Here’s the deal. Keeping track of current events is a depressing thing to do. Rarely do things seem to be getting much better, and a realist recognizes that “It’s always darkest before the dawn” is the sort of wishful thinking that invites false hope which invites even more despair once expectations inevitably collapse.
Bearing all of that is made harder when personal issues intervene. I’m only just now recovering from a paralyzing emotional shitstorm that began shortly after my last article. And that’s the most you’ll be hearing about that.
(“You” of course being my vast audience of four or five people.)
I’ve long since lost the motivation to complete my last series, or what was intended to be a series, but fuck it, let’s power through.
Step One: Draw Down (Pt 2)
We’re still talking about reorganizing the US military, but I’m going to go down a little side street to talk about gun control. It’s relevant, trust me.
Deaths from gun crime are a major problem in the U.S. Our gun homicide rate hovers around the company of countries generally described as “developing,” or “third world.” Graphs of the US gun homicide rate compared to other Western countries generally look like… well, like this. Gun ownership rates between the US and other developed countries are pretty similar, if less dramatic.
But hang on a second. Look at these two again, side by side.
The two western countries closest to the US in terms of gun ownership are Finland and Switzerland, yet despite having around 50% of our gun ownership rate, they have less than 20% of our homicide rate. Why do you think that is?
You see, all that gun control stuff I said was just a dirty bait-and-switch! I’m actually all for the Second Amendment. I think the intent behind it when the Bill of Rights was established is as relevant today as it was in 1789. Jefferson probably didn’t say
“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” – Definitely not Thomas Jefferson
However, he most certainly did co-lead a violent resistance movement that used guns to overthrow the enforcement mechanisms of an authoritarian government.
Consider that Americans are being extra-judicially executed by the drones and police which allegedly protect us. Consider that the US government uses torture, pervasive and unqualified spying, and has a history of engaging in other incredibly disturbing practices. We have every reason to be afraid of our government, and every right to defend ourselves from it. Yet, as corporate influence marginalizes the power of popular sovereignty and gun ban laws attempt to rob Americans of the most efficient means of protecting themselves from hostility, there is less and less that the so-called “common” American can do to keep a comfortable buffer between themselves and the possibility of officially-sanctioned abuse.
I’m not arguing that there’s a vast Illuminati–Jewish–Lizard-conspiracy to disarm us so that the New World Order can go into effect. However, if in twenty years US officials are encouraged to persecute pro-eco or anti-corporate activist “terrorists” by monopolistic corporations upon whom they depend financially, and the risk of doing so is completely negated by said activists’ inability to defend themselves physically or monetarily, what exactly is going to deter them from acting on that encouragement?
An armed populace is a pretty good deterrent against those kinds of shenanigans happening willy-nilly.
(Before you call me crazy, keep in mind that in 1995 if you said the US government was going to kill US citizens with hellfire rockets fired by robots while monitoring their communications with a technological capability that puts 1984 to shame, you would have been called crazy, too.)
However, what is definitely crazy is allowing anyone to have a gun with no training or background checks and expecting everything to be hunky-dory. That brings us back to Switzerland and Finland.
I would hypothesize, and would very much like to find a study which disputes or corroborates, that a citizen who is well-trained in the proper use and safety of a firearm is dramatically less likely to abuse that firearm. Overwhelmingly, urban centers are the source of the highest gun crime in the US, where access to guns is easy (due to the high national per capita rate) and exposure to traditional American gun culture (usually recognized more in rural communities) is low. However, we do know suicide with firearms is rising in rural areas now, and decreasing in urban ones. I’ll get back to that later.
Access to guns will never be resolved, especially in the South, which has a notoriously porous border with a country where armed drug gangs have territorial command. We can solve the training problem, though, by mandating compulsory military service for every American citizen (men and women, excepting conscientious objectors and the demonstrably unfit), via the re-institution of local militias, which could be mobilized only by the federal government.
How would we handle that? Well, remember the couple hundred thousand military personnel from my last post forever ago? Think of it now as a 450,000-strong federal militia training corps.
The military would work full time training militias, while also regulating federal standards of fitness, marksmanship, and equipment use and maintenance. Outside of those minimal regulations, militias would regulate themselves according to their financial means and community, strengthening their local identity. This would ensure an impressive statistical level of readiness for national defense, but also an incomparable moral one as well. In the unlikely event that the United States is attacked, the invaders will be facing an army which is not only a huge percentage of the population that has been in reserve for years, but will also be directly defending the territory it has been training in, and likely lived in, for much of its members’ lives. That’s a pretty daunting prospect.
Also, since mandatory military service would funnel most of the population through a process of mental and physical health evaluation, it would provide a broad opportunity for physicians to identify and diagnose key mental health problems that lead to suicide and other kinds of gun death, allowing for early, preventative treatments that might otherwise never be confronted.
Finally, since the federal military would be entirely devoted to training militias, if the government wanted to, say invade Iraq, it would have to conscript the only available forces, which would be the militias. Since militias would be most loyal to their locality, and established and employed at those locations, it’s unlikely they would be very motivated to be uprooted from their lives and deployed elsewhere. Additionally, since only limited numbers would normally be required for deployment, many militias would not be tapped for conscription, putting the government in the unenviable position of deciding which militias to single out. You can imagine the outrage such an incident would cause.
Basically, before the government made any foreign commitments it would have to make a really, really strong case for it, and need to enjoy popular support for a long time.
So in conclusion, re-instituting militias might, as far as I can tell:
- Reduce gun homicides to rates more comparable to other Western countries with similar gun ownership rates and compulsory military service, which would mean a potential reduction of around 80%.
- Increase the readiness of the national defense by about fifty-four times (going by current active and reserve personnel numbers).
- Increase the likelihood of detecting mental and physical health issues among people who might otherwise go undiagnosed
- Increase the potential morale of defense forces via natural, personal investment in their locality
- Decrease the likelihood of costly adventures in foreign countries
There are a couple of issues I can foresee. One is funding. However, if Americans are predominantly allowed to use the firearms many of them already have, and perhaps given incentives to donate or share them with other militia members, we will be looking at significantly low costs. Additionally, existing military equipment, outnumbering a reduced military force, could simply be proportionally redistributed to militias which are trained to use it. Local selection processes could funnel members into required roles.
As for identifying mental health problems, that’s a moot point if there is no effective apparatus for treating those problems. That’s my next topic.