Some new generation people give our US government wholehearted trust and no longer see the need for individual firepower.
Tyrannical government seems like a far-fetched concept during our age of abundance and prosperity.
To be fair, the US government has done a splendid job over the last century, and consequently America has grown into one of the most powerful countries in the world. We enjoy the freedom and living standard that many other nations can only dreamed of.
However our freedom is not protected in an iron-clad safe and could literally be torn apart in a few generations if we neglect the democratic duties to our rights.
And one of our most critical yet constantly under attack right is the second amendment, the right to bear arms. It is our duty to remain steadfast to those relentless assault.
This article, “Countries where citizens don’t have guns and become subjects“, is intended to reinforce ourselves what we’re fighting against, and also to convince some open-minded gun neutrals and antis on why gun rights are one of the major pillar to US freedom.
Countries We will Explore in this Article
- China (and Hong Kong)
- Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria and Many Other African Countries
A Note to Authorities in Mentioned Countries
Dear Authorities and Citizens of mentioned countries,
This article is intended solely for US citizen and is not meant to sow discord in your countries. I’m sure that your leader has calculated and figured the best way to run your country.
Banning free press, sabotaging political oppositions and torture are of course your leader’s possible options to rule. If the citizens are happy with those measures, what can I, an outsider, say about it?
The purpose of this writing is just to make sure that no such rules were applied to the US.
1. Venezuela : “Disarm All Citizen” Message couldn’t be Clearer
According to US EIA, Venezuela has the largest amount of proven crude oil reserves in the world today (2018), even larger than Saudi Arabia. The country rode the oil economic boon since 1914 and become one of the most important oil exporters in the world.
Venezuela relies heavily on oil. The nation’s oil revenue accounts for about 98% of export earnings in 2017.
And being a firm socialist believer, Hugo Chávez (Venezuela’s President 1999 – 2013) nationalized key industries in Venezuela during the 2000s and implemented social programs known as the Bolivarian missions (a series of over thirty social programs) to expand access to food, housing, healthcare and education. This Bolivarian missions are mostly funded by Venezuela’s oil revenue.
His policy was widely popular, as standard of living for Venezuelans were drastically improved. Even the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz praised the economic policies of Hugo Chávez.
“The Chávez government aimed to bring education and health benefits to the poor, and to strive for economic policies that not only bring higher growth but also ensure that the fruits of the growth are more widely shared.”
The Gun Ban : When Citizens Turn into Subjects
During 2012, Chávez’s approval rating reached 57% (higher than any point in time of Obama’s 2nd term approval ratings by a wide margin). Then he decided that it’s time to “disarm all citizens”.
The Venezuelan National Assembly in 2012 enacted the “Control of Arms, Munitions and Disarmament Law” with the explicit aim to “disarm all citizens”. However before the law took effect, Hugo Chávez passed away on March 5, 2013 at 58.
After his death, the contitution required that a presidential election be called within 30 days. Chávez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolás Maduro (a former bus driver and Chávez’s vice president afterwards), was elected president on April 14th, 2013.
Nicolás Maduro, the new president, imitated most of Hugo Chávez’s policies. He also proceeded with the plan to disarm all citizen. The Control of Arms, Munitions and Disarmament Law was pushed and taken effect in 2013. With the economy seemingly well, and people were mourning the loss of Hugo Chávez, there was only minimal pushback from some pro-democracy opposition figures.
“Venezuelans didn’t care enough about it. The idea of having the means to protect your home was seen as only needed out in the fields. People never would have believed they needed to defend themselves against the government. Venezuelans evolved to always hope that our government would be non-tyrannical, non-violator of human rights, and would always have a good enough control of criminality.”
All legal commercial sale of guns and munitions were banned – except to government entities.
During the first year, the law wasn’t much of a success. There were only 37 recorded voluntary gun surrenders, while the majority of seizures – 12,603 – were done by force. Estimated number of guns in Venezuela at the time range from one to six million.
The next year (2014), Nicolás Maduro invested more than $47 million to enforce the gun ban.
Yet firearms black market thrive instead, and a large number of illegal firearms are still in the hands of criminals and the collectivos (Venezuelan government employed thugs).
2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 18.5 (ranked 35th worldwide)
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Disaster, or Rather, Market Economics Struck
Inefficiencies and corruptions in state-run firms combined with skyrocket-costs of socialism subsidies, Venezuela’s finance was kept afloat with high oil price (approximately $100 per barrel during 2012- first half of 2014) and oil revenue.
