obama-shotgun

Rita weighs into the gun debate, and finds an unlikely hero in Piers Morgan…

Well, I’m going to bite the bullet and write about guns, a topic that leaves me feeling trapped in a Hall of Mirrors where everywhere you turn you see a distorted, nightmarish vision of America.  But this is a nightmare from which there is no waking; those terrifying visions are reality.  When twenty children were slaughtered with military weapons at their elementary school in December, Americans agreed to start a “conversation” about gun violence.  Note the use of the word conversation, which implies a decorous, civilized process, far from the ugly violence, rage, and inflamed passions that erupt into the national airwaves whenever the topic of gun control comes up.  This time, we were assured, it would be different; this time action would be taken.  But already the conversation is devolving into the same stale debate that has been going on for decades, while the body count climbs with every news broadcast.  Already the politicians who vowed to act in the immediate aftermath of the shocking event are backtracking and hedging.

Watching this debate as a non-American is extremely frustrating.  I was not born with the passionate attachment to guns that seems to be encoded in every last scrap of American DNA.  To me it seems very simple: America endures so many gun deaths because Americans have too many guns, in fact 50% of the guns in the whole world.  But the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the rest of the gun lobby insist that “it’s not about the guns,” that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  The obvious common factor in all these incidents is not to blame, but any number of scapegoats including violent video games and lack of an effective mental health system.  The fact that other countries have their fair share of mentally ill people, angry people, and video game players but don’t suffer the same levels of gun violence, (perhaps because they don’t have so many guns?), is brushed aside as irrelevant.

The gun debate starts from a point with so many unquestioned assumptions that gun control advocates are already at a severe disadvantage.  They must promise to take no action that could infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.  The relevance of this 1791 pronouncement to 21st century reality cannot be questioned.  The amendment arose from the ideas of the puritans in the English Civil War.  A “well regulated militia” (the wording in the amendment) was necessary to protect the people against the tyranny of the King.  You might as well include Oliver Cromwell in the company of scapegoats to blame for the current orgy of violence.  But it wasn’t until as recently as 2008 that the Supreme Court ruled the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms, not just that of a militia.  There is simply no ground for reasoned debate about the Second Amendment.  As soon as there is any mention of gun regulation the gun lobby erupts into full hysterical mode.  The names Hitler and Stalin are thrown around with dire warnings that a tyrannical government is going to take away your guns.  After all, the first thing that the Nazis and the Communists did was disarm the people.  The fact that the United States is a stable democracy does nothing to assuage the fears of the fringe right who believe we already have a socialist tyrant in the White House.  The argument becomes an insane circle – we need our guns to defend ourselves against the government coming to take away our guns!

In this atmosphere of hyperbolic debate there are few media heroes, but one has emerged in the unlikely personage of my fellow Brit Piers Morgan.  I know Piers crossed the Atlantic trailing a cloud of mediocrity and more than a whiff of complicity in the Murdoch scandals.  Perhaps it is a measure of the state of the American media that he is now a paragon of journalistic integrity.  For several weeks he has used his nightly CNN program to take on the gun lobby, confront them with the tough questions, and expose their false assumptions.  One pro-gun guest, Alex Jones, broke down into a complete hysterical rant that went viral on YouTube.  In fact he personified just the kind of crazy nut you wouldn’t want to have a gun!  I suppose it is easy for Piers to look like an Edward R. Murrow in comparison to such a performance.  Jones started an online petition on the White House web site demanding that Piers be deported for his “anti-constitutional” views.  In what must be ruled an unwise move by the White House, they invited citizens to start petitions on any topic and if 25,000 signatures were obtained the White House would be obligated to give an answer.  Given the size of the U.S. population it is all too easy to find 25,000 people to sign on to any crackpot idea.  Recently the White House had to respond to a request to build a Death Star for interplanetary warfare.  They have since raised the number of signatures required on a petition to 100,000.  But England can breathe a sigh of relief.  Piers Morgan will not be sent home.  The White House reminded the petitioners that the First Amendment grants even Piers Morgan, a non-American, the right to free speech.

