Introduction: Understanding Conservative Ideology
There were no restrictions in the Mosaic law regarding the private ownership of weapons. Here we see a unique aspect of the Mosaic law. Citizens, tribes, cities and even strangers were allowed to possess weaponry that the king, as the nation’s commander of God’s holy army, was not allowed to own. This was another aspect of the decentralised political order under the Mosaic law…the Mosaic law was silent with regard to privately owned weapons. The general principle of the Mosaic law was analogous to the law in Eden: that which was not explicitly prohibited by law or a principle of the law was legal.
Political conservatives have been around for many hundreds of years, going back at least to the Magna Carta. What has been their ideology? It has emphasised the need to protect individuals, the family and the Church from unjust incursions of government. Overall it has been one of caution, even suspicion in relation to government and what it has done to people.
The conservative begins with the individual, the family the church and sometimes God. The tyrant and the totalitarian begin with government, with the State.
Conservatives like Burke have understood the frailties of the human heart. Thus we believe in decentralisation, and the restraint of government (through such things as constitutions, parliaments and the rule of law), while tyrants believe in the expansion and often uncontrolled use of State power. “The fascist conception of life,” Mussolini wrote in Fascism: Doctrines and Institutions, “stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the State.”  Mussolini put his finger on a fundamental difference of priority. This difference has great implications today.
But there is more. Conservatives are not afraid of the people, the grass-roots; tyrants are. Conservatives are not afraid of the people having rights and liberties, and exercising them. In fact, conservatives view rights and liberties as their birth-right and heritage in a free nation; things to be fought for, whereas tyrants view the suppression of people’s rights and liberties as essential for the furtherance of their evil regimes.
Tyrants resist freedom of religion, of the press, of speech and of assembly. They always try to suppress these freedoms out of fear, and a desire to maintain power. In fact, tyrants are afraid of vigorous, independent, self-motivated people, for the tyrant’s focus is total control. But political conservatives believe that vigour, confidence, independence and self-motivation make up the very warp and woof of a free and prosperous nation.
As a consequence conservatives historically, have opposed governments holding more power or privileges than the people. Government must be restrained. This was what motivated Stephen Langton (the Archbishop of Canterbury) to write and sign the Magna Carta, and to challenge King John to sign it too. Like John, Charles I believed that a king and his subjects were totally different, and that he was above the people and the law. His attitude led to the English Revolution of the 1640’s, and ultimately cost him his head.
If we consider ourselves to be political conservatives, we must understand the ideology of conservatism. We prepare for the future, by learning from the past.
Tyrants are always suspicious of armed, confident independent subjects. Charles II sought to disarm Protestants, and one of the early attempts of Britain to move against dissident Americans prior to the War of Independence, was when the British Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, General Gage, sought to stop armed protest by confiscating American stores of arms in September 1774.
The English Revolution of the 1640’s, and the American Revolution which began in 1776, were conservative revolutions, resisting new and unpopular taxation. One of the reasons they were both successful, was that the revolutionaries were able to obtain similar or better firearms, than those they were fighting against. These two revolutions have much to teach us, as does our own home-grown revolution in Australia, commonly (but inaccurately) called the Rum Rebellion of 1808.
Confiscation of firearms was the normal procedure for twentieth century tyrants. Why? So that subsequent resistance to revolution would be difficult for the people to sustain. No firearms-no power to resist. The Turks confiscated the Armenians’ firearms in 1915, before beginning their massacre of 1.5 million innocents, and Hitler through a selective gun registration process, prevented Jews from owning firearms. By 1936, Jews were defenceless.
In 1940, when England was threatened with invasion by Germany after the fall of France, millions of firearms were donated by Americans and shipped over to England because individuals in England possessed few firearms for self-protection in the case of invasion.
Mao claimed that “power comes out of the barrel of a gun,” and one of his first acts when taking over an area of China, was total firearm confiscation from the community.
When the Hutus murdered some 800,000 Tutsis in 1994 in Rwanda, you can guess who it was that had access to firearms, and it wasn’t the Tutsis.
Conservatives and Guns:
The relationship of political conservatives with guns goes back a long time, to when firearms were first used in Europe. The conservative Oliver Cromwell stated in 1649, “It will be found an unwise and unjust jealousy, to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon a supposition he may abuse it,” while Machiavelli admitted of the Swiss that they were “the most free and most armed people” of Europe. George Washington claimed that
Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence… From the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to ensure peace, security, and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable… The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honour with all that’s good.
Washington’s compatriot, Patrick Henry, warned that “the great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun.”
(To be continued).