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"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." — Thomas Jefferson

Costa Rica has no military. Private firearms are registered and strictly controlled, although not difficult to get. Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize winner and president elect of Costa Rica, giving little credit to the civic character of his countrymen, thinks this is why Costa Rica is such a peaceful country.

Mr. Arias recently attended a UN confab dedicated to making sure only government employees have guns. He has declared himself in favor of the UN’s efforts toward civilian disarmament. Mr. Arias is rich, famous and popular, and I’m sure he’s well-intentioned, but he’s wrong about guns.

He won the Nobel Prize in 1987 for his efforts in brokering a peace deal between the Sandinistas and the U.S. supported “Contras” in Nicaragua. After he won the prize everyone but the prize committee ignored the plan. The war didn’t end until 1992.

It's hard to believe Mr. Arias is so naive that he thinks armed civilians were the cause of Central American wars. He and everyone familiar with the brutal civil wars fought in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala during the 70’s and 80’s knows the worst atrocities, murders and massacres were carried out by armed government agents against unarmed civilians. The U.S. government supported and supplied the murderous governments in every case. Government soldiers and agents murdered thousands of innocent civilians, many more than armed criminals ever will or could.

The UN, the same outfit that is now so keen to make sure civilians don’t have guns, confirmed that fact in its 1993 “Truth Commission Report.” The report said that over 96% of “human rights violations” (UN-speak for rapes and murders) were committed by military or quasi-military death squads against unarmed civilians.

Naturally, the UN report has been criticized as a highly political document. It surely is. But even if the report is as political as Kofi Annan’s rolodex, there were still a lot of innocent, unarmed people killed by government agents in Central America.

In El Salvador alone over 75,000 mostly unarmed people were killed mostly by government employees between 1980 and 1992. By 20th century massacre standards that's not a big number, but it devastated tiny El Salvador. If a similar percentage of the U.S. population had perished the death toll would have been 4.2 million.

With shameless and generally unreported help from the USA, the governments of Nicaragua and Guatemala also murdered tens of thousand of their unarmed citizens during these same years. Millions more have died in this century at the hands of armed governments who have first disarmed their citizens. Judging by the UN's own report, promoting civilian disarmament amounts to promoting mass murder.

The UN frames the issue in terms of public safety, but public safety arguments ignore the greater danger. While there is no question that some weapons left over from the wars in Central America are now used in crimes, the fact remains that all the crimes committed by all the criminals in history haven’t claimed a tiny fraction of the number lives lost to criminal governments.

If Pancho and Juan start shooting up the town or even if they set up a roadblock and shake down tourists, they will never be as dangerous as a battalion of trained goons intent on wiping out whole families, villages, or political groups. If everyone in town has a gun, Pancho, Juan, and the goons will have a lot harder time hurting anyone.

Every one of the many genocides, massacres, and ethnic cleansings conducted in the last century has been conducted against a populace that was forbidden ownership of firearms. If Mr. Arias were really concerned about the welfare and prosperity of his people he wouldn’t be calling for their disarmament. He would instead insist on providing every able bodied citizen a rifle, ammunition and training in their use.

The Swiss government does exactly that. Switzerland is a wonderfully peaceful and pleasant place to live. There is not much crime. There’s never been a genocide.  The Swiss have enjoyed peace for over 150 years even as neighboring governments have slaughtered millions. Crime will remain low and mass murder will remain impossible as long as Swiss citizens remain armed. Mr. Arias should take note and stop promoting mass murder.