As we wander deeper into the Hall of Mirrors, desperately seeking an exit into a sane world, the rhetorical distortions become more bizarre.  I received an email from a former library colleague linking the gun issue with abortion.  Why all the fuss, he wondered, about just twenty children being shot to death when thousands are killed each year by abortion?  He went on to deliver the requisite “it’s not about the guns” argument, declaring that any suggestion that it is about the guns amounts to “politicizing” the issue.  In the face of such madness I am left with some lingering questions.  Why is the Second Amendment so much more important to Americans than other parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights?  Why aren’t Americans demanding a proper health care system with as much passion as they demand the right to own military assault weapons?  Does the right to bear arms outweigh other people’s right to the pursuit of happiness?  And does the right to bear arms also confer the hardened hearts necessary to bear the consequences?

Rita Byrne Tull is an ex-pat librarian who lives in Maryland.

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  1. mahlerman on Wednesday 6, 2013

    It strikes me Rita that, with his second term underway, it will come down to one man’s desire to have more than the ‘conversation’ that he promised and has yet to deliver on. Some sort of control (a ban in unworkable) is possible, and he could make a start, and show intent, by renewing the ban on federal-assault weapons – who needs an AK47 to hunt deer? He could and should seize the moment, and turn those (genuine) tears for the lost children, into action – not conversation. Or at least make a start.

    • Recusant on Wednesday 6, 2013

      But of course, Mahlerman, they do not pretend to want to shoot deer with AK-47′s. They are meant to be anti-personnel weapons, because – and here is the fount of the culture wars in the States – they are an expression of the individuals freedom from coercion by, and his superiority to, the state.

  2. Worm on Wednesday 6, 2013

    I think we should give all americans access to Predator-style rotary cannons

  3. malty on Wednesday 6, 2013

    It would seem that, attempting to part the NRA cowboys from their guns is akin to the ship leaving the rats. My son still talks of the ad in a Greensboro bank, the offer of a free hunting rifle, if you opened an account with them. Also the shopping trolleys in Walmart, cornflakes, jam, ammunition.

  4. Peter on Wednesday 6, 2013

    Americans think self-defence, the rest of us think protection from danger.

    It is true that, given the mystical attachment to the Constitution and those tiresomely all-knowing Founding Fathers, it is often futile to engage Americans on this issue from an empirical perspective (better to keep a distance and write rhetorical musings on how mad they are). That being said, the pro-gun control crowd isn’t as grounded in factual analysis as it thinks it is. Once you get past the obvious general correlation between a lot of guns and a lot of gun crime, and especially if you compare international statistics, what the causes are and what could be done to improve public saftey becomes murky.

    America has a fantastically high (obscene?) number of guns and a gun homicide rate much higher than the rest of the West, but it is actually low compared to much of the rest of the world. The rates throughout much of Latin and Central America are much higher, so let’s haul out those stereotypes, boys & girls. Did I hear somebody say “hot-blooded”? Brazil has very strict gun control, one twentieth the number of guns (75% illegal) and three times the number of gun-killings. Plus as much as we love the image of the crazy cracker buying his tenth assault rifle at the gun fair and then going out to cause mayhem, he’s really not the big problem. If you subtract urban black-on-black shootings and urban crime/gang shootings, the numbers plummet.

    France and Germany both have much higher rates of gun ownership than Britain, but you have the slightly higher murder rate. There are lots of other anomalies to test those who are convinced there is a straight-line path from gun control to public safety. So, I’ve learned to be a little cautious about joining in the chorus of anti-Americanism and to understand there is more at play here than policy. I cringe too when the NRA repeats the “guns don’t kill people” shibboleth, but not so much when they argue gun control would advantage the bad guys. That being said, please, please don’t ask me to defend assault weapons!!

    • Recusant on Wednesday 6, 2013

      As an example, Peter, we might note the leap in crime involving a handgun that took place in the UK following their abolition after the Dunblane massacre.

      Right with you there, where you plead the complications of the empirical evidence versus the, for outsiders, ‘dumb Americans’ narrative, and for US gun controllers, the dumb ‘fly-over states’ narrative.

      • Peter on Wednesday 6, 2013

        Recusant:

        Re: “dumb Americans”. The likes of Brazil may have higher gun homicide rates than the States, but they have no Michael Moores.

  5. Brit on Wednesday 6, 2013

    Yes, Peter and Recusant, but this whole business of pro or anti-gun, or stats about murder rates in Brazil and Norway or whatever are red herrings, aren’t they – and they’re the problem.