Later in 2014 – 2016, oil price tanked (Lower than $30 at the end of 2015) and Venezuela’s economy crumbled. The cost of basic goods soared. Food, medicine and other necessities were soon out of reach for many Venezuelans.
A report by Business Insider says that Venezuela’s inflation rate hit 830,000% on Nov 8, 2018 and is likely going to keep rising. To illustrate this number, a $4 Big Mac would cost $33,200 after inflation.
Nicolás Maduro’s political power began to weaken due to less people supporting his failed Economic policies. His solution? First, he painted all the blame on “US waging economic wars and sanctions.”
Second, Maduro wielded his monopolistic firepower on his oppositions who did not buy into his US Conspiracy theory.
- Almost 200 pro-democracy protesters in Venezuela, armed mostly with stones, were shot dead by government forces in brutal retaliation to their call to end the oppressive socialist regime.
- Government-backed gangs, referred to in Spanish as “collectivos”, were set up by the government to act as proxies and exert community control. They kill protesters and subjugate opposition groups.
- The “collectivos” were legally locked and loaded while normal citizens are disarmed.
Third, Maduro created a puppet congress with vast powers to rewrite the constitution and supplant the opposition-controlled National Assembly, leaving all branches of government under his firm socialist control.
Note that almost 7 million Venezuela (out of 32 million total Venezuelan) voted against the creation of the new legislative body in an unofficial referendum organized by the opposition group, the puppet congress and the new constitution was approved anyway.
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Maduro Refusing Aid, Claiming No Crisis in Venezuela
And now, US intends to send in food and supplies into Venezuela to aid with their crisis. But Maduro, rightly fear that the US will replace him with Juan Guaidó, rejected the aid claiming that there are absolutely no crisis in Venezuela.
Maduro blocked those humanitarian aid with his military force.
Note that a substantial portion of Venezuelans still support Nicolás Maduro. Guess his propaganda is really effective.
- Law-abiding citizen were disarmed, starting in 2013
- Very few people resisted the disarmament
- Black market thrived and a large number of guns were owned by criminals and collectivos.
- 2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 18.5 (ranked 35th worldwide)
- Government backed thugs are armed, and are tasked to kill protestors and political oppositions
- More than 200 pro-democracy protesters were shot and killed since 2017
- Puppet parliament Constitution rewritten to favour current president, even with a large portion of population voting against them
- Maduro can block humanitarian aid even though Venezuelan are starving to death.
If the Venezuelan government did not disarm its citizen, perhaps there won’t be this much hardship and suffering. Humanitarian aids could likely access the country more, and there won’t be as much crime on the streets.
Up next : Many of Venezuela’s problem stem from their failed economic policy. In the next section we explore one of the most successful country with flourishing economy yet limited freedom, China.
2. China : Superpower with the Most Advanced Internet Censorship
In 1949, Mao Zedong and his Communist Party obtained control in China and consequently transformed it into one of the poorest country on earth. Even though most of the population were farmers, there wasn’t enough food to live by.
After Mao Zedong’s death (Mao Zedong started the Communist Revolution in China), Deng Xiaoping came into power and dialed down their communism economic ideology. Deng fixed his country by acknowledging the failure of Mao Zedong and started the decentralisation and privatisation of businesses.
Fast forward to today, China is considered one of the world’s superpower. Almost every US brands (Apple, Nike, Vortex, etc.) have manufacturing sources in China. Furthermore, Chinese tech companies are competing head-to-head with the US in cutting edge tech sectors such as electric vehicle, artificial intelligence and gene editing.
Yet China doesn’t really offer freedom of speech, freedom of thoughts (mostly politically) nor freedom to bear arms.
And unlike Venezuela, there’s no big incentives for change. Economy is going great. Living standard for Chinese has improved by leaps and bounds. Thus, Chinese are rather acceptive of their situation at the moment.
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Gun Ownership in China
China has very restrictive citizen gun ownership policy since 1966. It began after children aiming a Spanish rifle at sparrows near Tiananmen Square shot out a window in the Great Hall of the People, according to an official history of the Ministry of Public Security.
Currently, the primary statute in regulating firearms is the Firearms-Control Law, which took effect on October 1, 1996. Private ownership of rifles, pistols and even gun replicas are out of reach for ordinary Chinese citizen.
Firearms for civilian use are permitted for specified “work units” in three areas: sports; hunting; and wildlife protection, breeding, and research. Individual hunters in hunting areas and herdsmen in pastoral areas may possess hunting rifles, which cannot be removed from those areas.
