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.
In 1787, when the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, good guns that could be held and used by a single fighter were still handmade, expensively-crafted things: a soldier could (perhaps) load and fire his musket three times a minute, but rifling (which allows more accurate aim) was known but not practical for army use. The “right to keep and bear arms” would as likely have referred to a sword or a pike as a gun. If the US had remained a string of small countries along the east coast of North America, it would certainly have made sense for them to do as the Swiss have done, and require every able-bodied adult man to be a soldier.
Switzerland allows any citizen (or indeed law-abiding resident) to have a gun if they want one: but the gun must be licensed. Further applications for gun licenses may be granted on request, each for a specific gun. Virtually every adult man attends regular annual training sessions, and holds a military rifle and ammunition under seal – which he is not allowed to use without specific orders and must keep in a safe place so that no one else can use it. If the US resembled Switzerland, insistance that the Second Amendment mattered terribly much would make sense.
There are a lot of differences between the US and Switzerland. Switzerland has four official languages: the US has none. The Swiss Confederation was founded on 1st August 1291, making it nearly 480 years older than the US. The US shares land borders now only with Mexico and Canada: Switzerland shares land borders with France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Switzerland has fought no wars of aggression in its over-800 years: the US has fought more wars of aggression in the past century than any other nation in the world. Switzerland founded the Red Cross: the US founded Guantanamo Bay. Neither the US nor Switzerland are members of the EU. And they both like guns.
But whereas Switzerland likes guns if controlled, licenced, and regulated, in the US for decades political lobbyists have been getting the Second Amendment redefined not to mean “every citizen has the right to bear arms in a well-regulated militia”, which is its common-sense interpretation, but to mean “Everyone should
buy own as many guns as possible!”
Providing, that is, they’re the right sort of people. When George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, the NRA did not respond to Martin’s death with the suggestion that black teenagers should carry more guns nor advocate that Trayvon Martin would have been much safer if, instead of carrying some Skittles and iced tea, he had been armed and able to shoot Zimmerman. (Nor is there any suggestion that if Trayvon Martin had shot and killed George Zimmerman, the local police would have taken his word for it that Zimmerman presented a threat to him and let him walk free without being charged because obviously it was self-defense.)
The women who saved most of the children at Sandy Hook did so by hiding the children. They closed and locked the classroom doors, they hid the children in storerooms, they kept the children quiet and safe and tried to keep them calm and told them they were loved: these women, not only the six who died but all of those who lived to save the children, were heroes. If they had been armed, if their role as teachers had included the job of going out to confront the gunman and try to kill him, not only would more of the staff have been killed – the NRA’s idea that “Good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns” is pure Star Wars – but more of the children would have been killed: there would have been no familiar adults keeping them calm, safe, quiet, and out of sight.
In Dunblane on 13th March 1996, Thomas Hamilton took two pistols and two revolvers and huge quantities of ammunition and killed 16 children – half of a primary one class, five and six year olds – and their teacher.
Following the massacre, a grassroots movement begun by parents of the murdered children and rising to include hundreds of thousands, including myself, called for gun control laws. The sheriff who signed off Thomas Hamilton’s gun licences resigned. (On 14th March, I was told, the flag on Edinburgh Castle was at half-mast: not a formal decision, since that should only happen if the reigning monarch dies, but an informal expression of national grief.) The Tory government, initially inclined against gun control legislation, realised it could not hold out against the tide of public opinion. A hundred thousand gun owners handed in their guns. It is now extremely difficult to obtain guns or ammunition in the UK.
The number of murders by firearms in the US in 2009 was 9,146 (1 murder by firearms for every 33,348 people.) The total number of murders by any method in the UK in 2008/09 was 793 (1 murder for every 774,225 people). I don’t think that difference is due to our being nicer people or having a lower abortion rate or not yet having lifted the ban on same-sex couples marrying each other.
