A number of answers here address the consequences of the government going mad and using all available force to disarm the US public. While we can’t know exactly how this would play out, some of these scenarios are plausible. — especially since the American Revolutionary War was triggered by exactly such an action by the British army (.
It seems extremely unlikely that any President could amass enough support to (try to) pull anything like this off. If one tried anyway, a likely result is that he/she would simply be ignored at all levels of government (local, state and national).
The POTUS would be reduced to impotently yelling out of the windows of the White House. The Vice-President would then take over and the President has taken to a mental hospital for observation and treatment, being obviously incapacitated and incapable of performing his/her duties, (Richard Nixon’s advisers made plans for what to do if he went off the rails in the last few months of his administration). A lot of people in government actually take their oath to “Defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic” seriously.
But, suppose we have a President who is not mad and proceeds with gradual disarmament, slowly building up support with the usual political methods? (In other words, pretty much what we have today.) This is easy to answer since it is already happening and here are some of the most likely events if it goes further:
- When people get wind of what is being planned, firearm sales skyrocket to unprecedented heights: ( his makes the basic disarmament problem much harder.
- People also start looking at ways to hide (some of) their guns — survivalist literature becomes suddenly more popular.
- The confiscation by seizure would be preceded by a voluntary surrender of arms, sort of like forgiveness of fines at the library, except a bounty would be offered.People will be paid 150% of what they paid for their weapons or ammo, or else 150% of current market value. Doesn’t matter where the guns come from; owned, found, stolen, etc.
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- This will all be accompanied by a huge PR campaign supporting the “right thing to do.” It will also highlight how much TAX-FREE money people stand to make. “Society will be safer, and YOU will be enriched.”
- The voluntary program will be followed by search and seizure, accompanied by a fine. No compensation. Manpower will come from those who have turned in their weapons and who knows who else is holding out. They will be paid as bounty hunters.
- There is a guarantee that, while many guns may be turned involuntarily, and others seized in searches, a HUGE number will also be hidden.
- The legislation would be passed to reduce the economic impact of those whose income is based on sales and repair of guns. A nice gesture.
- Local groups who strongly opposed the program, and declared their intent not to comply, would take refuge in various defended locations, and challenge the authorities to “do something” about it.Which the authorities would do. Some hold-outs will give up peacefully. Others will go down in a blaze of glory.
The military and most law enforcement would refuse to obey the unlawful order. Oddly, those people tend to take their oaths to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, seriously. If the government persisted, mass defection would occur in short order. See next paragraph.
Civilians (those who recognized the threat) would pick up every gun, bullet, and blade that wasn’t bolted down and prepare for an armed conflict that would make the Civil War look like a grade-school fistfight at recess. Former military and police officers would likely assume command and advisory roles to the nascent rebellion.
- The Congress will pass a bill which makes possession of a firearm in the course of a crime a federal offense, subject to an automatic minimum 10-year sentence, with no appeal, separate from any other criminal prosecution, and in addition to any other jail time. A companion bill will authorize construction of new prison facilities to house the offenders.
- There would be an initial upsurge in crimes committed by or at the behest of major crime organizations, who are possessed of sufficient resources to adopt other technologies, such as hidden remotely activated explosives for major jobs (bank robberies, etc.)
- Sales of other forms of lethal weapons, such as small crossbows and bolts, lethal tasers and personal hand grenades will skyrocket. Other lethal technologies will be introduced to take up the slack.
- The Department of the Interior (Natural Resources) will receive additional funding to control animal populations which will expand owing to the lack of population control by hunters. At the state level, acting under federal block grants, natural resource agencies will arm skilled shooters to control deer and other pests in organized hunts, paying a bounty for each animal killed.
- There will be no decrease in “lone wolf” incidents, as the perpetrators will have already arranged to secure their firearms.
- There will be no decrease in terrorist acts, as the perpetrators will likewise have arranged to secure their weapons.
- After laws are passed, most people (and perhaps most local law enforcement as well) will simply ignore the law. Connecticut and New York citizens, by the thousands, have simply ignored the mandatory registration laws recently passed in those states. These states don’t begin to have enough law enforcement personnel to do anything about this, even if the officers obeyed. Compliance has been estimated at only 15%.
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Even in countries which don’t have the US’s strong traditions and legal protection for gun ownership, confiscation efforts have been less than successful. Australia’s mandatory “buyback” program was estimated, by the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia, to have had only a 19% compliance rate..
The fact is that guns are easy to make — good ones are made by craftsmen using fairly primitive hand tools; a $6000 investment in tabletop machine tools would allow you to make good weapons in your garage or basement; in a few years a modest investment in 3D printing will make it trivially easy to make high-quality firearms.
Criminals will always have guns through the black market, if nowhere else. The only real effect of gun bans is to put the law-abiding public more at risk — both from criminals and from their own government.
Gun violence is a significant problem in the United States, more so than in any other civilized country: you can’t equivocate it away. Yet most of it does not happen in schools, is not performed with a sexy looking rifle, and isn’t in the news. If you want to lower gun violence, I highly suggest exploring the role of poverty and the war on drugs, instead of suggesting gun confiscations, censorship, or turning the schools into a police state.
School shootings are a separate issue — probably with different causes — but while all the focus seems on guns (and justifiably so), I’d also strongly suggest looking into the role of SSRIs have played.
“When a government feels it’s responsibility is to take away the people’s right to defense, it becomes the people’s responsibility to take away the government’s right to govern” George Washington.
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