By Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute
National Review Online, March 18, 2002 9:35 a.m. More by Kopel on China.
The government of China has just issued this year's "Human Rights Record of the United States." Much of the report consists of pseudo-factoids created by Leftist interest groups, allegedly showing what a terrible country America is. The leadoff item is an extended complaint about American gun ownership.
The Chinese government frets that "The United States is the country with the biggest number of private guns." We are also, of course, the country with the biggest number of private books, private churches, private newspapers, private computers, private single-family homes, and other tools and incidents of freedom. It is no coincidence that America is a simultaneously a well-armed and a prosperous nation, for both traits stem from America's culture of freedom and individualism.
The Chinese report accurately states that "The US National Association of Education estimates that about 100,000 students in the United States take arms to school every day," although this factoid is utterly false. The 100,000 figure is very loosely taken from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys asking teenagers in grades nine through twelve, "During the last 30 days, how many times have you carried a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, for self-protection or because you thought you might need it in a fight?" [Centers for Disease Control, "Weapon-carrying among High School Students — United States, 1990" Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 40, (no. 40, Oct. 11, 1991): 681-84.]
The 100,000 factoid assumes that every respondent who carried a gun at least once carried a gun to school every day. In fact, the data suggested that most of the students did not carry a gun every day, but only occasionally. And the students were not asked if they carried a weapon at school. Thus, the "yes" answers applied to occasional carrying anywhere, such as in an automobile when driving at night in dangerous neighborhoods, or when driving a pickup truck while working on the family ranch.
Part I of the Chinese report concludes: "In recent years, voices for controlling guns and eliminating the culture of violence have been running high. On Mother's Day on May 14, 2000, women from nearly 70 cities in the United States staged a 'Million Moms Mother's Day March,' demanding that the US Congress enact a strict gun control law. However, voices of the common people can hardly produce any results." By providing the name of the march, but not the actual number of marchers, the report elides the fact that the so-called "Million" antigun protesters actually amounted to about 100,000. In 2001, the "Million" dwindled to a mere hundred at the Washington rally. Antigun bigots were far outvoted in November 2000 by human-rights advocates, and even President Clinton acknowledged that Second Amendment advocates were the main reason that George Bush is president and the House is Republican. Thus, current pro-rights attitudes in the federal government do reflect "the voices of the common people."
It is in China, of course, where "the voices of the common people" are suppressed by a dictatorship that is so afraid of the common people that no elections are held and the press is rigorously censored. Further demonstrating the Chinese government is not a "dictatorship of the proletariat," but a dictatorship of a self-serving, rapacious, wealthy, and hegemonic elite is China's very repressive gun control, which authorize the death penalty for "serious" cases of illegal gun sales or possession.
The gun-banning Chinese regime unintentionally proves its illegitimacy by distributing Mao's "Little Red Book," which contains Mao's dictum: "Every Communist must grasp the truth, 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.'" (From "Problems of War and Strategy," Nov. 6, 1938.) Neither Mao nor his successors wanted "the common people" to have any political power, and therefore the common people are prevented from possessing arms. If the Chinese people were as well armed as the American people, China would soon have a very different government.
As the Declaration of Independence affirms, the only legitimate governments are those whose power derives from the consent of the governed. Because, as China's gun laws demonstrate, China's rulers lack such consent, China's dictators are no more of a legitimate "government" than the hundred marchers in Washington were really a "million" mothers.
Finally, the Chinese human rights report omits any mention the most important human rights effect of widespread firearms ownership: deterring genocide. Every government which perpetrated genocide in the 20th century made sure that its victims were disarmed first. This includes the regime of the hideous tyrant Mao Zedong, which the current Chinese government continues to extol as the "Great Leader." If the Chinese people had been as well armed in the Mao years as the American people are today, the wicked Mao wouldn't have been able to murder so many of them.
The number of Chinese, Europeans, and others murdered by genocidal regimes in just a few years far outnumbers the number of people killed by ordinary criminals worldwide in the entire 20th century.
Germany has confronted its genocidal past. China's failure to confront its own culture of government-sponsored violence and genocide is one more reason why the thuggish Chinese "government" is not a member of the community of civilized nations. One day, though, China's gun-banning dictatorship will join China's "human rights" reports on history's ash heap of discarded lies.