“The Gestapo are outside again,” one said.
“What are they doing this time?” came the reply.
“Counting the windows, again.”
This sort of discussion was not uncommon in my grandmother’s house as she and her family lived under Nazi occupation in Telch, Czechoslovakia. While the Gestapo were constantly on the prowl for Jews, which my family harbored (an act which eventually landed my great-grandfather in a Nazi prison), this visit of Gestapo officers to my grandmother’s family home was for a different reason. They were trying to find the guns that my great-great-grandfather, her grandfather, had hidden.
Upon the announcement of Nazi occupation, he had walled in a small room — a closet really — with the guns inside. Unfortunately, he had made a small mistake. The closet had a tiny window, visible from the outside. So, the Gestapo occasionally visited, counting windows inside and out, to find my great-great-grandfather’s firearms. Because his was a leading family in the community, it would be very advantageous for the Nazis to make an example out of him and his family.
Luckily for my ancestors, and for my existence today, the Gestapo never quite figured out where my family’s guns were located. But my family’s firearm-related woes did not end there — after defeating the Nazis, the Soviets almost immediately seized power. Due to the sudden transfer of power, there was no time to wall in the guns again, so a pair of antique dueling pistols were buried in the orchard, and the rest of the guns were confiscated by Soviet authorities. Similar stories occurred across Czechoslovakia and the other recently “liberated” countries.
The people were stripped of their ability to defend themselves, both from criminals and, importantly, from the oppressive communist government. Thus disarmed, the people behind the Iron Curtain were forced to wait for the West, and specifically, America, to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union — any attempts to free themselves were doomed to failure, as evidenced by the brutal repression of Hungary after the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and the Warsaw Pact’s occupation of Czechoslovakia after the Prague Spring in 1968.
Oppressive governments have always had an interest in disarming the populace because a disarmed populace can’t fight back. Sadly, history repeats itself. In addition to the efforts of the Nazis and Soviets, the confiscation of swords and other weapons in Japan during the Meiji Restoration and 19th-century American laws preventing Black Americans from owning firearms all served to empower governments and enforce their will over the people.
An armed populace serves as a check on government overreach — firearms and other weapons empower the common man to defend himself, and tyrants fear an empowered individual. This is not to say that those who own firearms need to be ready to forcibly resist government power — that would certainly lead to chaos and bloodshed. Rather, the very presence of firearms in an empowered citizen populace has a deterring effect on overreach — history has shown that governments that wade too far into tyranny soon lose their rule. After all, a government is intended to protect its citizens, not oppress them.
In the wake of the horrific mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, the left has renewed its steady drumbeat for gun control. It has called for everything from seemingly innocuous “commonsense” restrictions to wholesale gun confiscation. It is important to resist these calls. The vast majority left is not calling for gun control out of a deep-seated desire to oppress their fellow Americans, rather, they seem to truly believe that gun control will end gun violence. This belief is seated in the left’s Marxist-influenced materialist philosophy, which I discuss in more depth here. However, despite the well-meaning intentions of the left and their earnest belief that they are doing good, their proposals would cause irreparable damage to the Second Amendment, and thus, irreparable damage to that critical deterrent against government overreach. Not only that, but gun control does not necessarily provide any protection from violence — some of the cities in America with the highest incidence of gun violence also have some of the strictest gun control.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the author of “The Gulag Archipelago” and survivor of Stalin’s gulags, said of the Russians, “We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more — we had no awareness of the real situation. We spent ourselves in one unrestrained outburst in 1917, and then we hurried to submit. We submitted with pleasure!”
We cannot hurry to submit. We must resist the siren call of the idea that all we need is the right combination of laws to produce a safe and happy society. America saved Eastern Europe from the yoke of Russian oppression. If we submit, there is no one to save us.
• Austin Prochko is a grants manager at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He has been an educator in a private school and a charter school and has worked on political campaigns throughout Texas. Mr. Prochko has a B.A. in politics from Hillsdale College and an M.A. in politics from the University of Dallas.
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