I’m not going to say that all Americans are insane because that would be a silly thing to suggest. I’m not even going to say that America as a country is insane, though the suggestion would be a little less ridiculous, but I do suspect that America has become culturally insane because of its attachment to a nasty little quasi-religious icon: the firearm.
Like all religious beliefs, the gun fetish needs a Holy Writ, and true gun-believers find their bible in the Second Amendment. Like all zealots, they interpret the Second Amendment in such a way that it confirms what they already wanted to believe, which is why, I suppose, it’s no accident that the religion of the gun finds its natural home in the land of creationism.
Let’s examine this holy writ they call the second amendment.
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.
Now, isn’t the meaning of that obvious to anyone with a functioning brain? People are entitled to bear arms because a free state needs a militia. It seems perfectly plain to me, but not, unfortunately, to the US Supreme Court, which decided that the Second Amendment confers the right on every US citizen to bear arms regardless of the circumstances. But if the Founding Fathers had wished to confer this right on people, why did they need to write it as they did with all that nonsense about a well-ordered militia? Why did they not simply say The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed and leave it at that?
That would have been enough and everyone would have known exactly where they stood, but they chose not to do so. In any case, back in 1789 when the Second Amendment was passed, things were very different. For a start, there were only thirteen states, ceded by the British in 1783, and they had every cause to believe the English might return — a very good reason to ensure that each state kept up a militia. At that time, they had no idea that the United States would evolve into a world power with a population of over 300 million or that there would be no credible prospect of an invasion by anyone, rendering the need for militias redundant.
And yet the second amendment remained.
Besides that, the framers of the amendment could never have imagined what sort of arms might evolve over the centuries. This was a piece of law crafted at a time when the muzzle-loading flintlock musket was at the cutting edge of military technology, and yet the same constitutional provision guarantees any American citizen the right to own an assault rifle, the sort of thing that 18th century soldiers would have regarded as a weapon of mass destruction if they could even have conceived what it was.
There’s another interpretation, based on the notion that Americans have the right to stand up against central government tyranny. Well, that’s been tried too, back in 1861 and it didn’t work out so well. The Washington government launched a war of annihilation against the South that some states have still barely recovered from. With a horse-drawn army, they ruthlessly laid waste to vast tracts of their own land, and with the resources available today, would effortlessly inflict the same destruction in a couple of days.
So what are we talking about?
Firstly, the amendment clearly doesn’t grant every US citizen the right to bear arms. Secondly, the rights it does grant are now utterly outdated since there is no external threat of invasion and no possibility that any state will ever challenge central government militarily.
The Second Amendment is an anachronism, and yet it continues to place highly dangerous military-grade weaponry in the hands of maniacs, as we saw yet again with the recent slaughter of twenty young children in Newtown, Connecticut, but at the same time, I don’t think gun control on its own would have prevented this mass murder, or the Virginia Tech killings or the Aurora shootings or any of the other gun-related mass murders that seem to happen in the United States as a matter of routine.
The gun in the United States seems to occupy a quasi-religious position, like a crucifix. It pervades all American movie culture just as the movie culture has expanded to the point where reality and fiction are indistinguishable. The world is populated by good guys and bad guys, and all problems can be solved by sending in the Marines . Shock and Awe can fix anything.
Adam Lanza murdered his mother, Nancy, before going on to kill the children and teachers in Sandy Hook school. Nancy was part of the growing American paranoid movement that believes all citizens need to arm themselves against coming chaos, and she trained her children accordingly. The result was that she died along with 26 other people.
The figures are interesting. Firearm homicide rates in the United States are 2.97 per 100,000 people. This compares with 2.95 in the West Bank and Gaza, 2.8 in Uruguay, 1.56 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 1.12 in Bangla Desh. US gun murders are more than six times the rate in Ireland and nine times as common as in the Netherlands.
Most interestingly, Americans own three times as many guns as Canadians, but kill six times as many people with them.
It’s obvious that America has a serious problem with gun crime, but an even worse problem with gun worship and it doesn’t look like a problem that’s going to get better. As long as an entire nation believes that physical force is the answer to everything, all we’ll see is an increase in the problem, and as long as the only source of analysis available to the American general public is either Fox News or Hollywood, it’s inevitable that the most powerful nation on the planet will remain politically infantile.
If the USA remained in isolation as it used to do, this would hardly make any difference to the world at large, but when it’s combined with a self-appointed role as global policeman and a firm belief in an Old Testament American God, then it’s time to be worried.