these acts were modeled after "Jim Crow" laws in the Post-War south, which were designed to prevent freed slaves from arming themselves against attacks by whites. While the acceptance of these laws by the newly landed Europeans was due, in large part, to the fact that they mirrored similar ordinances in their native lands and their aforementioned lack of experience with firearms as positive social instruments. The acceptance by native-born Americans was the result of fear spread by the media and political establishments in those areas, and because of the unequal enforcement accorded to various groups. Simply put, white native-born Americans were almost never charged with violating these laws.

The expansion of major urban-industrial centers and the reduction of rural-agricultural areas also reduced the everyday aspect of firearms in American life. People living in large cities had few opportunities and little need to use firearms to obtain food, or as a recreational pastime. Firearms were seen to be less and less relevant to urban dwellers and the focus of attention shifted away from the positive aspects of gun ownership and more towards the use of firearms by criminals and anarchists (communists) for criminal purposes. The advent of Prohibition and the concurrent economic depression sharply increased this view until, by the 1930's, firearms, or at least certain firearms, were seen, not as beneficial tools, but as malevolent instruments of death which needed to be removed from the hands of the public.

Since the enactment of the first national legislation, the Gun-Control Act of 1934, to the present day, the erosion of the once central position of firearms in American society has accelerated. Laws and regulation at all levels of government have reduced the availability of firearms to the public at large, as well as access to areas where recreational firearms use is permissible. The ability to carry firearms for personal defense ranges from easy to impossible, with most jurisdictions being closer to impossible than otherwise. Attempting to raise children to be members of the gun-culture is complicated both by laws prohibiting this activity, and as the result of living with a popular culture which has become increasingly misinformed about, and hostile towards, firearms. The embrace of philosophies which reject hunting, and increasingly, the consumption of animal flesh in any form, over the last half century, has only added to this situation.

The result of these changes in mainstream American culture is a war against those who still hold firearms as a symbol of independence and individual self-reliance. Attacks on the firearms culture have become increasingly virulent since the late 1960's and now the previously unthinkable proposition of general civilian disarmament is a topic of serious discussion among all levels of society. The firearms culture is under attack, the purpose of this attack is the complete destruction of this culture, cultural genocide, and the methods employed are those which have been used to destroy other cultures throughout history. In order to help demonstrate this, I will now compare the current methods being employed against the gun-culture, with those used in the only other major cultural genocide in American history, the one carried out against the American Indian. This list should not be considered complete, but rather serve only to provide the reader with a basic understanding of the genocidal actions being carried out against members of the firearms culture. I hope that this will also serve as a warning that the continuation of these actions will inevitably result in an attempt to exterminate members of the culture who refuse to abandon it.

Comparisons of genocidal activities against Indian and Firearms culture;

This section will be divided by the sub-section of the culture actively targeted by the action in question.

Children;

The most basic means of destroying any culture is to prevent its precepts from being transmitted from one generation to the next, here are a few examples of the actions taken towards that end:

  • Indian; Forced attendance in government approved schools, actively hostile to Indian culture.

  • Firearms; Forced attendance in government schools, actively hostile to firearms culture.

  • Indian; Punished for wearing traditional clothing and hairstyles.

  • Firearms; Punished for wearing certain styles of clothing and jewelry (i.e. T-shirts with cultural slogans, jewelry shaped like guns or bullets, etc.).

  • Indian; Punished for speaking the language of their tribe.

  • Firearms Punished for discussing firearms, or firearms related subjects.

  • Indian; Discouraged from engaging in traditional activities and ceremonies.

  • Firearms; Discouraged from engaging in hunting and other shooting activities.

  • Indian; Forced adoption of orphans into non-Indian families

  • Firearms; Refusal to allow members of the Firearms-culture access to adoption system.

Adults

Adult members of a community are, of course, the most active members culturally. Eliminating the willingness or ability of members to engage in culturally important activities is essential. While the use of armed force to eliminate members of the firearms culture has not yet reached the levels employed against the Indians in the 18th and 19th centuries, current trends show ominous parallels.

  • Indians; The exploitation of existing inter-tribal and intra-tribal divisions to eliminate (either physically or politically) certain groups of Indians, and prevent cooperative action. Crow versus Cheyenne, Sioux versus Cheyenne, etc.

  • Firearms; The exploitation of existing divisions between sub-groups within the Firearms culture to eliminate certain activities and prevent effective political cooperation. Machine-gunners versus target shooters, Military weapons collectors versus hunters, etc.

  • Indians; Vilification of Indians collectively and sub-groups expressly (Comanche, Apache, etc.), to prevent sympathy and political action by non-Indians on their behalf.

  • Firearms; Vilification of Firearms owners collectively and sub-groups expressly (Machine-gun collectors, ‘Assault-Weapons’ owners) to prevent sympathy and political action by non-gun owners on the behalf of gun owners.

