Lies, Damned Lies, and the US Gun Lobby

(Previously published in the McTavish Opera blog, 31 March 2013)

The gun lobby in the United States of America, ever fearful of having their precious guns taken away from them, come out with several claims to back up their right to bear arms, as enshrined in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. This one caught my eye on Facebook recently – and it is facepalm central.

“China established gun control in 1935. Between 1948 and 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.”

Firstly, let’s have a little history lesson. In 1931 the Japanese invaded Manchuria in China and established martial law there. What followed was the Manchunko government in China, which effectively made it a puppet state to Japan. This was further exacerbated by the 1940 Reorganized National Government of China, which put the country under the “protection” of Japan. If there were a 1935 ban on guns in China, and whilst I may be wrong I cannot find one, then it was enforced by imperialist Japan and not any independent Chinese government.

China had been split by civil war for most of the 20th century and this was one of the weaknesses which allowed the Japanese to walk into the country and take over. The cessation of World War II saw the resumption of hostilities between Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT)government of China and the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). The KMT, China’s oldest political party, represented the landlords and continued ill treatment of peasants, while the CPC promised a brighter future. The revolution which followed lasted until 1950, which sort of puts the gun lobby claim of 1948 to 1952 immediately out of kilter somewhat. But more than this, far from disarming the people, Mao Tse Tung and the CPC actually supplied them with arms to protect themselves from and rise up against their feudal superiors. Even after the revolution, Mao conscripted every able-bodied man and woman, expecting them to do their bit. He even wrote in Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung – the infamous “little red book” which every Chinese citizen was given a copy of, “Every Communist must learn the truth: political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” It does not of course – terror does. However, this does not sound very much to me like a man who has a problem with gun ownership.

And contrary to what the US gun lobby would like to claim, there was never any control of guns during the Chinese revolutionary period, nor thereafter for that matter. Some will state the “Temporary Measures of Control of Firearms” enacted by China in 1952. This law is completely made up and does not appear in any Chinese statute books. Indeed, Chinese gun control was not enacted until the implementation of Measures of the People’s Republic of China for the Control of Firearms, 1981, which was seven years after the death of Mao Tse Tung – and around the start of China embracing western capitalism.

Next to the reported 20 million “political dissidents” rounded up and exterminated. As I have previously stated, for the first two years of the given period, there was still a bloody civil war going on, during which a great many died on both sides. The 1971 report to the US Senate Committee of the Judiciary, The Human Cost of Communism in China alleged the total deaths under Mao to be 32 million to 59.5 million. That however is right up until 1971 and includes war, internal fighting, famine, deaths trough forced labour and political executions. Due to the secrecy of Communist China, even the United Nations find it difficult to gauge the number of deaths by any means. Some of the gun lobby claim that these 20 million starved to death. If they did, then they were peasants whose first priority was food, which they could not afford, let alone guns, which they could not. People cannot eat guns, regardless of what the gun lobby would have you believe. And not that it matters as even at 20 million, I wouldn’t give them much chance of success against the might of the Chinese Red Army.

No gun lobbyist can therefore say with any certainty that 20 million political dissidents were rounded up and exterminated by Chinese communists between 1948-52 and I invite any one of them to attempt to supply empirical truth of any such claim.

I of course am implicitly anti-gun, but then I live in the UK, where we do have gun control. I fully realise that the USA is a different matter. I do not think that the Second Amendment will ever change, for it is too much part of US culture. At the same time however, I would argue that the gun lobby do themselves no favours by telling outright lies or making claims backed with wild anti-communist paranoia which they cannot substantiate.

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