Calls for gun control after a mass shooting in America has, of course, become standard fare. But before Americans permit themselves to be stampeded into surrendering their right to own guns, it would be wise to keep Chile in mind.
In 1973, the Chilean national-security establishment, after winning a quick military battle against the president of the country, took power. The new ruler, a military general named Augusto Pinochet, established one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern history.
Tens of thousands of people were rounded up without arrest warrants, indictments, or other aspects of due process of law. Most of them were brutally tortured. What Pinochet's people did to female prisoners, sexually, is so gruesome that it defies credulity. Some three thousand people were executed or disappeared.
What had these people done? Their only "crime" was being socialists or communists or supporters of the democratically elected president who had been ousted in the coup, Salvador Allende. That's the reason they were rounded up, incarcerated, tortured, sexually abused, executed, or disappeared.
If anyone objected, he would be forcibly added to the ranks of the victims.
Chile's federal courts? They went silent. The judges knew what would happen to them if they enforced the law and the Constitution against the country's new military dictatorship.
The Pinochet regime was a model of the term "tyranny." It would be difficult to find a better example of a tyrannical regime. The Chilean people had learned first-hand why President Eisenhower had warned Americans in 1961 of the grave danger that their own "military-industrial complex" posed to their liberties and democratic processes.
As Thomas Jefferson pointed out in the Declaration of Independence, people have the right to resist a tyrannical regime and even to overthrow it.
So, why didn't those Chileans who were being victimized by the Pinochet dictatorship resist it by force?
One big reason: gun control. Due to gun-control laws, the Chilean people lacked the means to resist or overthrow Pinochet's tyrannical regime. When the tyrants are the only ones who have the guns, citizens have two choices: Obey or be killed, incarcerated, tortured, or abused.
A gun-control advocate here in the United States is likely to respond, "That was Chile, not the United States. Our national-security establishment would never do such things."
That response, however, overlooks an important point: Our national-security establishment loved what Pinochet was doing, supported what he was doing, and participated in what he was doing.