The following was written by Bob Burch, my friend and frequent guest on the podcast who last appear on Episode 39 – Variety vs Equality.
I have read about the tiff between Democrat presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke and Meghan McCain on the topic of how gun owning Americans will react to the proposed gun confiscations and red flag laws. And my first thought was that it is frightening how prophetic history can be.
I have been reading Volkogonov’s biography of Lenin which describes how Lenin designed the scheme for the destruction of organized religion in the Soviet Union and I find the story relevant.
Let me set the scene.
Lenin hated religion for both philosophical and political reasons. As a man who believed completely in the atheistic materialism of Marxism, Lenin could never make peace with a worldview that not only opposed his revolution’s goals and tactics but that opposed the fundamentals of his philosophy. To make matters worse, the Russian Orthodox church had been so intimately tied with the czar and the imperial government that its very continued existence seemed like a survival of the pre-revolutionary political order. But beyond all of that, Lenin could not allow the survival of anything that could command the hearts and minds of the people except for the Communist party. The opportunity to destroy his enemy came in the form of a horrifying famine that raged from 1921-22.
In those years, due in no small part to the policies of the Communists, twenty-five million people were starving to death in the Soviet Union. The famine was so severe that people were cannibalizing the dead. Its misery could not be hidden and in time the world would pour support out for the suffering Soviet people. The first major effort to remedy the situation, however, came from the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church, Tikhon.
In a public appeal, the leader of the faithful called on Christians to give what they had to help the helpless and even to sell the treasures of the churches to feed the starving. The only stipulation he put on them, in accordance with the teachings of the Orthodox church, was to not give up and profane liturgical objects. This act of charity, however, was exactly what the Bolsheviks needed to destroy religious institutions nationwide.
Incensed that counter-revolutionary forces might take control of the crisis and win the people over by solving their problems with something other than Communism, Lenin decided that the church had to be stopped and that the government had to provide a solution. On February 23rd, 1922 a decree was published for the forcible confiscation of all church valuables by the government, ostensibly in order to purchase food for the starving.
It was a master stroke. It immediately cast the Bolsheviks as truly moral heroes willing to do anything, even profaning the sacred, to save people. (This was a fig leaf, however. The Bolsheviks sent vastly larger sums out of the country to foment revolution in foreign countries than they ever spent on importing food for the starving.) It also gave them the vast wealth of the religious communities and, more importantly, the power to take that wealth without depending on the donations of their ideological enemy.
But, most importantly, it divided their enemies, the religious citizens of the Soviet Union, into two camps and gave them roles to play that they could not break free of.
The first camp were those who complied, who let their churches and synagogues and mosques be ransacked, looted, taken from them, and turned into warehouses and factories or simply shuttered. Whether it was their intention or not, their actions declared that the spiritual values they believed in did not matter as much as obedience to a regime that told them not to hold to those values. They were told to reshape their internal, spiritual life to the wishes of their master, the Communist Party. They were cast in the role of converts to the new religion of the state, who obeyed the Kremlin first and God second, and they played their part with obedience.
The second camp were those who tried to keep their sacred objects, who cared more about what they believed was divine than what the authorities said. These people were cast into the role of the greedy and backwards reactionaries, who cared more for their treasures than the lives of the starving, who would break the law and resist authorities. This let the Bolsheviks treat the second camp as criminals of the worst sort and justified ever increasing measures to break them. Those measures began with machine gunning entire villages and escalated from there. In short, they were cast as the worst of criminals and they played their part by their disobedience.
In the end, both camps played their part to perfection, either surrendering their lives in obedience to Lenin’s regime or surrendering their lives in death. Through slaughter and surrender, the Soviet Union functionally destroyed the religious lives of its people as far as humanly possible.
After reading a bit of history it is easy to declare with the nonchalance of a college freshman that every age is full of evil and that it is all the same and no one is talking about doing anything as radical as destroying religion in the United States. But that would miss my point.
The point is not that evil happened or that Bolsheviks were bad. Rather the point is that it is frighteningly easy to use laws to make entire groups of people live out roles designed to prove the rightness of the law.
Currently those politicians proposing red flag laws and gun confiscations are saying that people will comply. They are arguing that police officers will not be seen as modern redcoats and gun owners will not see themselves as modern minutemen. And if they are right, if no one resists, then the laws they propose will be found to have been justified by the obedience of the public. The laws did what they set out to do, take guns from the public, and no one minded.
But what if they are wrong? What if reports come streaming in of police officers and gun owners shooting it out and killing each other in the streets and living rooms of America? It does not have to happen too often. Just one out of every hundred AR-15 confiscations have to go wrong and you would have a virtual civil war. And what if the police make a mistake and try to confiscate an “assault weapon” from someone who does not own one but resists and kills a police officer with a shotgun or a revolver? What then? What happens to all gun owners then?
It would be then that the trap hidden inside their proposals would be sprung. Obviously, everyone who resisted confiscation would be a criminal. Worse, they would be either a cop killer, or at least an attempted cop killer. How can cop killers be allowed to own any weapon? The response must surely be to take every measure to secure our streets from such reckless killers!
And so, the only reasonable course would be to criminalize the ownership of more guns and to give the government more power to seize more weapons with even less oversight. That is always the answer.
No one will publicly say that this kind of plan exists. No one will publicly say that red flag laws are being proposed to brand all gun owners as criminals and as a step to make all weapons illegal. And in reality, very few people will even think of such a course of events, let alone think it is possible.
Yet that does not mean that the political trap I have described does not exist within the very framing of the proposed laws. And it does not mean that this trap is not possible to be used on multiple issues, such as climate change, mandatory vaccinations, or immigration, for example. If the public holds an issue to be at a crisis level where lives or the public welfare is on the line and there is a stark difference of moral opinion on the issue, then this trap is easy enough to set on any issue.
I do not know for certain that this is the strategy that red flag law advocates are pursuing. What everyone knows is that there are people in this country, albeit few in number, who publicly and openly hate the idea of anyone outside of the government owning a weapon as much as Lenin openly hated religion. And it would be naive to think that some have not struck upon this idea as a method to achieve their goals.
What is also known is that there are people in this country who fully intend to defend their rights no matter the cost. If red flag laws, let alone gun confiscation laws, are enacted then those who possess guns will be placed in the position of becoming either criminals to their own conscience by giving up their rights or criminals to the state in order to continue doing as they have always done. That is an intolerable and unbearable situation for any moral person.
If Mr. O’Rourke wishes to pretend that everyone will peaceably go along with the laws he is proposing, then he is fooling only himself. Everyone knows that will not be the case. For our part, we must not fool ourselves about how these laws will be used. These laws will be used to turn citizens into criminals and to justify using force against them. They will and we know it. It is not making the debate in this country more acrimonious to say this. It is saying the truth. We must admit to ourselves when we have seen this kind of law before, what the results were then, and what the results will be this time.