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Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun

As the highest military commander
of the Netherlands, with troops stationed around the world, I’m really honored to be here today. When I look around
this TEDxAmsterdam venue, I see a very special audience. You are the reason why I said yes to the invitation to come here today. When I look around, I see people
who want to make a contribution. I see people who want
to make a better world, by doing groundbreaking scientific work, by creating impressive works of art, by writing critical articles
or inspiring books, by starting up sustainable businesses. And you all have chosen
your own instruments to fulfill this mission
of creating a better world. Some chose the microscope
as their instrument. Others chose dancing or painting, or making music like we just heard. Some chose the pen. Others work through
the instrument of money. Ladies and gentlemen,
I made a different choice. Thanks. Ladies and gentlemen … (Laughter) (Applause) I share your goals. I share the goals
of the speakers you heard before. I did not choose to take up the pen, the brush, the camera. I chose this instrument. I chose the gun. For you, and you heard already, being so close to this gun
may make you feel uneasy. It may even feel scary. A real gun at a few feet’s distance. Let us stop for a moment
and feel this uneasiness. You could even hear it. Let us cherish the fact that probably most of you
have never been close to a gun. It means the Netherlands
is a peaceful country. The Netherlands is not at war. It means soldiers are not needed
to patrol our streets. Guns are not a part of our lives. In many countries,
it is a different story. In many countries,
people are confronted with guns. They are oppressed. They are intimidated — by warlords, by terrorists, by criminals. Weapons can do a lot of harm. They are the cause of much distress. Why then am I standing before you
with this weapon? Why did I choose the gun as my instrument? Today I want to tell you why. Today I want to tell you why I chose the gun
to create a better world. And I want to tell you
how this gun can help. My story starts in the city of Nijmegen in the east of the Netherlands, the city where I was born. My father was a hardworking baker, but when he had finished
work in the bakery, he often told me and my brother stories. And most of the time, he told me this story
I’m going to share with you now. The story of what happened when he was a conscripted soldier
in the Dutch armed forces at the beginning of the Second World War. The Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Their grim plans were evident. They meant to rule by means of repression. Diplomacy had failed to stop the Germans. Only brute force remained. It was our last resort. My father was there to provide it. As the son of a farmer
who knew how to hunt, my father was an excellent marksman. When he aimed, he never missed. At this decisive moment in Dutch history my father was positioned
on the bank of the river Waal near the city of Nijmegen. He had a clear shot at the German soldiers
who came to occupy a free country, his country, our country. He fired. Nothing happened. He fired again. No German soldier fell to the ground. My father had been given an old gun that could not even reach
the opposite riverbank. Hitler’s troops marched on, and there was nothing
my father could do about it. Until the day my father died, he was frustrated
about missing these shots. He could have done something. But with an old gun, not even the best marksman
in the armed forces could have hit the mark. So this story stayed with me. Then in high school, I was gripped by the stories
of the Allied soldiers — soldiers who left the safety
of their own homes and risked their lives to liberate a country and a people that they didn’t know. They liberated my birth town. It was then that I decided
I would take up the gun — out of respect and gratitude
for those men and women who came to liberate us. From the awareness
that sometimes only the gun can stand between good and evil. And that is why I took up the gun — not to shoot, not to kill, not to destroy, but to stop those who would do evil, to protect the vulnerable, to defend democratic values, to stand up for the freedom we have
to talk here today in Amsterdam about how we can
make the world a better place. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not stand here today
to tell you about the glory of weapons. I do not like guns. And once you have been
under fire yourself, it brings home even more clearly that a gun is not
some macho instrument to brag about. I stand here today to tell you about the use of the gun
as an instrument of peace and stability. The gun may be one of the most important
instruments of peace and stability that we have in this world. Now this may sound contradictory to you. But not only have I seen with my own eyes during my deployments in Lebanon, Sarajevo and as the Netherlands’ Chief of Defence, this is also supported
