Letter: National defense and gun rights — not the match they once were

Posted 3/18/21

As a gun owner, veteran, and a former Naval War College instructor, I agree the Founding Fathers saw the value in an armed citizenry. However, we need to take into account vast changes in the world …

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Letter: National defense and gun rights — not the match they once were

Posted

As a gun owner, veteran, and a former Naval War College instructor, I agree the Founding Fathers saw the value in an armed citizenry. However, we need to take into account vast changes in the world and nation since 1791 before using that argument as blanket support for gun owners’ rights today.

America needed citizens able to bear arms at a moment’s notice because the American War for Independence left the country poor, deeply in debt, and without the ability to fund or maintain a large standing army. Having a large pool of organized citizens with a basic level of training to rapidly pick up a French 1763 (or similar model), stand in line, and contribute to sending a wall of lead at potential enemies was strategically sound.

Multiple Industrial Revolutions, Information Revolutions, and Revolutions in Military Affairs later, America’s wealth, power, capability and defense needs bear miniscule resemblance to those of 1791.

For more than a century now, in the face of accelerating technological and societal change, America has taken the Founding Fathers’ “militia” to its logical conclusion by ensuring the Citizen Soldiers of the Reserves and National Guard train to DoD standards to ensure they are ready to join any fight the country required. Today we see the results.

Every mobilization for operations – Active, Reserve, Guard, or even recalling veterans with needed expertise – requires organizing, training, and equipping for increasingly complex missions. “Pickup games” of citizens sending a wall of lead at the enemy at a moment’s notice are no more.

By design, any organizing and training will be with the guns (or tanks, ships, airplanes, cyber systems, etc.) that the DoD gives them to use, not personal firearms.

Invasion hasn’t been a threat for a long time. Even if Yamamoto said what he said, Japan never planned to invade the U.S. in World War II because their Army’s main focus was China and had been since 1931. American gun ownership figured little when Japan already lacked the industry, manpower, shipping and logistics to even defeat China, let alone invade another continent.

Even now, hostile countries lack the critical capacities to invade our continent, so they seek to threaten our existence with cyberwarfare, nuclear capability, space capability, etc. A firearm is useless against these.

That a private citizen can contribute to internal defense – help law enforcement, fight lone wolves – is tempting. However, using deadly force to internally secure and defend a society is in many ways more complicated and requires better judgment and training than “traditional” battles. The current scrutiny of law enforcement and the learning curves our own armed forces experienced during Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq show that even when trained, simply having a weapon available in an uncertain situation is no guarantee of the “right” outcome.

There are sound reasons to defend gun ownership. Self-defense, hunting, or just enjoying shooting, are all sound. National defense is no longer a very sound reason. Legislation isn’t taking away citizens’ “militias” — technological and organizational requirements did that long ago.

Bill Bullard
Bristol

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.