Criminal Law commands harsh penalties for gun-control violations. Illegal possession of firearms is punishable by police supervision, criminal detention, or fixed-term imprisonment for up to seven years.
An editorial in a widely read state-run Chinese newspaper even adviced the United States to learn from China and “genuinely” protect human rights by restricting gun ownership.
2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 3.6 (ranked 141st worldwide)
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Internet Censorship, Government Intervention and Unfair Dealings with Political Enemies
- Government owns the country’s biggest companies. And every public company listed in China must establish Communist Party Branches, making observation and influence from Chinese government possible.
That’s part of the reason why Huawei was blocked from providing core tech to a 5G network in the UK. They feared that every information passed through Huawei’s hardware can be extracted by Chinese governments.
- Politically related content in China is not allowed in any form of media, including the Internet. It is widely known that if you travel to China, you can’t access Google Searches, Youtube, Google Maps and Google Translate during your trip. Because Google didn’t comply with Chinese Government censorship policy.
But the ban aren’t limited to political stuffs. Peppa Pig is also banned in China, because it promotes gangster attitude.
Your private WeChat message aren’t safe from monitoring and censorship either. It’s common that political-related messages cannot be sent over WeChat messaging platform. According to a test in 2018 by researchers, 174 words and expressions, such as “Free Tibet” and “ISIS Crisis”, triggered censorship.
- Chinese government is known for jailing or murdering its political opponents. Famous incidents for foreigners were the detaining of Hong Kong’s yellow umbrella activists.
According to CECC’s political prisoner database, there were 1,424 cases of political prisoner in China as of October 11, 2018.
- People in China cannot elect president. They can only elect heads of township governments. And there are only one party to elect from, the Communist party. Thus the Communist Party is still the only party that has ruled over China since 1949.
- Xi Jinping, current President, abolished Presidential term limit in March 2018, allowing him to be the President for life.
- Mass round-ups of Turkic Muslims (primarily ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs) and imprisoned them in concentration camps due to religious different beliefs. Estimated rounded-up people reached 1 million in 2018. Prisoners spend their days learning Mandarin, absorbing propaganda and renouncing the faith of their forebears.
- Private gun ownership was banned since 1949.
- 2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 3.6 (ranked 141st worldwide)
- Chinese Government own and exert control on many leading companies in China.
- Internet censorship is most successful in China. Even instant messaging apps are monitored.
- Detaining political opponents
- Only one party running the race in China.
- Unlimited terms for Presidents
- Mass roundups of ethnic groups based on religion and beliefs
China never claimed to be a democratic country. But citizens with guns would be able to choose whether they still support the Communist Party and its internet censorship.
Up next : We see how limited freedom in China is. But China never claimed to be a democratic country. Thus we will be examining another superpower with democratic rule next.
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3. Russia : Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Strong Man
Russia is similar to Venezuela, in the sense that the country is rich with natural resources and rely a lot on oil exports.
Since the collapse of Soviet Union in late 1991, Russia has gradually transformed itself into a democratic country. The first Russian President after the Soviet Union was Boris Yeltsin, who on December 31, 1999, unexpectedly announced his resignation and named Vladimir Putin acting president.
Vladimir Putin has remained in power till this day. And to his credit, even though Russia relies heavily on oil similar to Venezuela, when oil price tanked in 2015, Russia economy suffered much less than Venezuela. Putin even managed to raise his approval ratings to 6-year high with the annexation of Crimea afterwards.
However, even though Russia has adopted democracy since the fall of Soviet Union and Putin enjoys high approval ratings, Russians do not have as much freedom as their American counterpart.
Gun Ownership in Russia
Armed citizen were a very common sight in Russia during the Tsars era (before 1917). Back then there were just two restrictions : No pulling the trigger indoors (to prevent wooden buildings caught on fire) and no shooting outdoors in crowded places unless clearly necessary.
But all of this changed with the Bolshevik Revolution (Communist Revolution). The leaders of the uprising knew only too well what the masses were capable of, especially if armed up to the teeth, and moved to monopolize gun ownership.
In 1918 the Bolsheviks initiated a large scale confiscation of civilian firearms, outlawing their possession and threatening up to 10 years in prison for concealing a gun.
Today, Russians can only legally buy smoothbore guns for hunting and sports, as well as pneumatic firearms for self-defense. Applying for a gun license also involves a pretty rigorous background check.