    Which is to say, the problem is that even after an unspeakable atrocity like Sandy Hook it is impossible to make a mild suggestion like “Perhaps we ought to look at limiting the availability of assualt weapons to lunatics” without incurring the hysterical wrath of the likes of Alex Jones banging mouthfoamingly on about “the individual’s freedom from coercion by, and his superiority to, the state”. This is what makes America look dumb, mad etc – the culture war has driven the US right completely insane.

    • Peter on Wednesday 6, 2013

      Indeed, Brit, why can’t Americans be more like us? And while we are at it, why can’t a woman be more like a man?

      If your concern is violence and semi-sane demagoguery, that didn’t start with today’s culture wars, it started soon after Plymouth. If H. Rap Brown were around he would remind us that they are as American as cherry pie. Sadly, he’s away doing hard time for shooting a couple of cops.

      I once tried to calculate the total number of political and social (including labour) killings in Canada since the beginning for comparative purposes. I couldn’t get the numbers up to those of a good week in Bleeding Kansas. But what is one to do? We all know in our hearts that their Revolution was a horrible mistake, but if we tell them that, they might shoot us.

      • Brit on Wednesday 6, 2013

        I don’t think it’s funny – school mass shootings are mostly a thing of the last few decades but the right is still framing the debate as if it was 1783.

        I think the left is mad too, don’t get me wrong, but the right is worse.

        • Peter on Wednesday 6, 2013

          Nobody is saying that it’s funny, but what is it that has led you to be so emotionally invested in this? Your frequently-expressed firm views together with your reluctance to engage in debate with Americans are a matter of record. At times I’ve wondered whether you fear it’s contagious. Surely it is a matter of unarguable history that the Americans are and always have been prepared to risk and accept a greater incidence of violence than most of the rest of us? Yet still they come, don’t they?

          I think all that rhetoric from 1783 covers some convictions about self-defence and self-reliance that are very grounded in 2013. I may not share them, but I don’t think they are crazy either.

    • Recusant on Wednesday 6, 2013

      Just for the avoidance of doubt, Brit, I assume you are not conflating my views – unlike what I type – with Alex Jones? I’m more of an Aled Jones man myself. If I had to choose.

  6. Daniel K on Wednesday 6, 2013

    It’s not entirely a left/right issue. In liberal Austin I know a few “progressives” who own guns. The media paints it otherwise of course.

    Piers Morgan is a demagogue and a poltroon. Debating Alex Jones is like debating David Icke and revelatory of precisely nothing.

    There was an interesting debate after the Alex Jones freak show between Morgan and Ben Shapiro, a highly educated right winger, and Shapiro kept asking Morgan why he was for a ban on semi-automatic “assault weapons”, but not semi-automatic hand guns. Morgan wouldn’t answer the question.

    Shapiro then suggested that Morgan was arguing in bad faith and wanted a total ban, which is probably true as it makes no sense to ban one set of semi-automatic guns but not the other.

    I’d suggest that it’s this suspicion of bad faith on the part of the gun control lobby that fuels a lot of the extreme over-reaction on the other side. For instance, I shake my head when I see people arguing that there’s no problem with unregulated interpersonal sales. The same people are usually for regulation of alcohol sales for instance.

    As for whether Americans value the Second Amendment over everything else, that is of course an overstatement. They are heavily into the First Amendment also, and I’m very glad of that as it prevents the establishment of the type of well-intentioned but insidious speech laws so popular in Britain and, not coincidentally, Putin’s Russia.

    Indeed, I’d say that most Americans are very fond of their Constitution and Bill of Rights, but they disagree on how to interpret it.

  7. Brit on Wednesday 6, 2013

    I’d suggest that it’s this suspicion of bad faith on the part of the gun control lobby that fuels a lot of the extreme over-reaction on the other side

    Yes, that seems to be the problem in a nutshell. There must be some pragmatic tinkering to be done between the current situation and a blanket ban on all guns, but the right always seems to revert instantly to their wretched First Principles.

    And yes, I appreciate the meedja portrays the debate thus, but (1) this is a blog ergo we’re talking about the media and (2) the media is rather important in framing debate and ultimately driving policy.

    Here’s a question, though: is the US the only country wherein the ‘left’ is significantly more pragmatic than the ‘right’?

