Turns Out, Math Supports Gun Preppers
Russ Chastain 05.10.18
I recently ran across an interesting article, authored by a stormwater hydrologist. Yeah, that’s right — someone who is trained to understand how water goes through its various cycles from evaporation to rainfall and back again. And it turns out that in the field of stormwater hydrology, there’s a lot of math. After all, these are the kinds of folks who determine where those squiggly lines are on flood maps, to indicate where a flood may or may not be likely to take place.
And so he applies this kind of math to the question of whether it is prudent (or not) to be a “gun prepper.” This would mean someone who operates at least partially under the notion that tyranny is real, and that violent nationwide revolutionary warfare is a very real possibility.
The opening lines of the article (titled “The Surprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper” or “Who Needs an AR-15 Anyway?”) shows that BJ Campbell is one of the more thoughtful of gun policy observers.
As gun policy discussions unfold in the wake of mass shooter incidents, they routinely end in three buckets. There’s the “tyranny can never happen here” bucket, which the left has mostly abdicated in the wake of Trump winning after they called (and still call) him a tyrant. There’s the “you can’t fight the army with small arms” bucket, which is increasingly unsound given our ongoing decade-and-a-half war with Afghani tribal goat herders. And there’s the “what the hell do you need an AR-15 for anyway?” bucket, which, by its very language, eschews a fundamental lack of understanding of what those people are thinking.
And now to the math:
Stepping through this, the average year for colony establishment is 1678, which is 340 years ago. Two qualifying events in 340 years is a 0.5882% annual chance of nationwide violent revolution against the ruling government. Do the same math as we did above with the floodplains, in precisely the same way, and we see a 37% chance that any American of average life expectancy will experience at least one nationwide violent revolution.
This is a bigger chance than your floodplain-bound home flooding during your mortgage.
It’s noticeably bigger.
Following the same procedure, we can see that even over an 18-year span we have a 10% chance of violent revolution, which is an interesting thought experiment to entertain before you have kids. It’s also important to note that a violent nation-state transition doesn’t just affect people who live in a floodplain. It affects everyone stuck in the middle. Especially the poor and defenseless.
For doubters of his conclusion, he offers examination of nations around the world, most of which have seen more upheaval than we Americans have in recent years.
Two instances in 340 years is not a great data pool to work with, I will grant, but if you take a grab sample of other countries around the world you’ll see this could be much worse. Since our 1678 benchmark, Russia has had a two world wars, a civil war, a revolution, and at least half a dozen uprisings, depending on how you want to count them. Depending on when you start the clock, France had a 30-year war, a seven-year war, a particularly nasty revolution, a counter-revolution, that Napoleon thing, and a couple of world wars tacked on the end. China, North Korea, Vietnam, and basically most of the Pacific Rim has had some flavor of violent revolution in the last 100 years, sometimes more than one. With Africa, it’s hard to even conceive where to start and end the data points. Most Central and South American countries have had significant qualifying events in the time span. And honestly, if we were to widen our analysis to not only include nationwide violent civil wars, but also instances of slavery, internment, and taking of native lands, our own numbers go way up.
Farther down in the article, he notes some reliable signs of unstability which have been known to foreshadow revolutionary events in the past. Unsurprisingly, they all sound eerily familiar.
Pretend you’re someone with your eyes on the horizon. What would you be looking for, exactly? Increasing partisanship. Civil disorder. Coup rhetoric. A widening wealth gap. A further entrenching oligarchy. Dysfunctional governance. The rise of violent extremist ideologies such as Nazism and Communism. Violent street protests. People marching with masks and dressing like the Italian Blackshirts. Attempts at large scale political assassination. Any one of those might not necessarily be the canary in the coal mine, but all of them in aggregate might be alarming to someone with their eyes on the horizon.
Someone with disproportionate faith in the state is naturally inclined to disregard these sorts of events as a cognitive bias, while someone with little faith in the state might take these signs to mean they should buy a few more boxes of ammunition.
There’s much more to this article than I will include here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t present this salient bit:
There are certain things in the world you’d rather have and not need, than need and not have. And paramount among those things, given the state of the modern human condition, is a rifle.
So if you ask someone else on the opposite side of a culture war argument, “Why would you want to own one of those things, anyway?” please don’t be surprised if they simply respond, “Why wouldn’t you?”