2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 12.3 (ranked 68th worldwide)
Issues with Russia’s freedom
- People can’t protest in Russia without permission. Even though 1993 Russian Constitution stated the rights for peaceful protests, it wasn’t so in practice as Russian police would often detain protestors. Furthermore, a new law in 2014 dictates that a fine or detention of up to 15 days may be given for holding a demonstration without the permission of authorities and prison sentences of up to five years may be given for three breaches. Single-person pickets have resulted in fines and a three-year prison sentence.
As a result, more than 800 protestors were detained during protests against increasing of national retirement age in 2018.
- It is dangerous to oppose Putin. A number of activists, journalists and political opponents speaking against him were found dead mysteriously. Note that there were no concrete evidence that it is Putin’s work.
Chris Wallace asked Putin in an interview why so many of his oppositions were found dead. Putin’s answer was that it’s a normal thing for political players to be targeted and this kind of event has happened numerous times even in the US.
- According to RadioLiberty and Freedom House, media in Russia are controlled and manipulated by the Russian Government.
- During 2018 election, one of Putin’s main competitor was banned from the race. Note that Vladimir Putin already has high approval ratings according to polls (49% in 2018).
- During first half of 2017, the Finance Ministry found that 42.5% of government-owned companies’ procurement contracts was distributed without any competitive procedure.
Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov estimated that corruption causes an annual loss of 10% – 20% of official economic output.
- Russia is working on an internet kill switch project, citing cybersecurity as their objectives. Basically it will allow Russian government to cut off all international internet connection from Russia.
But experts say that this measure can also be used for internet censorship which in recent years play a key role in disseminating news.
- Russians can only buy smoothbore guns for hunting and sports. Pneumatic firearms can be bought for self-defense.
- 2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 12.3 (ranked 68th worldwide)
- Peaceful protests need to be authorized by the authorities
- Oppositions were mysteriously found dead.
- Media freedom is less than perfect.
- Political competitors banned from Presidential race.
- Corruption is rather high.
- More internet censorship is coming.
Guns would allow russians to protest without fearing for their safety. And they will have bigger voices regarding media freedom and election candidates.
Up next : Both Russia and China are the world’s superpower with high bargaining chips. Would a smaller, less influential country be better off without guns? We explore Poland next.
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4. Poland : A Broken Judicial System
1989 marked the end of Communism and the beginning of Democracy in Poland. With the aftermath of fascism from Nazi and communism from the Soviet Union, Poland stood as a shining new hope for democracy.
But when the Law and Justice Party came into power in 2015, it seems that there are less democracy and less freedom in this country.
Gun Ownership in Poland
Poland has some of the strictest regulation on civilian firearms ownership.
The origins of these strict rules may have to do with the years of foreign partitions and Soviet-imposed communist rule. In those trying times, private militias must have been seen as a grave threat to social order and personal safety of the ruling class.
Today, there is almost no tradition of gun ownership or hobby shooting sports. Only 5,000 gun licenses are issued annually and is a requirement to own firearms.
2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 2.5 (Ranked 168th worldwide)
Freedom Issues in Poland
- Polish Government has power over its Judicial System which is supposed to act as another pillar of checks and balances in a Democracy State.
President Andrzej Duda refused to accept legally elected judges and swore in 27 of his own cherry-picked Supreme Court judges. His decision was widely criticized by the legal community in the country for violating the Constitution.
- Media in Poland were heavily influenced by the Polish Government.
In January 2018, TVN journalists aired an undercover report that showed neo-Nazis in Poland celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday in 2017. Months after TVN’s story ran, the government attempted to prosecute the journalists who filmed the report.
TVP (Telewizja Polska, meaning Polish Television), a public TV broadcaster in Poland, fired about 200 of its journalists and news reporters whose work did not put the government in good light. Critics say that TVP is turned into a propaganda machine.
- Very strict rule on gun ownership
- Very few Polish own guns
- 2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 2.5 (ranked 168th worldwide)
- Judicial system under government rule, undermining the checks and balances in the country.
- Limited press freedom
There are quite a number of people protesting on both the judges and free press issues. Yet most oppressed Polish have to rely solely on the European Court of Justice to solve their own problems. That’s what you get when very few citizens own firearms.
Up next : We explore another country in European Union which would have been better with more gun rights, Hungary.
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5. Hungary : The Illiberal Leader
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is famous for his speech in 2014 regarding illiberal state.
