Myanmar Protests Show an AR-15 Will Protect a Lot More Freedom than a Slingshot
What good is an AR-15 against an oppressive government armed with tanks and bombers? That’s the question gun owners often get asked, as if the destructive power of the modern state is a mic-drop argument against private weapons ownership. That might be a bit more convincing if resistance fighters didn’t repeatedly go up against well-armed troops with whatever weapons they can make or scavenge in hopes of gaining breathing room and forcing change. Sometimes, they even win, and their chances would undoubtedly be better if they had better tools at hand to begin with.
“Every day, when Ko Win Kyaw goes out to demonstrate against the Myanmar military, he carries his slingshot and a supply of rocks as ammunition,” Richard C. Paddock reported for The New York Times on April 17. “What began as peaceful protests after the Feb. 1 coup rapidly grew into a resistance movement, with citizens defending themselves using slingshots, homemade air guns, old hunting rifles and firebombs.”
Despite endorsement for resistance efforts from the pro-democracy shadow government facing off against the ruling junta, Reuters emphasized that a loosely organized group “[a]rmed with a few hunting guns made by village blacksmiths, catapults, some airguns and Molotov cocktails … were no match for forces hardened by decades of conflict and equipped with combat weapons.”
But, despite the paucity of their arms and training, the fighters gave government forces a day-long battle. They had to turn, at least for the time being, to makeshift weapons because the regime spent years trying to keep the population disarmed so that it wouldn’t have to face serious resistance.
“In Myanmar, civilians are not allowed to possess any firearms,” notes the University of Sydney’s GunPolicy.org.
“There were gun licenses issued under the [totalitarian Burma Socialist Program Party, or BSPP] government starting from 1977 but only to those who were fully-fledged party members and serving on duty in BSPP,” according to The Irrawaddy, which covers news in the region. “But after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, [the military] revoked gun licenses and recalled guns.”
Denied legal access to guns by a brutal government that feared resistance, the people of Myanmar are still willing to fight, but must scrounge the tools for doing so where they can be found.
“We have no choice but to arm ourselves,” one activist told the U.K.’s Sunday Times.
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong found themselves in a similar situation when China moved to crush the liberties of the semi-autonomous region.
“Hong Kong protesters shot bows and arrows and hurled petrol bombs from a barricaded university campus on Sunday, as police charged and charged again, firing tear gas and blue liquid f
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