    • Peter on Wednesday 6, 2013

      My last comment, lest a longstanding friendship between a Brit and a Canadian founder over American gun control.

      Leaving aside what is to be done, I have to take issue with this division you see so clearly between the pragmatic empiricists on the left and the nostalgic loonies on the right. It is perfectly understandable why the Sandy Hooks and Dunblanes so shock, move and galvanize public opinion, and why quite a few countries have changed their laws in response to incidents like them, but let’s understand those reactions are visceral and a long way from the results of a dispassionate methodical inquiry. Obama is saying what he is saying because he is facing heartbroken folks wearing pain on their sleeves who have come to believe through rote repeitition that “our children will be safer with gun control” and that anyone who truly loved their children would agree. Understandable and human, perhaps, but that ain’t science.

      After the notorious 1989 massacre of 14 women students by a misogynist in Montreal, there was a huge push for tighter laws here, a lot of it with overheated, outrageous claims that anyone who disagreed cared nought for the lives of women. This led to the creation of a national long-gun registry (we don’t have assault weapons or many handguns, but we do have a fairly high rate of gun ownership) that imposed permits and some checks universally. Who could object to that? To make a long story short, it went billions and billions over budget, resulted in bureaucratic chaos that couldn’t be fixed and was so hated in rural areas and elsewhere that it actually was a big part in bringing the Conservatives to power on a promise to kill it, which they did. No one has ever claimed it resulted in one saved life, but the largely urban left keeps talking about hating women.

      Re: their wretched First Principles. The US was born of a revolution and, like with many other revolutionary origins (modern France), their political rhetoric is replete with references and appeals to the revolutionary principles. It’s a constant theme in their politics and the left is perfectly capable of playing that game when it suits them. But lest those of us with quieter, less stirring constitutional histories imagine they have abandoned reality and have lost their way in a miasma of impractical historical idealism, let’s not forget we are talking about the resilient “can-do” country.

      Finally, culture counts.

  8. George on Wednesday 6, 2013

    I grew up in a household where there was always a rifle; first a Remington .22, next a Mossberg. Neither was automatic, both having bolt actions. I have never discharged a firearm at anything but a paper target. My father hunted small game, perhaps with the Remington, but never when I can remember.

    I have been been held up at gunpoint, not terribly far from where RBT works. It was not an automatic, rather a revolver, and I doubt that it was licensed. For the immediate purpose of intimidation, it worked perfectly; for murder or maiming at less than arms length, I expect it would have worked too.

    It is difficult for me to imagine a solution. Guns last a long time. If firearms manufacture and importation ceased tomorrow, there would be a firearm for every adult American in the year 2063, I bet. Confiscation, except maybe from felons, is not practical. Those who think it a good idea are in general those who do not have a firearm.

    The Bill of Rights, as RBT says, does in part speak to anxieties hardly remembered–who is going to quarter troops upon the people, as Louix XIV did during his dragonades, or as the British forces did in Boston? However, and this must be kept in mind, the Bill of Rights comes with a great deal of case law attached, many decisions that the judges must consider. Many are attached to the clauses regarding religion, but there were state churches when the amendments were ratified. The “cruel and unusual” punishment clause is much used in modern litigation, but it was ratified in a day of public hangings and floggings, and when felons were at times branded. So while I understand the sense of the militia clause, I am lukewarm about the usefulness of providing the context.

  9. Joey Joe Joe Jr. on Wednesday 6, 2013

    It’s the lack of regulation for gun sales that surprises me the most. I can just about sympathize with the desire to own a gun, but the idea that pretty much anybody can walk into a shop and buy bullets and guns without a special license or background checks of some kind? It sounds akin to letting people on planes without the passport checks and scanners, or legalizing drunk-driving without a license.

  10. David Cohen on Wednesday 6, 2013

    One sympathizes with Rita’s frustration that those ignorant yahoos who disagree with her won’t shut up and listen as she explains how it is; a process civilized people apparently call “conversation.”

