On Friday February 11, 2011, the people of Egypt finally achieved a momentous victory over a tyrannical regime that had held absolute power in their country for more than 30 years. That regime perpetuated itself by rigging elections and intimidating or jailing any opposition figures who sought to challenge the autocratic rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. When our family lived in Egypt from 1999-2005, we learned about the grip Mubarak had on the country and the growing resentment amongst the Egyptian people.
From a U.S. perspective, Mubarak was admittedly a valuable ally in a region where several other dictatorships pose a threat to our special relationship with Israel. Mubarak remained faithful to the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty signed in 1979 by his predecessor Anwar Sadat and former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Sadly, gun-wielding assassins murdered President Sadat along with 11 others as a direct result of his signing the peace treaty with Israel. That act of gun violence brought Mubarak, then vice president of Egypt, to power.
So, what role did guns play in this latest tumultuous event in Egypt's long and storied history?
According to the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre, the situation in Egypt demonstrates that our nation's Second Amendment is more important than ever, that "the presence of a firearm" in the hands of good people "makes us all safer" and that "the guys with the guns make the rules." The problem is that LaPierre's interpretation has nothing to do with reality.
What is so strikingly incongruous about LaPierre's statement is the fact that none of the anti-Mubarak protesters appeared to be armed with guns. Contrary to LaPierre's point, the only shooting that took place happened when members of Mubarak's hated security force, dressed as civilians, used guns to kill unarmed protesters. In some cases, unarmed protesters were shot by snipers hidden safely in nearby buildings.
It seems quite clear that LaPierre is as misguided and misinformed on the events in Egypt as he is about the true causes of gun violence here in this country. If instead of staging peaceful demonstrations, Egyptian protesters been armed with guns, it is highly likely that the Egyptian military, equipped with billions of dollars worth of weapons supplied free of charge by our own government, would have retaliated. That would have produced massive casualties among both the armed and unarmed Egyptians.
Other than causing the unnecessary deaths of innocent, unarmed protesters, guns played absolutely no meaningful role in what was perhaps the most powerful showing of peaceful and successful resistance to tyranny in recent history.
In contrast to LaPierre's misguided comments, the historic events in Egypt tell us that while gun ownership is a right in this country, guns have nothing to offer rational, law-abiding people in the way of a solution to political differences.
Despite the ludicrously hyperbolic political rhetoric heard too often in our country, we do not have a dictatorial government. We are not subject to the tyranny of a single ruler. However, citizens still have the ultimate power to change our elected representatives on a regular and orderly basis. As Americans, we have been peacefully exercising that right for over 200 years.
To say that Americans need to keep arsenals of weapons in order to oppose some future government that might become tyrannical is foolish at best. At worst, it is an affront to anyone that loves our country, our Constitution, and believes in its system of government.
Perhaps it is time for the people of America to take to town squares in vast numbers, not to oppose our government, but to demonstrate that we have had enough of the despotic influence of the extremism that LaPierre represents.
LaPierre and his NRA workers have opposed any and all legislative attempts to keep guns out of the hands of people not legally allowed to own them. In state capitols around the country they systematically repeal existing laws and prevent the adoption of new legislation. LaPierre and his followers have blocked us from taking control of our own public safety to establish responsible limits and regulations that prevent dangerous weapons from falling so easily into the hands of dangerous people while claiming we just need to focus on "enforcing the laws already on the books."
The laws on the books aren't working, Wayne. More Americans have died from gunfire here on our own soil than have during all of our military's combat operations overseas in the last 30 years. It is morally reprehensible to claim support for our weak existing gun laws with one hand and continually attempt to gut those same laws with the other.
We should all take note of what the unarmed population of Egypt has achieved by standing up and speaking out against their oppression. Americans should finally take a stand against the oppressive influence of LaPierre and the NRA that has long ignored the real needs of individual gun owners in favor of the profit of gun manufacturers. Those who make and sell guns care only about getting more guns into more hands in more places no matter how dangerous it makes life for all of us.
Today, we ask you to join us in raising our voices in the streets and town squares of America, on the blogs, news sites, social media forums, as well as through old-school telephones and letters to Congress and President Obama, to peacefully bring to an end the hold of LaPierre over our representative democracy.
Colin Goddard is the Assistant Director of Federal Legislation for the Brady Campaign.
Andrew Goddard is the President of the Richmond, VA Chapter of the Million Mom March.
This entry, along with past entries, has been cross-posted on The Brady Campaign site.