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The American discussion on gun rights would seem by most accounts to go the way of the world’s discussion on American gun rights. The general opinion of the Western European powers and even Russia seems to rest on the notion that there is something basically wrong with the idea that American people have a very full right to gun ownership. Many Americans that live in larger cities do not understand the need of gun ownership for self-protection because their community is blessed with good police protection. Many of the European countries do not share this, and even Russia has rather strict limitations on the matter of ownership. In light of these different contexts that these people live in, the comments are honestly and entirely fair and it is wise to hear them out.
But when the discussion on this matter dissolves into argument and name-calling, this is useless. This member of the Virginia House of Delegates expressed his frustration with the lack of true debate, which had recently been replaced by egregious slander and name calling instead of constructive action.
Mr. Freitas here expresses clearly the summary of things that have changed in the United States that have contributed to the persistence of the problem of these awful crimes. The assessment is damning, and it is damning of issues that liberals have championed.
The issue of gun-control has become a sensation and hotbed of vicious slander.
The liberal media and the Democrat party operatives in the United States have been rather in lockstep with the attitudes of the Western Europeans. And some of the attitudes expressed are quite judgmental, like this thought from the British paper The Guardian back in 2013:
Last week, Starbucks asked its American customers to please not bring their guns into the coffee shop… Although it was brave of Howard Schultz, the company’s chief executive, to go even this far in a country where people are better armed and only slightly less nervy than rebel fighters in Syria, we should note that dealing with the risks of scalding and secondary smoke came well before addressing the problem of people who go armed to buy a latte. There can be no weirder order of priorities on this planet.
Here is a whole lot of opinion, expressed in just three sentences. The author of this piece offered the novel thought that with all the gun violence in the US, we ought to be considered to be in a state of “civil war” and if so, then the world should intervene and put a stop to it.
However enticing that point might seem to someone who has never lived in the United States, this might seem very logical – indeed, I live in Russia, where the gun laws are far more permissive than they are in many states in Europe, but the issue of guns in the hands of Americans is always met with perplexity at the very least.
There are a number of “mythbusting facts” which must be presented to come to a more realistic view of the situation. We will offer three of them here.
Guns are really not that important to Americans, but the freedom to own one is important.
First, the view on firearms in the United States itself is highly polarized where anyone has an opinion at all. But that last phrase says a lot – because by and large, most Americans do not spend time thinking about guns one way or the other. When an awful crime happens, like the recent Florida massacre, the issue comes up and the press tries to bring home the idea that “something must be done about the gun violence” which is just sensationalism of the worst character possible, as it is built on the blood of the dead who perished in the attack. This in itself is worse than tasteless, it expresses a point of view, be it subtly so, that the political issue is more important than the fact that a lot of people just got killed, and it is this which actually both distracts attention from the debate and also seems to cut off any further critical thought on the matter.
The United States has the oldest and most stable constitutional government on earth.
The second fact is that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right that has existed ever since America was founded. Although the nation is young contrasted with nations like Great Britain or Germany or Italy, it has had a stable government for its entire history, Civil War notwithstanding. In other words, the United States is not a place where coups and revolutions happen, so it could rightly be said that our system of government and our corresponding culture is among the worlds oldest. To back that up with numbers, look at these dates for the Constitutions of the United States and those of the other significant powers of today:
- Brazil – 1988
- Canada – 1867
- People’s Republic of China – 1982
- Finland – 2000
- France – 1958
- Germany – 1949
- Greece – 1975
- Poland – 1997
- Russia – 1993
- Switzerland – 1999
- The United Kingdom – Parliamentary Sovereignty – means Statutes passed by Parliament are the final and supreme source of law in Great Britain – While Great Britain has no constitution as such, this character of Sovereignty resting in Parliament’s hands could potentially mean the the law of the land might be only one day old at times.
- The United States of America – 1788
When a nation forms around a constitution, this document is held to be the supreme law of the land. As we can see, the American document is the oldest here, and in fact in the list provided on this site, it is the oldest in the world. Although the US Constitution has been amended, this has only been ratified 27 times in the entire history of the nation, and only once has an amendment ever effectively repealed another amendment.
When something begins to last as long as this, then it psychologically and culturally becomes even more difficult to change. The Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, was put in place early in the formation of the Republic to protect the citizens against their own government if it got tyrannical. While for the most part, gun owners are not concerned with the US government becoming tyrannical, the fact of life that people own guns if they want to has become embedded in the cultural landscape. Removing this would only be possible if the whole population agreed to this, but they are exceedingly unlikely to do that because the Second Amendment warns us to beware of a government that would ask us to give up our arms. Therefore the alarm over any government’s move about weapons is set off very easily when it comes to this matter.
Mental health is the linking factor in all mass shootings, not the nature of the arms used.
A third factor is overall homicide rates in the United States, as well as all crime, has been in decline since at least 1981, from 6.6 people killed per 100,000 then to 3.6 per 100,000 in 2010. The shocking reality of mass shootings has, sadly, increased, and this parallels two other developments that have also increased at the same time – one being the incidence of psychological illness in the populace, and the other – the increasing rejection of religious values and traditions in the culture of the United States. I believe all three of these are inextricably linked, as written about here, and here.
While the overall decline in homicide is forgotten about by most in such tragedies, the statistic is nevertheless there to be seen once someone looks.
It is vitally important to be fair on this issue
Now, a journalist is charged to be fair unless that journalist is expressly writing an opinion piece. My personal opinion is that the problem with such shootings is primarily one of the state of mind and soul of the shooter and how he or she got that way. At the same time I have seen the statistical charts that show that yes, gun-involved crime is very high in the United States per capita compared with the rest of the world.
But I grew up in the United States, and I was taught about guns and respect for them. Something was instilled in me that seems no longer to be instilled in people. There is a reason for that. One blogger in Great Britain was honest about this issue enough to admit that while the incidence of gun crime in England is very low, there are many, even epidemic counts of stabbings. We do not hear talk in England about banning knives. In fact, we hear very little talk at all about this unless someone high-profile gets stabbed. But here again, the facts remain just like they are in the USA with guns: The knife didn’t decide it was going to stab someone. Neither did the gun.
In order to properly conduct the debate over what to do, then, a factual assessment is required. We have offered some information – maybe it can help. We have also acknowledged that this is presently a divisive issue, but it need not be if we care more about our nation than about how to slam one another with rhetoric. While I personally do not support changing the Second Amendment, I do support measures taken to keep unstable people from gaining access to firearms – this seems only sensible. In a future piece we will examine the issue regarding mental health, and the care – or lack thereof that has spiraled into a horrible crisis of its own, of which we believe the shootings is a symptom. But otherwise, this is a time for prayer and mourning, and eventually of reasonable and rational investigation and discussion of real measures we can take to solve this terrible problem.