'Arms as Insurance,' Revisited

Samuel C. Wheeler III, University of Connecticut

A few years ago, I published "Arms as Insurance," an essay arguing that gun ownership by private citizens is a politically relevant tool in preventing genocide by enabling meaningful citizen resistance, effectively raising the cost of genocidal policies to a level at which they are much less probable. I am now not so sure about this argument, given advances in technology. Those advances in technology make it likely that the "democratizing" effect of firearms, one techology that allows resistance and insurrection, may soon give way to a situation in which effective weaponry is only available to those with vast resources. It is beginning to seem likely to me that we are headed for a situation analogous to the age of chariots or that of mounted knights, where only wealthy elites could afford effective deadly force.

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Updated 05/20/2006