DANIEL VAUGHAN: Venezuelan gun confiscation is a lesson for Americans

May 3, 2019

DANIEL VAUGHAN: Venezuelan gun confiscation is a lesson for Americans

It seems like every story out of Venezuela is worse than the last. We’ve witnessed everything to people eating garbage to survive to the latest videos of the Nicolás Maduro regime recklessly running over civilian protestors in the street with military vehicles.

The scene was reminiscent of China’s Tiananmen Square, and prompted a rare moment of retrospection and clarity on MSNBC. Anchor Kerry Sanders, while discussing the brutality of Maduro’s military, remarked, “You have to understand, in Venezuela gun ownership is not something that’s open to everybody. So if the military has the guns, they have the power, and as long as Nicolás Maduro controls the military, he controls the country.”

You’ll find no disagreement here.

Venezuela banned private gun ownership seven years ago in 2012. Hugo Chavez, the socialist dictator, claimed the ban would prevent “gun violence” and “crime” in Venezuela. But when the people held on to their weapons instead of turning them over, he took the guns by force. Maduro accelerated the push, spending millions in a campaign to rid the populace of weapons and jailing citizens for decades if they opposed the measure.

More than 200 protestors, armed mostly with rocks, have been shot dead by Maduro’s forces.

Instead of being able to defend themselves, or push back against a tyrannical government, Venezuelan citizens protest at their peril.

It’s said that Venezuelans are engaging in “non-violent” protests to try and push Maduro out and increase international pressure. The problem with that version of events is that “non-violent” protests imply a choice that does not exist in this case. When you cannot engage in violent protest, it takes away the power of non-violent protests.

Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and others who used non-violent protests did so acknowledging they had the power to use violence in their cause. Non-violence was a specific choice used to sway public opinion. Venezuelans do not have that choice. If they take any stance against Maduro, it is at the risk of their own life. Maduro has banned news agencies across television and radio, and has restricted the reach of various internet sites. Protestors are attacked and journalists are deported, leaving no one to tell the real story of what is happening on the ground.

As the Venezuelan government is now in shambles, foreign actors like Russia and Cuba are getting involved. This is not a situation of peaceful government change. Maduro is holding on with raw power, employing an increasingly fractured military, whether his own or foreign actors, to achieve his ends. Non-violent protests cannot overcome that form of brutality.

Maduro, even though he was elected illegitimately, holds all the power, as socialists often do in these situations. He stripped the people of their rights and defenses, consolidated power, and now refuses to leave office. It’s the story of every socialist and communist government in history. Once given excessive power, those with power refuse to give it “to the people,” as Jim Geraghty noted on the situation in Venezuela:

Socialism requires a government with far-reaching authority to set the rules for every little nook and cranny of the economy — which inevitably gives it a lot of power, and the human beings running the system inevitably start abusing that power.

Private gun ownership is a threat to socialist power grabs — which is ultimately why so many socialist elites do not want the masses to own any means of self-defense.

If New Zealand is a reminder of how democratic mob rule can destroy individual rights, Venezuela is a reminder that socialism always seeks to strip individuals of any rights. New Zealand relied on tragedy to ram through legislation that stripped law-abiding citizens of certain gun rights. Venezuelan socialists took rights away, confiscated the guns, and jailed anyone who dared act contrary to that impulse.

As MSNBC anchor Kerry Sanders said, “If the military has the guns, they have the power…” By extension, if the populace had guns, they would have power. Socialists ultimately want all power for themselves, and that means taking away control from anyone else — by force if necessary. And don’t think that risk is confined to Venezuela: one of the Democratic candidates for president, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), is openly advocating for gun confiscation, using the same rationale as Chavez and Maduro.

In a nutshell, that is the beauty of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Much like everything else in the Constitution, the Second Amendment acknowledges that the people hold the power and the government serves them. Protecting the Second Amendment means protecting a power meant to give the people a form of control over the government. Keeping power with the people is the best antidote to the evil that is socialism.

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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.