James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family laid the blame for the Sandy Hook massacre not on the gun culture that let Adam Lanza have a Bushmaster M4 Type Carbine semi-automatic rifle – semi-automatic “for legality within the US civilian market” but on God sending a judgement for atheism, gay marriage, and abortion:
I mean millions of people have decided that either God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me. And we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences, too.
And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the scripture and on God Almighty, and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.
Fred Clark, also an evangelical Christian, points out that there is an odd disconnect between Dobson’s emotional reaction to the massacre and his ability to speak of it:
But for Dobson, “the murder of children” refers not to Sandy Hook, but to abortion. Hence the weird assertion on his radio program Monday that the murder of 20 schoolchildren is somehow God’s judgment falling on America because of the murder of “54 million babies.”
The incoherence there comes from Dobson’s heartfelt and undeniable recognition that the Newtown massacre was far, far worse than any number of abortions. He knows that. He feels that.
But Dobson has painted himself into an ethical and rhetorical corner and so he cannot allow himself to admit that.
Clark is one of my favourite bloggers, and certainly the most intelligent and kindest of Christian bloggers: but it does not seem to occur to him that there is something else James Dobson cannot say.
James Dobson cannot say that there is anything ethically wrong with a culture in which guns are freely available and the white male crime problem is expressed lethally by mass killings (it was legal in Connecticut for Adam Lanza, aged 20, to have a “long gun” like the semi-automatic he used to kill 26 people, even though the rifle actually belonged to his mother Nancy). Dobson cannot express “opposition to guns” as a moral value. [But see also: Dobson, Huckabee get a bit of push-back from mainstream evangelicals]
Because if he did, the audience he depends on – the Christian White Right, who thrive on guns, homophobia, and prolife gospel – might turn on him and bite.
Which brings me to Piers Morgan.
Piers Morgan last crossed my radar when he did some classic brown-nosing to Donald Trump when Alan Sugar and Trump had their dust-up. I can’t remember ever liking him whenever he crossed my radar. He’s an utter prat: a total wanker: a complete knob. (Sorry if these British terms are incomprehensible.)
But when faced with such impossibly stupid and dangerous nonsense as this
“Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to ensure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun.”
The gun nut who said that teachers ought to have more guns was Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, and Piers Morgan called him “a dangerous man” and said these were unbelievably stupid views. So he is, so they are: even Piers Morgan is right once a lifetime.
“British Citizen and CNN television host Piers Morgan is engaged in a hostile attack against the US Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment. We demand that Mr Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”
Goodness, he’s far from the first national network television host to stage attacks on the rights of American citizens: every right-wing Christian who attacked abortion or gay marriage was also attacking the rights of American citizens, but you don’t see Americans starting petitions against them. Still, apparently the petition has over 31,000 signatures since 19th December and the White House is supposed to respond to any petition that gets at least 25,000 signatures in 30 days. A lot of Americans really, really want to see Piers Morgan gone, and who can blame them, exactly?
Prolifers routinely claim that the only reason doctors and clinics want to provide abortions to women is “Profit!!!” But it never seems to occur to American prolifers to draw any conclusions about the profitability of a flourishing civilian gun market in the US and the steady pressure on courts and legislators to re-interpret the Second Amendment away from the right to a well-regulated citizen militia to the right to buy as many guns as you can afford. Nor does it ever seem to occur to American prolifers that there is anything wrong with a culture in which profiteering from guns is regarded as irrelevant in discussing how to save children’s lives. This absurdity in US culture is something that would make anyone remotely sensible – even Piers Morgan – react badly as a justification for tolerating regular gun massacres.
So, if Piers Morgan has offended the US Constitution by criticising the Second Amendment, deport him. It’s not as if the US Constitution has any amendment which protects freedom of speech. (Oh, it does? Oh.)
Tell you what. If you get rid of Piers Morgan, can we get rid of Donald Trump? We just don’t like him very much. We’d appreciate it if you’d keep him home, and oleaginous though Morgan is, he’s not quite as offensive as Trump.