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To fight Boko Haram, arm the people

So argues David Codrea, writing at the website of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership:

President Goodluck Jonathan’s government embraces “gun control,” both as a signatory to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, and also as a matter of national policy.

“In Nigeria, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law,” the GunPolicy.org entry for Nigeria documents. For those not familiar with that resource, it’s a project of the Sydney School of Public Health, and while of decidedly anti-gun bent, nonetheless provides instructive and useful compilations of gun laws from around the globe.

“[C]ivilians are not allowed to possess machine-guns, military rifles and handguns … private possession of semi-automatic assault weapons [and] private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is prohibited,” the site advises. Add to that licensing, background checks and registration for what they are allowed to own, a prohibition on concealed carry and stiff criminal penalties for gun law violations, and Nigeria is one of those places where the “law-abiding” are at extreme disadvantage.

Boko Haram, which doesn’t let such details slow them down a beat, finds such conditions enabling.

Not all are satisfied with the status quo.

“[T]he youth vigilante volunteer group, popularly called the Civilian JTF, has called on the Federal Government to allow its members carry arms and ammunition in order to do its work well in Borno State,” The Nigerian Voice is reporting.

“We used sticks and knives and worked closely with soldiers and fought the Boko Haram members out of Maiduguri,” a spokesman for the group related. “They are now killing civilians in the villages.”

For a sceptical view of the likely efficacy of arming civilian vigilantes to fight Boko Haram, please read Tim Newman‘s comments to my previous post about Boko Haram. He can very reasonably back up his pessimism by saying that he has lived and worked in that part of the world, as I have not. Nonetheless it had not been quite clear to me until just now that arming the people has not yet been tried. Disarming them has. It has not prevented an extremely violent insurgency.

16 comments to To fight Boko Haram, arm the people

  • As inept as militias (and armies) in African can be, I cannot see how arming Boko Haram’s victims can possibly make them any worse off.

  • Vinegar Joe

    Too bad no one wanted to arm the Biafrans 45 years ago.

  • Angry Tory

    Disarming civilians in Ulster didn’t stop the IRA attaching with machine guns, mortars, and MANPADS, or dragging mothers away from their ten kids and shooting them in the back of the head. Hell disarming civilians didn’t even stop one of the terrorists becoming deputy first minister.

    On the other hand a policy of arming civilians would have ended the “troubles” long ago – with arguably the only sustainable solution; “population transfer” of Catholics to the Republic, and Protestants to Ulster. ;

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    Too bad there isn’t an underground libertarian network that sells people any goods they want, even if outlawed by any government! It could call itself The Pro-Freedom Legion, with the motto ‘Dare to be free!’. Perhaps a world-wide black market is the best way to promote freedom!

  • Paul Marks

    People who are prepared to break the law against murder are not going to care about breaking regulations about firearms.

    The statists have (or pretend to have) a different opinion.

    The “Progressives” claim to believe that would-be murderers think as follows…….

    “I really want to murder lots of people – but if buy firearms on the Black Market I will be breaking various regulations, so I can not do that…..”

    If anyone seriously believes that murderers (such as Boko Haram) think like this – then they (the Progressives) are in urgent need of mental health treatment.

    All gun control regulations do is disarm people who are law abiding.

    Making them (as in Mexico – as well as Nigeria) targets and victims.

  • As inept as militias (and armies) in African can be, I cannot see how arming Boko Haram’s victims can possibly make them any worse off.

    My guess is that those villagers you’ve just armed will immediately set about raiding the next village and robbing those who missed out on getting a firearm. The idea that there is any solidarity between Nigerians in opposing Boko Haram that would not soon turn itself to general treachery, thievery, and general criminality is somewhat optimistic.

    And thanks for the shout out, Natalie.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Tim that sounds awfully like Nigerians ar too stupid//corrupt to be trusted with an alienienable individual liberty.

    That people might abuse it is not good reason to deny them individual rights. Abuse should only be punished post hoc, not a priori.

    Unless you support the Brady rationale?

  • Jamess

    Tim: Is your objection based on the process of Nigeria arming itself (i.e. there may well be a couple days / weeks when one village has arms but the others don’t) or on what would happen once firearms are available to and owned by all who want it?

  • the other rob

    Here’s a recent example of some Nigerians who went and got some guns to defend themselves regardless of the law.
    Nigerian “Vigilantes” Kill Islamic Militants. With Guns!

  • Is your objection based on the process of Nigeria arming itself (i.e. there may well be a couple days / weeks when one village has arms but the others don’t) or on what would happen once firearms are available to and owned by all who want it?

    My objection is that, in my experience, Nigeria is a society in which individuals exploit those in a weaker position for meagre personal gain as a matter of course, and this behaviour runs through society from top to bottom. In other words, if you give a Nigerian an edge over somebody, he will use that to his advantage and to the detriment of somebody else. Unfortunately, there is no concept of decency or other societal force which serves as a restraint on such behaviour and so I think the effect of arming Nigerians will be that the Nigerians thus armed will quickly use them to exploit and oppress those who are not (indeed, this is precisely what happens already between the armed and the unarmed in Nigeria). Now I suppose one could hope that if *all* Nigerians were armed thusly then everyone would be on an equal footing and there would be no exploitation and oppression of the weak, but a cursory glance around West Africa might give cause to worry that such a situation is more likely to result in massacres (which happen already, albeit perpetuated with agricultural hand-tools) or a civil war.

    Personally, I don’t think there is a clear dividing line between Boko Haram and those who want to live a peaceful existence. I don’t think there is even a clear dividing line between those who are Boko Haram and those who are not. And who is going to determine whether somebody shot by one of these rifles was Boko Haram or just some poor farmer who happened to have a nice spot of land that somebody else wanted? There is no police force worthy of the description in Nigeria, and nor are there societal codes keeping the populace in check (such as the blood feuds you see in the Balkans, for example). When I lived in Nigeria, a mob – which included a local politician – seized three students it suspected of being thieves, beat them to a pulp in the street, poured petrol on them, set them alight, and put the video on the web for everyone to see. I saw the video, and these people carrying out cold-blooded murder looked to be ordinary folk carried along with the frenzy of a good, old-fashioned, African mob. They weren’t your typical low-life scumbags, and this all took place outside a university in Port Harcourt. These are the sort of people who you are talking about arming, not some kindly old farmer just trying to protect his family. I’ve seen a mob form on the streets of Lagos, sprang up out of nowhere in minutes following a minor traffic accident to become a howling, aggressive, hysterical melee of 80-100 young men with no education and no morals whatsoever calling for immediate retribution.

    The idea that the decent, law-abiding, conscientious population of Nigeria will outnumber the murderous chancers in a district where automatic weapons have just been freely handed out goes against everything I saw out there, and the general direction of the country in the last 20 years. If you start dishing out weapons freely, most Nigerians will be absolutely petrified that they’ll be shot for little or no reason by the time the week’s out by one of the many, many common criminals that infest their lives, and with good reason.

    Tim that sounds awfully like Nigerians ar too stupid//corrupt to be trusted with an alienienable individual liberty.

    No, you can give ’em individual liberty until it comes out of their ears. Just don’t start handing out weapons unless you want to see the type of individual liberty which we saw in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and indeed parts of Nigeria, whereby the one with the gun has the liberty and the rest try not to sob too loudly whilst they’re raped and killed.

  • Shorter version: this situation with Boko Haram is simply an extension of Nigerian society, it is not something which can be separated from it. So the solution to Boko Haram must come from a similar solution applied to Nigerian society (no, I have no idea what that solution is). So by arming Nigerians, you’ll also be arming Boko Haram, and the very society which brought them about in the first place.

  • Boniface

    As for the police renting out guns in Nigeria, I know this is true. As for some members of the armed forces – police, army – taking part in armed robbery, this also is true. Drivers part with their money at police and army check-points just to avoid deliberate “accidental discharge” which the police and army authorities often call it to protect their own when a driver has been shot dead.
    Before going about giving the public freedom to use guns, the government need to overhaul the judicial system and stop deceiving themselves with partial justice.
    Truly when people are armed, the police and army will very well realize that they are mortal beings when they must have seen their colleagues lying dead. The negative part will be, some frustrated persons will first of all, in blaming others for their woes, kill many, and afterwards, kill themselves. I wouldn’t like to live in such a society.
    It is still better to be able to fight for your self rather than call the police who is often never there, or is a part of the crime as we hear of support from the army or police in ethnic or religious based attacks. this looks better than the present state-of-affairs.
    Before anything like gun control, let the government sweep every house for unauthorized gun possession, arrest all illegal immigrants, secure the Nigerian borders, make the judgment for rape (not the type that some silly women accuse their husbands of), kidnapping and armed robbery to be death sentence. Judges should be well paid, and corrupt judges should have life jail terms. Let Nigerian judicial system be a little as hard as that of Malaysia, then, the society will have some sanity. But there is feet-dragging by those who can make a change because they are thinking of their siblings who will be prosecuted, and their hired political thugs and their personal dirty records.
    If the above is not done before allowing people to freely have guns, Nigeria may go the way of Sudan, Rwanda, and the rest of those warmongering nations.

  • llamas

    The C54 plan.

    Repeat as necessary.



  • llamas

    Oops, hit send before completion.

    Meant to type ‘The C54 plan, only with AK 47s. Repeat as necessary.’




  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    Are you seriously suggesting that we should impose Western values (individuals should be equal, people should be free to arm themselves) on non-westerners? I’m sure I hear a diatribe from Chomsky flying my way!

  • Kirk Parker

    I’ve lived in Africa too (southern Sudan in my case) and I very much agree with Perry’s opening comment. No matter now inept the Africans in question may be (and just what kind of racist!!!!! does it make you to argue that, LOL…) the fact is that the victims will be going up against other Africans, so doesn’t your argument most cancel itself out?

    And to Tim Newman specifically: “ I don’t think there is even a clear dividing line between those who are Boko Haram and those who are not. ” Oh, dear, and to think I was initially willing to take you seriously…