On the one hand, we should be thankful that this is coming up, because it provides an opportunity to get a more nuanced view of Gandhi. He was not a saint, and he lived in the real world, responding to serious crises. His philosophy evolved over time, as occurs with any thinking person who responds critically when one's pre-conceptions are challenged by new experiences and inspirations.
So here's some relevant Gandhi quotes:
"Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.”
“I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence.”Etcetera. This article from Mike Adams of Natural News (re-posted at InfoWars, and I'm sure many others) has lots more quotes:
But the flaws and fallacies of this article are many. An excellent article from the website Waging Nonviolence http://wagingnonviolence.org/2013/02/what-gandhi-really-thought-about-guns/
adds some clarity to the discussion:
"Pro-gun activists frequently use those words to suggest that Gandhi supported individual gun ownership both as a means of defending oneself and as a tool to violently resist government tyranny...that Gandhi supported violence to defend oneself and others. This is a vast oversimplification of Gandhi’s views.The article goes on to provide solid historical information that adds much needed historical context to the quote.
In truth, Gandhi did not oppose the use of violence in certain circumstances, preferring it to cowardice and submission. Even though Gandhi’s spiritual philosophy of ahimsa rejects violence, it permits the use of violent force if a person is not courageous and disciplined enough to use nonviolence. Gandhi regarded weakness as the lowest human flaw, and would rather see a person use violent force in self-defense than be passive."
Context is everything, and those who cite this quote are being willfully misleading. They fail to point out that even though Gandhi allowed for the possibility of violence, it was as a last resort for those who were unwilling or unable to adopt the practice of non-violence, which was clearly what he preferred people to do. He spent his whole life teaching non-violence, practicing personal non-violence and making non-violence the centerpiece of his campaigns against British oppression. It seems ridiculous to even have to remind anyone that it is his practice of non-violence that has made him such an influential historical figure, not any perceived advocacy for the right to bear arms.
Gandhi's attitude towards guns and violence shows his acknowledgement of free will. If a person has no other recourse, and has not gained the courage and insight necessary to practice non-violence, then Gandhi says better to use violence than be a coward. But he is clear that non-violence is what we need to strive for, study and practice, so that we may finally move beyond violent response altogether.
It takes far more courage and strength of character to practice non-violence, indeed it is a deep and challenging spiritual practice for the real world. That is what he helped the Indian people achieve, and what his legacy calls on us to try to do.
I understand what Mike Adams, Alex Jones and others like them are worried about. Every day brings new information that adds credibility to the concern that our government is heading in a direction of becoming an authoritarian regime. But that is no excuse for peddling mis-information in order to stir people who don't know any better into an ever increasing state of fear, anxiety and hatred. It undermines the credibility of everything else that media commentators like Adams and Jones do, which is too bad because they often provide genuinely useful information. But you can also see in their work that they thrive on perpetuating a state of fear, not on offering genuine solutions. We must continue to shine the light of truth on these issues, and keep pushing forward on the path that Gandhi has laid out for us.