Americans and their guns

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

My Canadian (and therefore invalid) perspective on gun rights in America

After recently watching the Vice documentary on 3-D printed guns I decided it was time to write this editorial. Not because I think I can do much to affect the direction of the gun debate in the States, but because I’m seeing and hearing some of the pro-gun dialogue come over here in my personal life and in public discourse since Harper took office and I want it to stop because it’s idiotic, unnecessarily paranoid, and dangerous.

I think the pro-gun argument is idiotic because the wording of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the basis for the whole pro-gun theology, doesn’t necessarily guarantee individuals the right to bear arms. I’m not a U.S. constitutional scholar or anything like that, but if you read the Second Amendment it only guarantees the rights of states to run well organized militias. There’s nothing specifically guaranteeing individuals the right to own guns. People on the pro-gun side can argue you can interpret that differently and this is true, but it’s also true that for the majority of United States history, the popular legal interpretation of the Second Amendment was confined to the idea of well organized militias. The opinions of private gun ownership advocacy groups were ignored by and large in mainstream American society until about thirty years ago and the Second Amendment’s legal definition was only changed to protect individual gun rights in 2008.

Interpret it differently? OK then, change it back.

So what happened 30 years ago? For more than a century the NRA was a group primarily dedicated to gun safety and training, but in 1977 the group was taken over by what was formerly a fringe group of opinion and the group was re-branded into the powerful gun rights lobby group it is known as today.

Since the late 1970s, the NRA has spent unspeakable sums of money and has become one of the most effective lobby groups lobbying American politicians and lawmakers to make changes to laws that make it easier to buy and sell firearms. Unsurprisingly, some of the NRA’s most frequent financial donors either are or are connected to the gun manufacturing industry: in other words, the big business of gun sales.

This last fact alone, I feel, should almost entirely discredit the NRA-fueled pro-gun argument. It shows that the NRA and other prominent gun advocacy groups are primarily interested in their own gain, not citizens’ ability to defend themselves.

However, it seems the pro-gun argument is the third rail of American politics at the present moment – a fact I find upsetting because really, if you actually analyze the pro-gun argument for more than two seconds, you can see what they’re advocating is actually repulsive and asinine.

Because really what they’re arguing for is to kill people they don’t like or are afraid of, and that society (in most cases, U.S. Society) would be better off or safer if more people were enabled to kill people they don’t like or are afraid of.

This is indeed a repulsive argument, but I use the word asinine to describe it because it also doesn’t hold up in reality.

Compared with all other developed countries, the United States ranks first in terms of gun-related deaths. Given this, it’s clear America is not safer because it has more guns.

Many on the pro-gun side of things, however, argue that this is a small price to pay for keeping the tyranny of government at bay, but I find this ridiculous as well.

I witnessed a great example of this attitude in the reaction to the police handling of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year. Upon seeing video of police driving armoured vehicles on the streets of Boston during the episode, Bill Maher (a known liberal voice on some issues) was prompted to say something about the U.S. becoming a police state, and his concerns have been echoed by many others.

What makes the situation a police state? The fact the police exist and they’re doing their jobs? This strikes me as a dumb observation. If police hadn’t tracked down the bombers, Bill Maher would complain the government is incompetent, under-equipped and should be doing their jobs better, so there’s no way government could win in this case.

They got the guys. That’s all that really matters to me. But at the same time, why are people so surprised police in the United States are equipped with these kinds of units? The fact there are enough privately owned firearms in the U.S. for 90 out of every 100 American citizens to have a gun (the highest gun ownership rate of any country in the world) is common knowledge, and as I’ve already said, if police were unaware of or unprepared to deal with these circumstances it would be justly criticized anyway.

I could argue facts up and down and sideways all day, but really when you get down to it the pro-gun argument isn’t based in fact so I want to stop treating it that way. What do you say to the argument that guns don’t kill people? But they do kill people!

It’s an argument so ignorant it’s not actually an argument. It’s more like a statement: I don’t care if you’re right or wrong, but I don’t care because I can shoot you.

It’s an argument based in fear. Fear of what? I don’t know. But it’s probably mostly fear of unknown scary things.

What is the answer to this? I won’t pretend to know, but it sure isn’t guns. I know that much.

And I know it starts with education and ideas and engagement. Not hiding out in your basement and waiting for the world end.

One final note: while I don’t believe the Second Amendment guarantees the rights of individual gun owners, when it comes to militias, it may actually protect those of paramilitary corporations. If you want to worry about something, you might want to start there.