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Reflecting on America’s beloved guns

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Last week, another horrifying gun crime took place in America as journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward were shot down live on television in Roanoke, Virginia.

This isn’t the first shooting story this year. Back in June, Dylan Roof opened fire in a black church in Charleston, killing 9 people in a hideous display of racial hatred. It followed the recent and equally shocking Sandy Hook school and Aurora cinema massacres. US shootings have become so common they now feature as ‘other news’ here in Europe.

Every year in America, over 33,000 people die as a result of firearm related injuries which is outrageous. In fact, there are now 13 states where gun deaths account for more casualties than car crashes. In terms conservative America might identify with, the damage done by gun violence costs the US economy an estimated $229 billion a year, more than Portugal’s entire economy.

America has 270 million civilian-owned guns in circulation – out of 600 million in the entire world. That’s 90 guns for every 100 Americans. Despite this, there is little in place to prevent lunatics from accessing them. And some people actually argue that there is no link whatsoever between this and the shocking figures highlighted above.

Armed with huge financial backing and plenty of stupid slogans – ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ – the National Rifle Association, one of the world’s most powerful lobbying groups, has convinced many that the problem lies elsewhere. Or simply that there’s no problem.

To expect things to improve by doing everything the same is textbook insane, yet it’s essentially what they promote. When they do promote changing regulations, the ideas are as laughable as they are scary.

Arm the teachers

After the Columbine shooting in 1999, critics including NRA supporters blamed Marylin Manson’s lyrics for the violence, because the two teenagers involved listened to him. This is about as convincing as blaming contemporary totalitarianism on mustaches because both Hitler and Stalin sported one. Or pinning racial tensions in the US on President Obama. Spoiler alert: that last one’s actually a thing.

Worse, after Charleston an NRA director publicly argued that had the church not strongly campaigned to regulate gun laws, its goers would’ve been armed and able to prevent the tragedy. Stay classy.

Likewise following Sandy Hook, the NRA claimed that had teachers been armed the tragedy would’ve been prevented. Really? Like, really?? Oh yes that’s right, their proposal to tackle gun crimes was to have more firearms in schools full of teenagers carrying the difficult emotional baggage which characterises growing up. What could possibly go wrong?

Children being evacuated from Sandy Hook Elementary School after the shooting
Children being evacuated from Sandy Hook Elementary School after the shooting

And don’t get me started on the grotesque view which accompanies the argument that good people need guns to fight bad people. Firstly, this isn’t Star Wars and unfortunately society isn’t divided in such a simplistic manner. Secondly, there is little evidence to show that throwing more weapons into the mix has any impact in stopping crimes. In fact since 1980, successful interventions by armed civilians have occurred in just 1.6 percent of all mass shootings.

Scarface-like shootout

So why is America so keen on guns? There are several popular arguments to justify the laissez-faire approach. The first one: protection. Protect who, from what? Breaking news: you’re not that special, not everyone’s out to kill you! In real life, you’re probably more likely to die turning the gun on yourself because you’re having a bad day, than to use it to win a Scarface-like shootout against burglars – who by the way probably just want to nick your TV.

Then there’s also the risk your kids may accidentally end up using the guns, which in itself should be off-putting enough. Thankfully, there are many responsible gun owners who lock their guns away unloaded to prevent such accidents. Ironically, this of course nullifies the primary motive of gun ownership and means they probably wouldn’t be able to use them if someone actually broke into their homes..

Another weird reason for having guns is this: it’s in the constitution that people can. Not really an argument though, is it? Every country has a constitution, nobody cares what’s in it. Why some Americans think theirs is special and untouchable is beyond comprehension for any rational individual who isn’t blinded by a misplaced sense of chauvinism.

The right to bear arms is granted through the Second Amendment. You can’t change the constitution? It’s called an AMENDMENT. Tradition’s nice, but sometimes it needs to be weighted up against moral and practical considerations.

No longer relevant

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That’s how people dressed when the Second Amendment was last relevant

Perhaps the most deluded reason put forward by pro-guns is that people should be able to carry weapons to take on a tyrannical government, and overthrow it if necessary. Yep, there are individuals out there planning a fictional civil war, who intend to bring dad’s old rifle to a drone/tank/nuclear fight against the most powerful military the world’s ever known. Go you.

On a serious note, this once was a very valid argument. The Amendment goes back to 1791 when America faced a real threat from the British Empire. The law indeed ensured citizens would fight on for their freedom regardless of what happened to central government in the likely event of a British invasion. The exact passage in the constitution states that:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

What gun lobbyists fail to acknowledge is that the Amendment’s primary purpose is to maintain a state militia. Gun ownership was a logical part of the package, not the focus point. The NRA’s interpretation of the Amendment is misleading, and nothing short of political fundamentalism. The Second Amendment made sense back then. Obviously, the idea of a state militia is no longer relevant.

Against reason and despite all evidence, America will keep its guns. For now. As a result, some people will get rich while others will continue to have fun pretending to be Action Man. More importantly, many more innocents will die. The real reason? Because some Americans likes guns, and just can’t bring themselves to stop playing cowboys. Nothing else.

Grow up. Please?

5 Comments

  1. I’m an American living in Cornwall.

    As you point out, the amendment’s wording focuses on a militia, not on individual stockpiles of weapons. Exactly what this means in practice is subject to interpretation, and it wouldn’t necessarily need to be amended to dial back our gun mania. For years, gun ownership was restricted by licenses and laws of various kinds. It’s only recent interpretations that have changed that. Amending the Constitution is, by design, difficult. Possible, but difficult.

    • Valentin Valentin

      Good point, tight checks and restrictions would be a start. As far as changing the constitution, in fairness that’s something many other countries do regularly – for instance in France, constitutional amendments are regular. I don’t think it would be difficult in practice, but it would be a tough sale to the US public I think. I guess that’s what I find confusing..

  2. The Founding Fathers didn’t even know what germs are so why do they get to dictate the modern day gun control debate. People who hide behind the constitution are idiots. How many people have to die before they tackle this issue?

    • Valentin Valentin

      Agreed. If what’s happened in the past few years isn’t a big wake up call though, I don’t know what will be?

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