    Touching only lightly on the largely British mistakes about guns and gun laws in America (the weapons used at Newtown were not military weapons; they were not assault weapons; they were legal in Connecticut despite the fact that Connecticut has an assault weapons ban and would have been legal under the now-lapsed federal assualt weapons ban; the rifle used in Newtown is the most popular type of gun purchases in the United States but is almost never used in crimes; no one argues that the Constitution forbids reasonable gun control and, in particular, keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill; empirical studies in peer reviewed journals have not found any strong link between either gun control or gun prevalence and violent crime; Switzerland has much higher levels of per capita gun ownership than the US including weapons illegal to private citizes in the US with much lower murder rates; the UK has much higher rates of violen crime than the US, in part because US crime rates have plummeted in the last 20 years; and you cannot simply walk into a gun shop in the US and walk out with a gun, there is mandatory waiting period while you are vetted; in Massachusetts, at least, you must have a license to buy both guns and ammunition and, again, no one suggests that law is unconsitutional).

    It is also worth noting that banning guns (we have more of them than people) is simply not possible, either politically or practically. I’ll leave it to Peter to rehearse the history of the Canadian gun registry.

    But what’s really striking about Rita’s commentary is her scorn for us all taking the 2d Amendment seriously despite it’ passage centuries ago in quite a different world. What is this weird fascination Americans have with the Constitution? Why is this devotion so strong that we want to ship Piers Morgan back to Englan for expressing his point of view? Don’t we understand the 1st Amendment.

    Now, as it happens, the 1st Amendment doesn’t stop us from shipping aliens home for expressing their political opinions. That’s not just my view; it’s the view of the Supreme Court. But my question for Rita is, if we get to pick and choose which Amendment we’re going to take seriously, and which Amendment we get to ignore, what makes you so sure that it’s only the amendments you dislike that get ignored. The1st Amendment, too, was designed for a much different world. How do you know that people you dislike will lose rights you dislike, but that you won’t lose a right you value highly. I understand that you’ll cut down the 2d Amendment in a doomed attempt to avoid another Newtown, but what will you do when we come to ship you back home for expressing your opinion?

    With the “Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, R[ita], the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the [wo]man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”

    • malty on Wednesday 6, 2013

      if we get to pick and choose which Amendment we’re going to take seriously, and which Amendment we get to ignore, a choice that those poor dead schoolchildren will never have.

      • David Cohen on Wednesday 6, 2013

        I’m sorry, did you have a point? Or did you just want to waive the bloody shirt?

        Because one of the least pleasant aspects of Newtown has been the air of barely contained glee from the proponents of stricter gun control (which would have done nothing do prevent Newtown). “Thank God for this massacre, now we’re sure to win this poltical battle.”

        • malty on Wednesday 6, 2013

          David, You appear to have great insight into the nuts and bolts of the problem whilst lacking the spanner. It’s not about a bunch of foreigners criticising an aspect of American behaviour, it is one corner of humanity being appalled at the behaviour of another and the inability of their compatriots to do anything about it.

          PS…now that you have custody of Piers would you kindly hang on to him and await instructions.

          • Peter on Wednesday 6, 2013

            malty, I once hired a mechanic who was a complete wizard with his spanner, but had no insight into the nuts and bolts in my car. Boy, did he ever make a mess of things. When I protested, he just got all sniffy and told me I had a crappy car.

    • Rita on Wednesday 6, 2013

      Interesting that you use a quote from English history, or at least Robert Bolt’s version, to cut me down. But my hope is that Americans will change their own laws to meet the needs of the times, and in fact polls show a majority of Americans agree a change is needed. As usual money is the root of all evil – the NRA represents gun manufacturers and dealers not their actual membership.

  11. David Cohen on Wednesday 6, 2013

    Oh, and although I’m neither an NRA member or, particularly, a fan, it is clearly not the case that gun control is a political loser because the NRA is powerful but rather the NRA is powerful because gun control is a political loser.

  12. Brit on Wednesday 6, 2013

    God that’s depressing.

    • David Cohen on Wednesday 6, 2013

      Actually, this is one of those times when friends of the United States from overseas who would like to see us adopt stricter gun control are probaby better off not sticking their two cents in. As Daniel K notes, the left/right lines here are not where non-Americans think they are, and quite a bit can be done if the fundamentals of the 2d Amendment are not called into question.

      As it is, European and English commentary on gun control is like the campaign to have Guardian readers write to voters in Ohio, instructing them on how to vote in 2004. It’s likely to have exactly the opposite effect of what’s intended.

      • Peter on Wednesday 6, 2013

        With respect, David, if American TV networks like CNN are going to beam 24/7 coverage of every aspect of this debate and every heartrending detail of every atrocity into every home on the planet, that is neither realistic nor reasonable.

