Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How Gun Rights In Romania Were Lost And A Few Words About The Brave Man And Women Who Fought A Guerilla War Against Communism

My previous blog entry about Mr. Duca, the young Romanian candidate to the EU Parliament and his position on gun rights for the citizens of his country was read by a member of a gun forum where I post often.
This member asked me to clarify a few things for him about Romania and firearms rights in that part of the world, which I did. I decided to post his questions and my answers on my blog because this way more people may have the opportunity to learn little known facts about how easy it is to lose your guns and how hard - if not impossible it is to get them back.

Is there even a gun control debate in Romania? It would seem a prudent discussion to have considering the soviet and communist occupation in their recent history.

Actually, I don't think so...yet.
You see, before the Soviet communization of Romania, the people had the right to have guns. I remember my father telling me his dad owned a double barreled shotgun he used to hunt doves and rabbits with as well as a Luger pistol picked from the retreating German troops (the German soldiers were getting rid of all their military equipment by simply throwing it out of the troop transport trains).

When the communists took power in 1949 following falsified elections, the first law they enacted was total gun confiscation (for the greater good of course). Then after they made sure the population was disarmed they started the arrests, imprisonments, reeducation camps and killings.
So practically since 1949 it was illegal to own any firearms in communist Romania. The only exception was for hunting purposes: only single and double barreled shotguns, only with a special permit form the police, the owner was required to be a member of a state run hunting association and the guns must be registered and locked at the police station any time the dictator was in town.

After so many years of restrictions and servitude for over two generations, the perception of the Romanian population about gun rights changed in worse; I must admit when I first came to the US I too was surprised to see how owning guns is something normal and affordable and I too believed guns in the hands of untrained people can be dangerous (and keep in mind I served 2 years in the military so I was familiar with firearms)
Luckily I was educated in the principles of the 2nd Amendment by a friend and that's how I got my first gun - a Glock 21.

Yeah the Romanian story is one that I think should be told more often. It's amazing to hear some of the things that went on under communism.

Out of curiosity, when the soviet troops occupied Romania and dismantled the army and installed their commnist regime how would the 2a have prevented that? I only ask since my parents always seem to come back to pistols are no match for tanks argument. Just curious on your thoughts (my grandparents lived through the occupation in Romania)

I am glad to answer your question. When the Soviets brought the communists to power in 1947-1948 one of the the first things the new communist regime did was to confiscate all firearms. (as a side note: the Russians actually had to bring with them from the USSR the entire leadership of the Romanian Communist Party because there weren't enough "capable comrades" to be found locally).

Anyway, after so many years of war and occupation the overwhelming majority of the people were sick and tired of the war; so they believed what the propaganda of the new regime was telling them. They were lied that the government will protect them, that guns must be surrendered for their own safety, that since the war is over there is no need for guns anymore and since they will start a new life as owners and rulers of the People's Republic (that sounds very tempting - the Republic of the People, isn't it?) they have no need for guns since the people are making the laws and enforce the rules.

So believing that crap, the vast majority of the population voluntarily surrendered their guns without firing a single shot. Next thing you know in 1948/49, the communists started making arrests. Leaders and members of the opposition Parties, all officers in the military, intellectuals, clergy, writers and artists, simple farmers like my grandad and small business owners; in other words the cream of the Romanian citizenry got imprisoned, sentenced to life, interned in reeducation camps, killed or simply disappeared forever.

As it turned out, not all Romanians turned their guns in the previous year. There was a small number of patriots who knew what was about to happen. Among them there were a number of capable military officers who fled when the communists started making arrests, some peasants and workers plus in the region where I am from, members of a national minority named Aromani (or Macedo-Romani). These people who speak a language that is considered proto (ancient)-Romanian are tracking their origins to Alexander The Great; they are very tough and determined individuals, good businessmen who made decent money in sheep herding and trading goods - but not only. You could compare their character and toughness with the Americans living in the Appalachian mountains.

So these merry bands of armed Romanians took arms and retreated in the Carpathian mountains; they called themselves "haiduci" (spell hayduchy) and they were the Romanian version of Tito's Partizans - only they were fighting the Soviet and the Communist Romanian army. Their guns were whatever they could get their hands on but they benefited from the support of the population in the small mountain villages where they were fighting.
The communists tactic to defeat them was to terrorize, infiltrate, arrest or displace the local population supporting them. The Securitate and military were fighting with full auto AK-47's tanks, machine guns and airplanes while the guerrilla fighters were using WWII Mausers and whatever they were capturing from the dead enemy.
Even like that - short in guns, ammunition, food and with diminished local support, these patriots continued their fight from 1947 until late 50's early 60's which is no small accomplishment. In fact, it is the longest lasting anti-communist armed resistance movement in the former Communist block.

By the time Ceausescu came to power in mid 60's with a platform of de-Stalinization, there were very few anti-communist fighters left alive. The new dictator promised an amnesty for everyone and those maybe a dozen freedom fighters still alive who were malnourished, beat up and tired to live on the run saw a chance to reunite with what was left of their families and took it. The promised American invasion the Romanian people were waiting for never came to their rescue.

Do I believe guns in the hands of determined people would have helped stopping the communists? Depends on the number of guns and number of people. Keep in mind, the overwhelming majority of the population surrendered their arms, only a minuscule fraction of them chose to keep them and fight. At the time, the population of Romania was 14 million. Less than 10,000 of them took up arms and confronted the communists. That's 0.7% of the population, and while it wasn't enough to win it still was enough to keep the commies on on their toes for over 16 years.
So my sincere opinion is that yes, a reasonably large number of patriots (somewhere between 3%-4% of the population - which is the same percentage that started and fought the War of Independence in the America) well armed and having the support of the majority of the non-combatant population can have a real chance to overthrow a dictatorial regime over a number of years.

As another side note: I had the pleasure and honor to meet one of these great patriots, one of the very few freedom fighters who survived years of detention in communist prisons. He emigrated to America and now lives in Whittier, less than 15 miles away from my home. As it happens I didn't knew his story in the beginning; his oldest daughter is my wife's best friend and we knew each other for a number of years but he never mentioned anything to me about his past. Only when one day I visited the home of this modest man I noticed a framed piece of paper on the wall in his living room with his name on it and with the phrase "awarded by the Government of Romanian Republic in recognition to the sacrifice, courage and years of anti-communist fighting".
If you are interested lo learn more about the anti-communist resistance in Romania there is a Wiki article here

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