He stated :
“… societies founded upon the principle of the liberal way to organize a state will not be able to sustain their world-competitiveness in the following years, and more likely they will suffer a setback, unless they will be able to substantially reform themselves.”
He also said :
“… the era of a workfare state could be next, we want to organize a workfare state, that – as I previously mentioned – will undertake the odium of expressing that in character it is not of a liberal nature. What all this exactly means, Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, is that we have to abandon liberal methods and principles of organizing a society, as well as the liberal way to look at the world.”
Note that the “Liberal” stated here is not the “Liberal – Conservative” context. Rather he meant liberal as the right to do anything that does not violate another person’s freedom.
It can be interpreted that he doesn’t believe in giving his citizens too much freedom.
Another well-executed move of PM Viktor Orban is the naming of Hungary’s No.1 public enemy. Experts say that even though Viktor Orban’s economic policies were not great, he was able to rally and unite his people against a single imaginary enemy, who is unable to fight back or be a real threat to his reign, George Soros.
Gun Ownership in Hungary
Firearms license is required for gun ownership in Hungary. License may be granted to those over the age of 18 who have no criminal convictions or mental disability, who are deemed reliable and can prove a necessity for owning a firearm.
To own semi-automatic rifles, hunting rifles, shotguns or handguns, one needs to
- Get permission from the police
- Pass theoretical, mental and psychological test
- Have strong justification to own guns, such as membership in a hunting or rifle club
Automatic firearms are prohibited.
2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 10.5 (Ranked 79th worldwide)
Issues in Hungary
- Orban’s government has been acquiring media within Hungary to exert influence onto Hungarians. And there were crackdowns on many media and non-governmental organisations that are considered disloyal to him.
- Experts estimated that 15 to 24 percent of Hungarian government procurement is corrupt. And probably the best investment that can be made in Hungary is in a good relationship with the government. Lőrinc Mészáros, former pipe fitter, mayor of the village of Felcsút, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s friend, became the 5th richest man in Hungary within just 3 years.
- Rather restrictive rule for firearm ownership
- Not many Hungarian own guns
- 2017 Estimated Civilian Firearms Holdings per 100 persons : 10.5 (Ranked 79th worldwide)
- Limited press freedom
- High corruption
Hungary is considered a rather mild case compared to other countries mentioned above. But with the current Prime Minister’s ideology, the right to bear arms would be a good protection for Hungarian’s freedom.
Up next : Many gun critics argued that guns are ineffective against tyranny, citing Saudi Arabia as an example of country with high gun ownership and very limited freedom. In the next section, we explore why their Saudi Arabia argument doesn’t work.
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6. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria and Many Other African Countries : Guns in these Countries don’t Improve Freedom
Many gun critics cite Saudi Arabia and Yemen as their prime examples of countries with lots of guns but are under authoritative totalitarian rule and limiting freedom.
Saudi Arabia had 16.7 per 100 persons estimated civilian firearms holdings and was ranked 42nd worldwide (2017). While Yemen had 52.8 per 100 persons estimated civilian firearms holdings and was ranked 3rd worldwide(2017).
With these high gun ownership rate, critics point out saying that media in Saudi Arabia has limited freedom. The most related proof would be the Jamal Khashoggi case.
While in Yemen, journalists are detained without just cause, kidnapped, tortured and even killed. The activist and press community are living in fear as their phones are being monitored, their movements are being tracked and every written word is judged according to the Houthi’s standards. Furthermore, Yemen is a country with very high crime rate.
Can the Gun Critics be Right?
No, they’re not. They’re misunderstanding some key issues.
Guns are a last resort against tyranny. They are not meant to be a substitution for rule of law, parliament, judges, presidents and Democracy. Guns cannot transform a Communist, Fascist or Totalitarian state into a democratic one, especially if the majority of people do not support democracy and liberty.
Furthermore guns will not stop crime in anarchic countries (such as Syria) rife with multiple insurgent groups vying for power, unless the majority of its population concert their efforts to do so.
Critics who use Saudi Arabia, Yemen or similar countries to prove that guns don’t work against tyranny are missing the point.
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What would you do if you live in a country with high corruption, high crime rate, rigged election, government sponsored thugs, no freedom of speech, propaganda media, media censorship, internet censorship and has banned guns?
In today’s world, there are plenty of examples for tyranny. And plenty of places where liberty and democracy deteriorate over time.
It’s not that tyrants are evil. It’s just natural order. When you lose all your bargaining chips, you rights will be stripped away.