      • Brit on Wednesday 6, 2013

        English commentary on gun control is like the campaign to have Guardian readers write to voters in Ohio, instructing them on how to vote in 2004. It’s likely to have exactly the opposite effect of what’s intended.

        Which is why I don’t argue guns with yanks; I will diss their quality of ‘debate’ though.

        One of the least pleasant aspects of Newtown has been the air of barely contained glee from the proponents of stricter gun control. That’s effing cynical. Surely another way of putting it is that Newtown, following the Batman killings, Virginia Tech etc is another last straw for a lot more people (including the President of the USA, not just Guardian-readers and Piers Morgan) , but if ‘doing something about it’ includes anywhere in the mix some form of gun control it all gets fed into the culture war sausage machine – and the gun lobby, instead of proffering solutions, wants to shut down debate completely by invoking the 2nd Amendment. And it’s not enough merely to disagree, they have to smash, humiliate, demand deportation, hammer into silence with every available stat and ideal.

        Perhaps we get a distorted view and it’s not really like this, but from here it sure looks like the party’s over, American politics needs to start over again.

        • David Cohen on Wednesday 6, 2013

          It’s not really like that on either side, thus the point that the left/right divide is not where casual observers expect it to be. Exhibit A: the picture you’ve put at the head of Rita’s entry.

          • Brit on Wednesday 6, 2013

            I took exhibit A to be a hastily rushed out publicity photo deemed necessary by the White House precisely because of the conditions of the media debate I’ve described above.

        • Peter on Wednesday 6, 2013

          American politics needs to start over again.

          Oh, please, no. Do you have any idea how long it took us to get alll that tar and feathers out of our hair? Not that you colonial masters really cared!!!!!!

  13. Daniel K on Wednesday 6, 2013

    I don’t think the conversation has gone into its inevitable useless phase yet, so I thought I’d address the idea that the left is more pragmatic than the right on this. I’m not so sure.

    After Sandy Hook, I had a vague but fleeting hope that folk might actually sit down and have a think for a while before coming up with solutions. But no: within 2 days or so Diane Feinstein managed to produce some kind of bill out of the ether that nobody seriously thinks would prevent another school shooting, or indeed have much of an effect on anything. Knee-jerk laws are always bad laws, even, or especially if the intentions are good.

    After that, it was downhill all the way.

  14. Toby on Wednesday 6, 2013

    I’m surprised there isn’t more gun violence in the US given the ubiquity of firearms. I’m sure there would be far more blood spilt on the streets in this country if there were more guns, especially at rush hour. I’d be sorely tempted to use an semi-automatic at least three or four times a day if I had one.

  15. Hey Skipper on Wednesday 6, 2013

    Americans agreed to start a “conversation” about gun violence.  Note the use of the word conversation, which implies a decorous, civilized process, far from the ugly violence, rage, and inflamed passions that erupt into the national airwaves whenever the topic of gun control comes up.

    Yes, I do note the use of the word “conversation”. When paired with “national”, it is always (in the inviolate superlative sense of the term) used by progressives as shorthand for “sit down, shut up, and listen whilst we impress upon you the lofty wonderfulness of our thoughts. Then shut up some more and color.”

    They must promise to take no action that could infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

    Which is the entire point behind the 2A, in particular, or the Constitution in general. It is the particular disease of progressives to view their preferences far more loftily than history warrants; in the U.S., that also comes with the view the Constitution as nothing more than a pretty anachronism whenever it stands in the way of progressives imposing their preferences upon the rest of us.
     

    But it wasn’t until as recently as 2008 that the Supreme Court ruled the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms, not just that of a militia.  There is simply no ground for reasoned debate about the Second Amendment.

    It is abundantly clear from any reasoned analysis of the 2A (as opposed to widely praised flagrant lying) that the right to bear arms is individual, not collective. Word meaning and context are incontrovertible here, regardless of how unfriendly they might be to your conclusions.

    The answer is obvious. Those who feel the 2A is outmoded, or the judicial interpretation is wrong, or who think the best way to stop violence is to confiscate guns, then by all means pass a 28th amendment dispensing with the second.

    Until then, though, the government’s has to stay within its limits.

