Vermont AFL-CIO Says No To Gun Control

AP Photo/Wilson Ring

Organized labor traditionally aligns itself with Democrats, which means many unions end up supporting anti-gun candidates even if gun ownership is common among members themselves. You might see a union pay lip service to supporting the Second Amendment, but rarely does a labor union ever vocally oppose a specific gun control bill or an anti-gun ideology.

That’s not the case in Vermont, however, where the state affiliate of the AFL-CIO has declared its opposition to gun control, though not necessarily in language that’s often spoken by conservative Second Amendment activists.

The resolution asserts the right of self-defense for organized labor, arguing that people of color, immigrants, and working-class people are “most at risk of attacks by fascists, white supremacists, and individual extremists.”

The resolution passed by the vote of elected delegates representing 11,000 workers at the Vermont AFL-CIO’s 2021 Convention. It references the Black Panther Party, anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa, and the Zapatista uprising in Mexico as examples of the need for working people to take up armed self-defense.

“Organized Labor must not rely on the armed wing of the Government to defend democracy,” the resolution declares, citing the Jan. 6, 2021 incident on the U.S. Capitol as an indication of the necessity to not rely upon the state for protection against “fascists.”

Clearly this isn’t about conservative union members sending a message to Big Labor. I mean, in addition to supporting the Second Amendment and opposing gun control because of concerns about fascists and white supremacists, the Vermont AFL-CIO delegates also endorsed a resolution calling for a Green New Deal, self-determination for Puerto Rico, and recognition of the “Rojava revolution” in Syria.

However, the union’s resolution also differs from most of the anti-gun control arguments that we’ve seen from the Left since the start of the Defund the Police movement, which generally center around the overpolicing and overincarceration that comes from gun control but don’t actually express support for the right to keep and bear arms.

No, this is a genuine pro-Second Amendment stance, albeit one based on a far-Left point of view that isn’t often heard in 2A circles. And while I’m not on board with the political philosophy espoused by the AFL-CIO’s Vermont chapter, I’m happy to see their support for our individual rights.

I would, however, offer my pro-gun friends in the Green Mountain State a little history about what happens to our right to keep and bear arms when socialists aren’t the plucky underdog but actually have control over a State.

The Bolshevik Revolution put an end to the free circulation of guns among the general public. The leaders of the uprising knew only too well what the masses were capable of, especially if armed up to the teeth, and moved to monopolize gun ownership.

In 1918 the Bolsheviks initiated a large scale confiscation of civilian firearms, outlawing their possession and threatening up to 10 years in prison for concealing a gun.

The only exception was made for hunters who were allowed to possess smoothbore weapons. Gun licenses, however, were strictly regulated and only issued by the NKVD, the police organization known for its role in Joseph Stalin’s political purges.

It wasn’t just the Soviet Union. China’s had its own restrictive gun laws for decades, and they’ve only gotten worse over time.

Gun control was introduced in 1966, after children aiming a Spanish rifle at sparrows near Tiananmen Square shot out a window in the Great Hall of the People, according to an official history of the Ministry of Public Security. Authorities grew more vigilant after the violently suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989, and after rapid economic growth began to spur social tensions.

The government imposed the current rules in 1996, forbidding the private manufacture, sale, transport, possession, import or export of bullets and guns, including replicas.

Possession of a single gun is grounds for a prison sentence of as long as three years, and the penalty for a gun crime often is execution. In July, a Shanghai man drew a prison sentence of 12 years, and his wife 11 years, for possessing three guns and 600,000 bullets, plus peddling weapons on the Internet.

It’s also illegal for civilians to possess firearms in the Communist nations of Vietnam and North Korea, and while Cuba technically allows some gun ownership under tight controls, in reality it’s virtually impossible for the average citizen to legally possess a firearm.

Again, I’m glad to see the Vermont AFL-CIO take a stand in support of the right to keep and bear arms, but I do hope they’ll do more research on what happened to the ability of the working class to defend themselves after the vanguard of the revolution were firmly embedded as leaders of a socialist state. Capitalism isn’t a perfect system, but I’d argue that historically, it’s been far better for our individual rights (including our right to keep and bear arms) than those countries toiling under socialism.

From our own current political standpoint, however, I think this is a positive development in terms of the gun control debate. The fact is that the Left has its own arguments supporting the right to keep and bear arms, and while Democrats love to dismiss gun owners as “tools of the gun lobby,” it’s a little harder for them to accuse their own left flank of doing the bidding of the capitalist gun makers. For the moment, it’s easy enough for most Democrats to ignore what a small state’s AFL-CIO affiliate is saying, but if more unions make similar declarations of support for the right to keep and bear arms, tuning them out may not be an option.