by cold, hard statistics. Violence has declined dramatically
over the last 500 years. Despite the pictures
we are shown daily in the news, wars between developed countries
are no longer commonplace. The murder rate in Europe has dropped by a factor of 30
since the Middle Ages. And occurrences
of civil war and repression have declined since the end
of the Cold War. Statistics show that we are living
in a relatively peaceful era. Why? Why has violence decreased? Has the human mind changed? Well, we were talking
about the human mind this morning. Did we simply lose
our beastly impulses for revenge, for violent rituals, for pure rage? Or is there something else? In his latest book,
Harvard professor Steven Pinker — and many other thinkers before him — concludes that one of the main drivers behind less violent societies is the spread of the constitutional state and the introduction, on a large scale, of the state monopoly
on the legitimized use of violence — legitimized by a democratically
elected government, legitimized by checks and balances
and an independent judicial system. In other words, a state monopoly that has the use of violence
well under control. Such a state monopoly on violence,
first of all, serves as a reassurance. It removes the incentive for an arms race between potentially hostile groups
in our societies. Secondly, the presence of penalties that outweigh the benefits
of using violence tips the balance even further. Abstaining from violence becomes more profitable
than starting a war. Now nonviolence starts to work
like a flywheel. It enhances peace even further. Where there is no conflict,
trade flourishes. And trade is another important
incentive against violence. With trade, there’s mutual interdependency
and mutual gain between parties. And when there is mutual gain,
both sides stand to lose more than they would gain
if they started a war. War is simply no longer the best option, and that is why violence has decreased. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the rationale behind the existence
of my armed forces. The armed forces implement
the state monopoly on violence. We do this in a legitimized way only after our democracy
has asked us to do so. It is this legitimate,
controlled use of the gun that has contributed greatly to reducing the statistics of war,
conflict and violence around the globe. It is this participation
in peacekeeping missions that has led to the resolution
of many civil wars. My soldiers use the gun
as an instrument of peace. And this is exactly
why failed states are so dangerous. Failed states have no legitimized,
democratically controlled use of force. Failed states do not know of the gun
as an instrument of peace and stability. That is why failed states can drag down
a whole region into chaos and conflict. That is why spreading the concept
of the constitutional state is such an important aspect
of our foreign missions. That is why we are trying
to build a judicial system right now in Afghanistan. That is why we train
police officers, we train judges, we train public prosecutors
around the world. And that is why — and in the Netherlands,
we are very unique in that — that is why the Dutch constitution states that one of the main tasks
of the armed forces is to uphold and promote
the international rule of law. Ladies and gentlemen, looking at this gun, we are confronted
with the ugly side of the human mind. Every day I hope that politicians,
diplomats, development workers can turn conflict into peace and threat into hope. And I hope that one day
armies can be disbanded and humans will find a way
of living together without violence and oppression. But until that day comes, we will have to make ideals
and human failure meet somewhere in the middle. Until that day comes,
I stand for my father who tried to shoot the Nazis
with an old gun. I stand for my men and women
who are prepared to risk their lives for a less violent world for all of us. I stand for this soldier
who suffered partial hearing loss and sustained permanent
injuries to her leg, when she was hit by a rocket
on a mission in Afghanistan. Ladies and gentlemen, until the day comes
when we can do away with the gun, I hope we all agree that peace and stability
do not come free of charge. It takes hard work,
often behind the scenes. It takes good equipment
and well-trained, dedicated soldiers. I hope you will support
the efforts of our armed forces to train soldiers like this young captain and provide her with a good gun, instead of the bad gun
my father was given. I hope you will support our soldiers
when they are out there, when they come home and when they are injured
and need our care. They put their lives on the line,
for us, for you, and we cannot let them down. I hope you will respect my soldiers, this soldier with this gun. Because she wants a better world. Because she makes an active
contribution to a better world, just like all of us here today. Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun

  1. The Gun is A Tool.
    Just like a Hammer,
    It can be Used to Build or be Used to Destroy.
    It's all In Who is Holding it.


  3. He want the state to have a monopoly on guns, police and military mainly. But the people having guns is an important check and balance of power that acts as a deterrent to crime, tyranny and foreign invasion.

  4. Peter van Uhm needs to spread his message to Canadians in order to prevent Trudeau from fulfilling his plan to ban guns. No doubt in order to prevent people from opposing his plans for a dictatorship.

  5. Men and women like this are why we know the taste of freedom. Mankind has a natural desire for freedom but it always has a cost.

  6. Great memorable speech. A government who wants to disarm their own people is a tyrannical government. We can see that in the United States everyday. The Constitution which made America the best country in the world is on their way to achieve their evil agenda and that is why some in the government wants to change it.

  7. State-owned armies without an equal armed civilian population is foolish. This guy promotes it, but even he recognizes the need with his armed father who chose an oven for his instrument but also had an instrument of freedom. Guns are not allowed in civilian hands in th d peaceful Netherlands. Had the citizens been armed the Nazis would have had more of a challenge. Thank God for the Canadians and Americans.

  8. Who is the gentleman and why is he not the President/Prime Minister/Leader of not just the Netherlands, but the EEC… oh yeah, I forgot, he actually cares about his county and the citizens of his country and not puppet masters from the EEC. And no true soldier with a sense of honor and duty would ever compromise and become a politician!

  9. One of the best Ted talks I've ever seen. 'My strength is not for hurting' was written on a billboard in San Diego neighborhood for a campaign against domestic violence. It always stuck with me.

  10. Over 37 thousand people were killed in automobile accidents in 2016. You don’t even have to make an effort to kill someone using a car, you could text and drive and end lives. Unlike a gun, it must intentionally be aimed, with the exception of accidents. There are as many guns owned by Americans as there are cars, but the number of deaths each year by automobile operators dwarfs that of gun operators. By the numbers, it makes sense to ban and restrict automobiles. I mean, we all have known someone who died in a car crash.

  11. There is evil in this world, in every country, in every state, in every town. Evil looks for innocent people to victimize…….Evil often carries a firearm. A good person with a firearm can stop evil. When you're confronted by evil, help might be minutes away, maybe hours away….That's why I legally carry a firearm!

  12. Power mongers, violent over achievers and the arrogant have no conscience, but they do have a fear
    of the high cost of empire building.
    A peace loving, content and armed population, do not fear the power mongers, violent, the arrogant
    and that is the " ULTIMATE CHECK AND BALANCE".

  13. I really despise the way that scope is mounted…you are supposed to mount a scope on top of the upper receiver or on top of the handgaurd/rail but he has the optic mounted halfway on the upper receiver with the other half of the optic mount resting on top of the hand gaurd…now it's got me wondering if they mount all their optics that way…

  14. This is good perhaps many can learn from this man's words. Me being from U.S.A where the gun is glorified do like them no do i have them yes will I lay mine down only on the day if it comes where a gun is no longer needed and our world can come together as one. I will lay down my gun when you can promise me there is not another soul willing to do harm to me my family my friends my country and if that day should come I when no one else has a gun I will proudly lay mine down knowing it is no longer needed. But I fear that day will never come in our society but we come hope for a better world the only way we can achieve that is with the gun.

  15. I'm just honestly surprised this is still on youtube considering there's a big scary evil gUn there in the video and the word gun is used bunches of times.

  16. I think a country who puts women in harms way should reflect and getting more men to get into the ranks… integrated army causes too many problems.

  17. so many lies this stupid old man tells us, only God can keep peace , when Solomon was king over Israel we find in the bible that God gave him peace from all sides, and there were other kings whom God gave peace from war, he says that we now have peace but today people are slaves in so called free modern world and by fear trough armed police they govern us the weak, only if all the sheep will have eye to see their enslavement and lies from men like this one, I hope that very soon he and all like him will be punished by God.

  18. It does take a good man with a gun to go against a Bad man with a gun. The only problem seen here is just what model of Democracy are you using, as communist types enjoined with a Oligarchy are usually criminal.

  19. Peter van Uhm is more American than many Americans. I salute the Netherlands armed forces. But the State can only have a monopoly on arms because others countries are watching your back. Remove that external control and your people are in peril.

  20. He wants Peace so he supports terrorists and their masters in the US and NATO. If he believes what he says then he knows who the criminals are. Simply a smokescreen to disinform his countrymen.

  21. excellent speach….my concern is that money itself it's a weapon of mass destruction that has paid to mislead the west throughout our history and still does today…..are we defending more debt blamed on us ?

  22. Ok then… how about this…. I am an American and i live in America, and here in my country I have a Right to protect myself and my family. You don’t like guns? Well then don’t buy one. You like Europe’s anti rights laws?… great, stay in Europe. How about we just leave it at that.

  23. A lot of people here that didn't listen or didn't understand what was said by Peter van Uhm.
    A gun (rifle) itself is not violent, it is a tool and it all comes down to how it is used and by whom.
    His story is about how an army supporting the right government can do good things with a gun, not only for the country itself but for democracy and peace around the world.
    I understand that gun ownership in the Netherlands is arranged a bit different then in the USA, but as a civilian you can own guns here (and yes I'm one of them). It is just not very common to encounter someone, other then a police officer or soldier, with a gun for people here. On that part society works a bit different in Europe.
    But in this video it is stated nowhere that civilians should not own guns, it is all about how this "tool" is used, or even better on how state controlled violence should be used and the gun is one of the important tools in that.

  24. fast forward to 2019. democracy and a "rechtstaat" is non existent. Congratulations on your peace keeping. You should have catched the bad guys selling us all out to the EU, you should have protected us against our failing political leaders.

