Armed Revolution and Gun Control

Fairleigh Dickinson University just published the stupefying results of their recent national survey about armed revolution and gun control.  Asked for their opinion about this question: “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties”, 29% said an armed revolution may be necessary.  That’s three in ten of my fellow citizens.  Three in ten!

The survey also shows how belief in the potential need for armed revolution against our government correlates with beliefs about gun control.  Only four in ten (38%) who believe a revolution might be necessary support additional gun control legislation.  Additional legislation is supported by over six in ten (62%) who do not think armed revolt will be needed.

The results also differ by party, with two in ten (18%) Democrats thinking an armed revolution may be necessary versus more than four in ten (44%) Republicans.  That’s a lot of Republicans!  It’s also a lot of Democrats.

The survey also asked if respondents believe that: “Some people are hiding the truth about the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in order to advance a political agenda.”  I feel naive to be shocked that a quarter of us does believe facts about the shooting are being hidden.

One of the poll analysts said: “The differences in views of gun legislation are really a function of differences in what people believe guns are for.  If you truly believe an armed revolution is possible in the near future, you need weapons and you’re going to be wary about government efforts to take them away.”  That sounds accurate.

As I wrote here, I once owned a .22 rifle, but not in case I needed to overthrow my government, and I didn’t get rid of it because it would be outmatched by my government’s weaponry.  I always thought democracy was the least bad of all possible arrangements for a large society.  That’s why I vote.

It’s very disturbing that three in ten Americans believe our democratic form of government may have to be overthrown.   It’s downright peculiar that they also believe their firearms could do the job.

7 comments on “Armed Revolution and Gun Control

  1. I’ve known a few people who think an armed revolution likely at some point. I think most of those who think a revolution may be justified would agree that the Democratic system is the best system. Only a few are looking to go in a different direction (theocracy, etc)

    I think the real issue is that these people don’t feel represented. It is telling (and unsurprising) that more Republicans feel this way. Look at their shrinking demographics. I would venture to guess that the Democrats who feel this way also feel unrepresented, but likely because they feel their government has been bought and paid for.

    I think the idea of armed revolution has very deep roots in this country, and is closely tied to our Republican form of government. We came out of revolution, and Thomas Jefferson himself suggested that unless we had a new revolution every generation the experiment would fail. The fact is, the entire original reason for the 2nd Amendment is tied up in the idea that the revolutionary government may become the tyranny it once opposed. So it’s really not surprising to find that there is a correlation between gun hoarders and thoughts of revolution. It’s our self-destruct button.

    However, those numbers are disturbingly high. They speak to the disaffected feeling in our society, the sense that our government isn’t working, that it doesn’t represent us any more. Essentially, that the system is rigged. Add to that the post 9/11 cocktail of paranoia and security theater, and we have a nasty situation. Trust in government is at an all time low, and there are deep, deep problems. Guns, to some, represent security in turbulent times, and agency in a time when many people feel powerless to make a difference.

    I say all this as a pacifist (well, mostly), and a non-gun owner.

  2. Thoughtful discussion. I believe your point, David, that disaffection with our current government ineptitude and representation on both sides of the aisle is at the heart of this. One thing that Romney said, paraphrasing here, that 40%+ of our voters are receiving partial or full government handouts, drives a good deal of the voting results. No one wants to worry about giving up what they deem as their fair share, so this two-party system which personifies inaction suits them fine. Armed revolt? No. Revolt: I feel ready but know the two party leadership members hate a third party more than they hate each other!

    • Good to hear from you, Jill. I agree with you and David that disaffection is a root cause. The feeling that government is rigged to be unfair to “my kind of folks” seems to be shared right now by every kind of folks.

      What Romney actually said is 47% of the country pay no income tax but that detail never was important, what is important is the feeling he was articulating. The great majority of Americans really are worse off than a decade ago and their situation is getting worse, not better. Hardly anyone believes our government cares or knows how to make it better even if they do.

      What most surprises me about the survey results is how many people imagine “we the people” could overthrow our government by means of civilian firearms. The question was not if respondents want guns to defend themselves in the event of an armed revolution but if “an armed revolution might be necessary to protect our liberties”.

  3. Eric wrote: “This does not surprise me. Our government has become so corrupt that it no longer pays much interest to the needs of our society. This is far from unique in human history. The most unusual aspect of our current society is how long we have gone without a revolution.”

  4. Sean wrote: “From a post I made on this topic somewhere else: “What’s funny to me is that the people preparing for revolution are, generally speaking, pretty well coddled by the system. If I looked for a group or groups to revolt, I would guess repressed minorities. But they aren’t the ones talking violent revolution.””

    • That’s an interesting point. Who’s more likely to revolt, people who have no privilege (looking to gain some) or those who are used to having privilege and fear it being taken from them? I personally think the latter is just as likely if not more so, based on my understanding of history. I think this is partly what’s going on with the Republican hard-liners. Demographic shifts and rights expansions threatens “traditional” white male privilege. The Civil War was fought over a similar feeling – the demographic shift in population that caused the South to no longer dominate the electoral college by 1860. The Southern states felt powerless to stop threats to the way of life, hence rebellion.

  5. Ah, I should study more of the history I missed by going to school outside the USA. I didn’t know about “the demographic shift in population that caused the South to no longer dominate the electoral college by 1860”. That explains so much. So I looked at the cross-tabs in the survey report for clues about white male privilege. It’s murky. There’s no difference by gender on whether armed revolution may be necessary, but a very big difference by party affiliation and level of education. On the need for more gun control, there’s a huge difference by party affiliation, no difference by level of education, but a big difference by gender (41% male vs 59% female in favor). Nonetheless, the decline of white male privilege does feel like a contributory factor.

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