America’s Armed Populace: Why Owning an AR-15 Rifle is a Moral Imperative

by Tommy Grant

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By Mike Nowland

The howler monkeys of the anti-self defense rights crowd constantly blast us with weepy, blood-spattered reminders of the costs of an armed society. Those same people, however, are remarkably well disciplined about never, ever mentioning the historical costs of disarmament.

Every major policy choice has both positive and negative effects, some planned or anticipated and some unintentional. The Founders’ decision to maintain an armed population is an example.

An honest reading of the Second Amendment and the contemporaneous writings of the people who formulated it make clear the Founders intended Americans to be an armed populace as a counter to the power of government. Most of the people who participated in those discussions were highly educated, including in political history. Most modern Americans, it’s safe to say, aren’t.

I own an AR-15, ammunition for it, and tools for its care and maintenance. I have owned a fighting rifle for decades and will until I’m no longer able to use one.  When that day comes, it will be passed to a descendant or young friend who understands why every capable American is morally obligated to own one.

The Founders understood fundamental truths of human nature.  They knew most people are decent and want to be left alone.  They knew a dangerous few people have always wanted and will always want to exploit other people.  A smaller but much more dangerous proportion are willing to do absolutely anything in pursuit of such exploitation.

Dangerous criminals are only too happy to assault, rob, rape, and murder others. As tyrannical governments have demonstrated throughout history, killing millions of innocent people doesn’t bother them in the slightest. Genocide, democide, ethnic cleansing, slavery, colonial exploitation, terrorism, and wars of conquest have been the norm through human history.

The only thing that the dangerous — individuals, politicians, or governments — truly fear is violence that could affect them directly. The more common, rational exploiters can be deterred. They will proceed only if a sufficient imbalance of lethal force is in their favor.

When there’s a real risk that attempted genocide, democide, ethnic cleansing, exploitation or imposition of slavery will backfire, rationally self-interested tyrants are likely to revise their plans. Deterrence is the primary reason America’s Founders chose an armed populace as a key component of maintaining a free society.

Would Hamas have attacked southern Israel if the locals had been as well armed as typical American towns of similar size? When groups have comparable ability to apply lethal force and defend themselves, nonviolent means of conflict resolution become much more likely.

That kind of deterrence won’t always work. Irrational, wildly narcissistic, and unrealistic tyrants will plow ahead regardless. Virtually nothing can be done to deter them. Effective armed resistance by an armed populace can be the only way to stop them. That’s the second reason Americans are armed.

The AR-15 rifle disperses lethal capability just as swords, shields, bows, and spears did in the past. When a targeted population is armed well enough to defeat a dangerous attacker, aggression is far less likely. That’s why deterrence of victimization, aggression, and oppression is a duty of every capable adult.

Every living thing has the natural right to defend itself as best it can. Denial of that right is grotesquely immoral. So why do so many oppose self-defense rights?

Elites have done all they can to disarm commoners since hunter gatherer clans first merged into tribes. The tribal chief and his brothers took the best food, shelter, and women for themselves, and killed or disarmed competitors and rivals in the tribe.

Rulers of cities from Tenochtitlan to Nineveh have lived in circumstances far better than those of their populations by monopolizing lethal force capability. Modern elites from New York to Beijing continually strive to do the same. Armed peasants are threats to their positions and power, especially when their exploitation becomes excessive.

Elites co-opt as many of the people they rule as they can by providing various benefits like government employment and wealth transfers, but the more common opponents of armed self-defense rights come in three flavors.

Some are genuinely persuaded that an armed population is less safe than one capable of resisting criminal exploitation and tyranny. Elite-owned media constantly report on criminal firearm misuse as shrilly as possible, and dishonestly include common suicides when discussing ‘gun violence.’ Very few of the persuaded have ever considered the past and present realities of subjugation, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and terrorism, or other aggressive attacks despite seeing them on the news every day…if they watch news at all.

Some oppose armed self defense solely because their political “team” — in America, the elite-dominated Democrat party — opposes it. People like to belong to groups and will adopt the policy positions of their party in order to be accepted, and to feel like they’re somehow contributing by helping to achieve some collective good.

Many more are perpetually frightened, often of many aspects of real life. Civilian-owned firearms and people who might use them scare some people enough that they just want them to go away, in the way children try to wish away what frightens them.

Violent death is real. Democide killed more than a quarter billion people in the twentieth century alone per R.J. Rummel. While many if not most of America’s 8,000 or so murders each year would probably happen without guns, the others are a significant cost of our armed population policy. Still, they’re a tiny fraction of the number of annual civilian defensive gun uses, never mind government-committed murders.

Effective deterrence is impossible to quantify. Some people believe America is immune to the horrors other people suffer. Those things could never happen here…except for isolated instances like the systematic genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of African Americans, the ethnic cleansing of Japanese Americans, criminalization of gay Americans and so on.

Given the impossibility of knowing how many aren’t victimized because bad people are deterred, we can only make crude comparisons. How many Americans have killed each other since our establishment as a country? How many Europeans have been killed by other Europeans in the same period? How many Asians by other Asians? Over the long run, Americans kill each other at much lower rates than other societies. That’s not because we’re inherently better people, but because we can’t.

Every political, religious, ethnic, or other subgroup of Americans is armed well enough to deter any other group from attempting to subjugate or kill them, force them out of the country, or put them in camps.

Armed populations are stable and more peaceful by comparison. America’s thoroughly armed populace is our only real guarantee of relative peace and stability. If you don’t like mass murder and don’t want to be victimized by others who are willing to do so, ownership of an AR-15 and the means of armed self-defense is a moral imperative.


Mike Nowland writes at Substack. A version of this article first appeared there and is reprinted here with permission. 

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