  25. This was uploaded at the beginning of 2012. Funny how so many things have changed in Western Europe since then. Several countries over there are being controlled by gangs of migrants. "No-Go Zones" all over the place. Rampant crime, especially in Sweden. Acid attacks, cars getting lit on fire, mass stabbings, sharia law being implemented everywhere, etc. etc.
    The speaker has good ideas and sure, of course we all want peace. The islamic radicals don't.

  26. You definitely knew your audience although you are incorrect. The Netherlands😢 we left Europe for a reason don't bring your Twisted views back around.. been there done that

  27. This Man is not a “hero.” He is a Statist (and a Tyrant). He believes in the State’s monopoly on violence. If he were a Hero than he would have have been promoting the importance of an Armed Populous. He was promoting government’s monopoly on violence.

  28. State monopoly on violence is responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths in the 20th century.

    Failed states (formerly "legitimate monopolies on violence") are less dangerous if the people are armed instead of defenseless.

    If balanced power in different branches of government works because it's decentralized then even more decentralized power works better.

    Governments' and bureaucrats' aspirations continuously creep, especially when the people have no ability to push back.

  29. Least we forget . I hate to say this . No one seems to remember those days though . The saying goals . What’s old is new again . And there’s something knocking on that door again . Don’t let it be ignorance . Remember Poland ? There yesterday , gone today .

  30. The overwhelming majority of legal gun owners, are sane rational people with basically the same values stated here. It is the basis of the american 2nd amendment. Reading some of the comments below along with this speech evokes one word : Bravo !

  31. I see what the Nazis did then, with what America is doing now. Regression, attacking people who have done NOTHING To America. I really don't know what happened in WWII. I only know what I've been told and I don't trust what I've been told. Nobody does

  32. In my eyes, guns have three purposes. One, to stop terrorists/extremists, so war; two, to bring food to the table, and three, to ensure freedom and liberty by keeping the government in check.

  33. How is this military fascist even allowed to handle a rifle at a Ted talk in Amsterdam? Any private citizen would get arrested immediately.

  34. One thing he said was a misstatement: He said that weapons are a CAUSE of much distress.

    No. They don’t CAUSE distress. He mentioned numerous examples of INSTRUMENTS used for various purposes. The pen. The brush. Just like those, guns are INSTRUMENTS. They may be what enables evil people to inflict their wills on the innocent, but they are NOT THE CAUSE.

    This may seem like a minor point, but mischaracterizing this leads us down a path of blaming guns, even if just subconsciously, for what evil people may do with them.

    It is important to understand and recognize the fact that guns are not the cause of what people do with guns.

  35. He’s talking about states being armed so that they can stand up to aggression by other states, which I’ve never even heard anyone argue against. He’s not talking about civilian citizens being able to have guns for their own day-to-day protection. In fact, he seems to feel the opposite—that the government inside any given nation should be the only ones with guns. I strongly disagree with that. It provides zero ability of the PEOPLE to oppose tyrannical changes in their own government.

  36. Funny how they’re from the Netherlands and they, like many millions around the world, rely on an AMERICAN-DESIGNED RIFLE to safeguard freedom and democracy.


  38. All you who down voted you can all go back to the dark ages and stay away from the rest of world and their God given rights to defend themselves. You are nothing but stupid cowards

  39. Nicely done – like the government, a little bit of appealing to emotions and then "MORE POWER FOR US IS NEEDED".

    When people are unarmed, government does what it pleases.

  40. "Soldiers who left the safety of their own homes and risked their lives to liberate a country and a people that they didn't know." And now several of the country's we freed look down upon us for merely owning firearms. It is extremely disheartening and many of those who gave their lives would be shocked to see it. I had high hopes for this video but he quickly delved into how he does not like guns and alluded to only the government having them.

  41. Is anyone to explain this guy that the government isn’t the solution. Is the problem. If you give the politicians the absolute power they will absolutely will crush you.

  42. Peace through superior firepower. Every citizen should have the right to own a gun, rifle, pistol however you want to label it. The only people who commit crimes are criminals, and they typically continue to commit crimes. Take guns away from the people and that leaves them in the hands of criminals.

  43. Gun murders per 100,000 residents
    America 3.6
    England 0.04
    America is 6 times the population of England but has 160 times the gun homicide rate….
    Mass shootings in the uk have you ever heard of that….nope…..even our entire police force only average 7 shots fired per year…
    Guns are for the military & select police tazars are for most police & hunting rifles are for hunting…there is no place for an automatic weapon or handgun in the home & the numbers speak for themselves…

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