    Which is to say, the problem is that even after an unspeakable atrocity like Sandy Hook it is impossible to make a mild suggestion like “Perhaps we ought to look at limiting the availability of assault weapons to lunatics”

    Hey, maybe it is time for a fun fact.

    According to the National Centers for Disease Control (I’m not going to include links, because the googling is easy enough), in 2011 gun violence killed 375 children under the age of 14.

    Drownings killed 500.

    Therefore, we need to limit the availability of swimming pools, right? Or, if not, why not?

    But never mind that. Your notion that it has been impossible to look at keeping assault weapons (whatever those are) from lunatics is simply wrong. What is impossible is looking at it from the other way: keeping lunatics from weapons. That, of course, would require institutionalizing crazy people. Which we used to do, but no longer. Why not? Why is that part of the “national conversation” off the table?

    [David:] and you cannot simply walk into a gun shop in the US and walk out with a gun, there is mandatory waiting period while you are vetted.

    Not where I live.

    In Alaska the mandatory waiting period amounts to as long as it takes to fill out a background information form.

    Everyone in Alaska owns a gun; most more than one. I held out for a couple years, but couldn’t help but notice that bear attacks are not infrequent (in the last three years, there have been 6 within a 15 mile radius of my house; four within five miles). Bear encounters are almost, but not quite, routine (summer before last, I had five, within 150′ of where I am sitting right now).

    The problem should be obvious — there are predators about. Should one of them take a bead on me, I have two options: provide for my own self defense, or contract it out to the state. Clearly, the latter option is fictitious, because no representative of the state will show up in anywhere near enough time.

    And that is the end goal that confiscationists would eventually attain: reliance on the state for self defense.

    It doesn’t work in Alaska, or Chicago, or Washington DC. Only in the latter two is it required.

    Oddly, foreigners get the impression that the U.S. is a violent place, due largely to guns. However, after stripping off black-on-black and drug related violence (both of which are concentrated in urban areas) America is actually a very peaceful, low crime place. And it has become increasingly so since gun carry laws became less onerous starting in the early 1990s.

    It is worth remembering that the blood bath confiscationists insisted would happen didn’t.

    • David Cohen on Wednesday 6, 2013

      Yes, sorry about the waiting period thing, I was wrong. The federal background check (which is what I was thinking of) has been streamlined so that now it can usually be done all but immediately.

  16. Brit on Wednesday 6, 2013

    I think the most concise way I could answer that would be: if I were President of the USA (which, alas, I’m not, don’t even get a vote) I would not attempt to ban guns because that would be absurd; but I would aim to get that obscene figure of 375 children killed by them close as possible to zero. Drownings, assuming your health and safety measures are reasonable and deaths not grotesquely out of kilter with the rest of the civilised world, you can only do so much about, given the quantity of water around.

    • Hey Skipper on Wednesday 6, 2013

      Well, yes, of course; that there are more childhood drownings than gun deaths is no reason to be complacent about the latter.

      However, the brouhaha that attends Sandy Hook strongly suggests that the real motivation is to capitalize on a tragedy to attain what is otherwise unavailable to progressives.

      After all, there is no reason to privilege death by one particular means over another. No doubt, part of the reason we have 500 drowning deaths in a year is because the US has too many swimming pools in comparison to the rest of the civilised world.

      Simplistic? Yes. After all, much of the US is quite a bit warmer on average than the rest of the civilized world, so having more pools and consequently more drowning deaths should not come as a surprise.

      But that just highlights the simplistic arguments of Piers Morgan in particular, and progressives in general. If you compare the “civilised” parts of the U.S. — that is, comparing European-Americans with European-Europeans — the violent death rates are practically indistinguishable.

      By the same measure, the violent deaths of European-American children are a fraction of the 375 I cited above.

      The only conclusion available is that since the problem is not guns, the solution will not be found there.

      Instead of demonizing gun owners (see nearly every New York Times op-ed page in the weeks following Sandy Hook), it would be far more helpful to revisit policies regarding institutionalizing the mentally ill, face squarely the breakdown of civilisation in African-American communities, and perhaps consider whether the War on Drugs is costing far more than it is worth.

  17. Susan on Wednesday 6, 2013

    Rita, I’m seriously alarmed by the notion of Piers Morgan as a hero – if his past history is anything to go by, he has the potential to put more lives at risk than any lunatic, gun-toting American.