column By: Terry Wieland | November, 23
A few days later, after the mutiny petered out in a fog of confusion, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former oligarch, former political prisoner, and current enemy of Vladimir Putin, wrote in The Economist that the regime in Russia would not be ended at the ballot box or by any other peaceful means, but by “armed insurrection.”
“Only an armed populace can topple this dictatorship,” he wrote.
By coincidence, within a few minutes of reading Khodorkovsky’s article, I had my latest encounter with Canada’s firearms authorities. I have a Canadian firearms licence (PAL), which must be renewed every five years. Since mine was due to expire in February, I sent in my application last September, giving them (I thought) lots of time. By May, I had heard nothing and was well into the six-month grace period they allow before you are in violation of the law and subject to an unannounced visit by the provincial police.
I would like to fill you in on what is holding everything up, after several emails and phone calls involving five different people in three separate departments, as well as firearms officers of two different provinces, but since I don’t really know myself, I’ll leave it at that.
For those who do not follow Canadian politics, Justin Trudeau and his party have been at the center of recent scandals involving campaign contributions and other suspicious financial dealings with the Red Chinese. In fact, the CCP made a major contribution to a foundation named for Pierre Elliot Trudeau, which should raise a few eyebrows. When this was made public, Trudeau fils announced that the money was being returned. But that was just the embarrassing tip of a rather large iceberg.
An unnamed operative in Canada’s security service let it be known that the CCP had various covert operations underway in Canada and some suspicious dealings with the Trudeau Liberals. Trudeau’s reaction was not to order an investigation, but to say they were needed to prevent such leaks from the security services.
This is all relevant – to me, at least – because the most recent attempt to disarm the populace was a lengthy list of rifles to be banned. This was introduced as an amendment to a bill that was already in its final stages before Parliament, and so it could not be debated. It was prepared by a Liberal Party member who is of Chinese origin, immigrated to Canada, joined the police and in 30 years rose to the dizzying rank of sergeant before retiring and going into politics.
Anyone who pointed this out was immediately accused of racism. But it seems to me, there are entirely too many Chinese connections here.
Anyway, one of the rifles on the list was the venerable Lee-Enfield in its many forms and variations. The Lee-Enfield is as close as Canada comes to having an iconic firearm. The Canadian Army used it with distinction in two world wars and Korea, and since 1950, hundreds of thousands have been sold for civilian use.
They are found in farmhouses, on Indian reserves, carried on trap lines, stuck behind the seats of pickup trucks, and in the hands of serious target shooters who compete in the annual rifle matches at the Connaught Ranges outside Ottawa. At one time, you couldn’t walk into a deer camp in Ontario and not find several Lee-Enfields, sporterized and deadly. There is hardly a Canadian rifle nut or collector who does not have at least one. In my lifetime, I have owned, if memory serves, eight of them, and I still have four.
The liberals’ big objection to the Lee-Enfield is that it has a 10-round detachable magazine. This, apparently, makes it a terrible menace that must be eradicated.
There is not as much 303 British ammunition floating around in Canada as there was in my youth, but there’s enough. I know where you could find two or three thousand rounds right now, and every gun shop has some on the shelf or in the back.
Because of this, the Lee-Enfield is the ideal rifle for arming the populace in Canada. It was the best bolt-action battle rifle of the twentieth century, and the liberals are right to fear it, if their plan is to install a Chinese communist-style dictatorship, in name or in fact, in Canada. The hit list that included the Lee-Enfield was withdrawn after massive public protest, but that does not mean its future is secure.
Friends in Canada tell me, however, that the list has prompted them to make sure they have suitable weapons and ammunition squirreled away, which I find heartwarming.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky does not say whether such an “armed populace” exists in Russia, and I personally have no idea. I do know that after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, oligarchs like Khodorkovsky kept life prosperous for such flossy outfits as James Purdey & Sons and Holland & Holland. In fact, H&H opened a gun shop in a glittering part of Moscow to cater to the newly wealthy Russians.
Popular uprisings, however, are not carried out with Purdey game guns and Holland double rifles, and exactly who has what below that level is a puzzle. I expect, given the level of lawlessness and corruption that followed, an awful lot of World War II-era weaponry found its way into private hands, and certainly the Russian underworld is well armed. Beyond that, who knows?
Another The Economist article looked at the existence of all the private militias that exist in Russia beyond the FSB (successor to the KGB), the formal armed forces and the notorious Wagner group. Even Vladimir Putin has one – the so-called national militia that reports directly to his office. Gazprom, the natural gas giant, has one of its own, supposedly to protect its installations.
After the 1917 revolution and the Bolshevik seizure of power, Russia descended into an extremely bloody civil war. Could something like that happen again? It’s looking more and more likely.
Critics of the Second Amendment might want to take note of Khodorkovsky’s warning. It seems to me that the U.S. has an existing armed populace carrying what is probably the ideal rifle for the purpose – the AR-15 and its ilk.
The great thing about a well-armed population is not so much that it’s likely to rise up and start a war, but that knowing it’s there makes would-be dictators like Justin Trudeau think twice. No wonder he wants to round up all the Lee-Enfields and consign them to the Stelco furnaces.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is fond of raising the specter of the civil war that rose out of the chaos of 1917 to frighten the Russian people into supporting him as the only thing standing between the country and catastrophe. That could backfire.
As the headline writer for The Economist put it in one of its best tongue-in-cheek admonitions, “Party like it’s 1917.” It may well come to that.