I have observed during my travels that in times of war and chaos, all life is negotiated around weapons. Societies are reordered into sharply defined new hierarchies: into those who have weapons and those who have not. A man with a gun can walk to the front of the bread or gasoline line. With his militia friends he can take over a gas station if he likes and reorganize the distribution of fuel while skimming money off the top. With a rifle you can order a woman to have sex. Weapons redistribute wealth through “taxes”, protection rackets and direct theft. Scores can be settled, under the cover of generalized violence.
A gun can be a lever in the political system as well. An armed group can take over a hospital ward, and later a whole hospital, thus grabbing control of a key part of social provision for a political party. Having a gun confers small benefits too. In traffic jams the way through is cleared by those who have weapons. A new topography is imposed upon the land by armed checkpoints and men with guns, which ways are open, which ways closed. Weapons censor, blocking out argument, debate, verbal exchange. Those with guns can speak. They have opinions and deliver orders and instructions. Those without are required to be silent.