  • Indian; Encouragement of activities by non-Indians, designed to reduce or prevent normal cultural activities (the slaughter of Bison) or prevent improvements in living or economic conditions (encouragement of non-Indian business and industrial operations on or around Indian lands with concurrent discouragement of Indian businesses and industries)

  • Firearms; Encouragement of activities by non-gun-owners, designed to reduce or prevent normal cultural activities (lawsuits to close shooting ranges, regulations designed to prevent the operation of gun-stores, etc.) or prevent the expansion of the Firearms culture (regulations designed to prevent the operation of youth education programs on firearms use, etc.)

  • Indian; The use of cultural symbols in inappropriate venues and popular activities (sporting teams named for Indian tribes, denigrating depictions in movies, etc.)

  • Firearms; The use of cultural symbols in inappropriate venues and popular activities (depictions of firearms users as killers and psychotics in movies, ‘Gangsta’ Rap’, etc.)

Governmental;

The use of official U.S. Governmental resources to engage in activities designed to reduce and eventually eliminate participation in, and adherence to cultural norms.

  • Indians; Establishment of a government bureaucracy designed to provide economic and political control of Indian populations, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

  • Firearms; Establishment of a government bureaucracy designed to provide economic and political control of Firearms owning population, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) {now called Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, BATFE}.

  • Indian; Refusal to provide proper governmental oversight of BIA operations and personal.

  • Firearms; Refusal to provide proper governmental oversight of BATF operations and personal.

  • Indian; Failure to enforce legal and constitutional restrictions on BIA activities.

  • Firearms; Failure to enforce legal and constitutional restrictions on BATF activities.

  • Indian; Refusal to acknowledge or correct abuses by individual agents and offices of the BIA, including murder, corruption, profiteering, discrimination, and various other extra-legal activities.

  • Firearms; Refusal to acknowledge or correct abuses by individual agents and offices of the BATF, including murder, corruption, profiteering, discrimination, and various other extra-legal activities.

  • Indians; The use of criminal activities by individual Indians and small groups thereof, to justify further encroachments on Indian territory, sovereignty, and activities. Examples include the removal of the Black Hills from Indian control after attacks on prospectors, and the massacre of Indians at Wounded Knee after allegations of participation in so-called ‘Ghost-Dancing’ (a religious ceremony which was designed to cause the whites to leave and the Bison herds to reappear).

  • Firearms; The use of criminal activities by individual firearms users and small groups thereof to justify further encroachments on the Constitutional rights of Americans to ‘keep and bear arms’. Examples include Patrick Purdy’s assault on school children in 1989, and the massacre of the Branch Dividians after allegations of illegal weapons possession.

  • Indians; The use of non-BIA organizations to justify encroachments on Indian sovereignty (military necessity justifying claims to uranium bearing areas of Indian reservations, etc.), and elimination of cultural activities (claims that ‘Ghost Dancing’ was designed to foment rebellion, justifying military intervention).

  • Firearms; The use of non-BATF organizations to eliminate shooting activities in certain areas, including (but not limited to) the use of the EPA to close shooting ranges (justified by supposed lead contamination) and the elimination of hunting, shooting, and the simple possession of firearms on Federally controlled land (National Parks, Monuments, Reserves, etc.).

The further recital of the similarity of cultural attacks in operation would, in my opinion, be redundant. While many of the abuses heaped on American Indians have subsided in recent years (and in a very few cases been reversed), the attacks on American Firearms owners have increased. I believe this is due to the fact that while Indian populations and cultural influence have reached such a low-ebb as to represent no perceived threat to governmental control (there having never been a real threat), while the threat of a major portion of the civil populace possessing firearms and being trained in their use, does. The expansion of governmental powers beyond constitutional limits, and the increasingly dictatorial manner in which government authority is exercised, requires that the ability of the population to effectively resist be eliminated.

The control of communications, the media, and the legal system by the government and it’s willing allies, effectively prevents members of the firearms culture from informing the public at large of the benefits of firearms ownership and use. The propaganda campaign waged against members of the firearms culture has been so effective that the possibility of reversing current trends through popular action is almost non-existent. Only the threat of armed force (real or perceived) prevents the government from engaging in the complete elimination of legal firearms ownership, and this threat is believed to be lessening everyday.

The governments campaign of negative support of the National Rifle Association (vilified by the government and anti-firearms media as the main supporter of firearms rights), designed to remove support from organizations like ‘Gun Owners of America’ and ‘Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership’ who correctly view firearms ownership as a civil-right and a check on un-constitutional activities by government, is another aspect of the assault on the firearms culture. The NRA, with it’s long history of appeasement of anti-firearms groups, refuses to disengage itself from the process which, while destroying firearms rights, have proved most profitable to it’s hierarchy. The wanton disregard of basic legal and constitutional protections by the government has been aided and abetted by the NRA in the past and shows no signs of abating.

If the firearms culture is to survive, it’s members must recognize that every segment of the culture is under attack. The various sub-cultures must put aside their petty differences and unite to halt these on-going assaults. Only through collective action, expressed in the most forceful terms, will halt these attacks. Only by forcing the NRA and other appeasers to cease any and all cooperation with the forces who desire our destruction will such collective action be effective. And only by adopting a stance of absolute, ‘All or Nothing’, ‘Live Free or Die’, opposition, with the ultimate threat of armed rebellion, will our rights be restored.


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