Just to make it clear from the start, I’m English and I have always lived in England. I’m sure plenty of people will think I have no right to comment on the American Constitution treating it as an almost sacred script but I do feel however that I have a right on a humanitarian level to criticise the abuse of the Second Amendment.
Worldwide we have recently been paying our quiet respects to those mown down by a lunatic with a gun at Virginia Tech. Although our thoughts and prayers may show some support to the parents and loved ones of those lost, it will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem because it has happened many times before. We should be asking ourselves why it keeps on happening and what can be done to stop it.
This may seem like I’m taking a swipe at the US generally but I’m not. I’m pointing my finger at, and blaming the politicians and activists who think it appropriate to permit the continuance of the outdated and misinterpreted Constitutional right to carry arms’. The Second Amendment. However, this is not just a rant without foundation; I have plenty of justification to my argument.
Historically, and this is well documented, the origin of the right to bear arms in the US dates from the 12th century in England when King Henry II obligated all freemen to possess certain arms for defence, this was a policy that was carried through the centuries and done so because there was not a Police Force in England until 1829 and therefore no other form of law and order.
The second amendment even took the loose phrasing from the English the Right to bear Arms’ – and this is the line the gun activists make the play on. The whole of the amendment reads as follows: 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.’ The initial emphasis of the amendment is on the well regulated Militia’, essentially the intention in England for the maintenance of law and order.
This gives the Constitutional right to bear arms, but the amendment was written in 1789 in times when weapons were needed to defend towns and uphold law and order. Guns were needed to control the Native Americans and to defend against invaders. This necessity is hardly relevant to the 20th and 21st centuries. Consider also that in the 18th century the only guns readily available were muskets. Concealable handguns were to come later, and these are the ones that cause the problems we experience in the 21st century.
In trying to translate the Second Amendment for relevance in the 21st century there is a problem. There exists a more than adequate Police Force in most civilised countries, with capable armed forces to control both internal and external insurgents. So, why would personal gun ownership be needed? Hardly to assist A well regulated Militia’, that’s already controlled by the government. To maintain law and order, the basis of the historical right to bear arms? Surely the job of the Police Force, and taking the law into your own hands can cause all sorts of bother.
I question why anyone should be permitted to go to a gun shop and purchase a gun and ammunition. A person only has to self certify that they’re sane by ticking a few boxes and they have the latest state of the art gun. It’s still the mentality of the Wild West; first to draw wins the day.
Because everyone is allowed, it’s become an unregulated lethal force out of control. There is nothing to prevent the Constitution being amended apart from influential activists, but the issue would be removing the weapons from ownership and with so many owned in the US. There were 215 million hand guns owned in the US in 1999 with an annual increase of around 4.5 million.
You will always hear gems such as guns don’t kill people, people do’, but this is nonsense as statistics prove. Let someone have a gun, and they’ll use it only let them have a stick, and it’s all they can attack with. Violent people use whatever is at hand, and I’d much rather be hit with a stick.
Charlton Heston is the elected president of the NRA (National Rifle Association). This association is vocal in it’s defence of the ownership of the gun, and Heston is especially so since his election, with gems such as: “Look at Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Idi Amin every one of these monsters, on seizing power, their first act was to confiscate all firearms in private hands. …” Says a lot for our gun laws in the UK? Perhaps he should give a lecture at Virginia Tech on the joys of firearms ownership and see how much of a standing ovation he gets.
In the UK it’s simple if you have a gun, you’re a criminal. No defence, no get out There are a very few occupations that allow even the possession of a rifle, Farmers and Gamekeepers are all I can think of. Shotguns are allowed, but only after extremely tight checks are carried out and for sporting purposes.
There are NO handguns allowed whatsoever, they are a weapon prohibited by law. Banning them is the one single thing that has contributed to a drop in gun related homicide in the UK, and the drop has been year on year.
I could have cited statistics from all over the world and compared numerous countries with the US then argued the various merits of different countries gun policies but for the sake of simplicity I’ve kept the comparison between the US and the UK.
It has been stated that the UK represents the utopia on gun control, so does that make the US bedlam? Digest the numbers and decide.
The most current figures I have found are from 2004, and make a sorrowful read. In the US there were over 30,000 gun related deaths in one year. That amounts to more than 80 people shot dead every day. That’s more than double the deaths at Virginia Tech each day, every day, and 365 days of the year. In addition to that, double are seriously injured by guns that amounts to 60,000 people in one year, or 160 people every day of the year.
Here in the UK, it’s a very different and far safer picture. In 2004 there were 73 gun related homicides FOR THE WHOLE YEAR which relates to only 1 in 10 homicides, and the number has actually decreased for 2005.
It would be easy to dismiss the comparison because of the difference in the population between the two countries but here is a further statistic to support the difference in the count:
“The UK has one of the lowest gun death rates per head in the world at (1999 figures), 0.22 per 100,000 per annum, this compares to the US rate of 6.08 per 100,000 per annum.” This is nearly 28 times more. Japan seems the safest with only 0.04 per 100,000.
And here are some more supporting quotes:
“In the UK, there has been a fall in gun deaths since the introduction of a partial handgun ban in 1996 and a total handgun ban in 1997, from 358 in 1995 to 163 in 2003.” (As I put earlier, the numbers continue to fall.)
And, does anyone know a Policeman? We get a lot of US cop reality shows in the UK, and when they are questioning someone, the prime concern (rightly) is do they have a gun. Show these statistics to an American Policeman and get his reaction:
“There are over 140,000 police officers in the UK, up more than 11,000 since 1997 of which 11 police officers have been shot dead in the last 20 years.
In terms of fatality, being a police officer is one of the safest occupations. At around 1 death per 100,000 per annum, it is more than 100 times safer than being a fisherman (123 deaths per 100,000 per annum), and it is actually a safer job than the average (2 deaths per 100,000 per annum).”
And in case you didn’t know, our Policemen in the UK are not armed excepting whilst on patrol in sensitive areas.
In America, the stubbornness that keeps a 220-year-old Constitutional Amendment alive is killing 30,000 citizens each year and something needs to be done. This loss of life has to be stopped. Since the war in Iraq, 3,300 troops have been killed in 4 years, that’s around one tenth of the citizens killed in domestic gun violence.
In the 21st century this should not be tolerated, life is not cheap and politics should reflect that.
For the records, my sources were as follows: