JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: GUNS AND AMERICA   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY CLIVE CROOK IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

The gun issue in America is complex and bizarre.

First, it is clear, if you read the Bill of Rights, that the “right to bear arms” was tied to the concept of a “well ordered militia.”

The concept of the militia was imported from Britain, where going back at least to Elizabeth Gloriana’s time.

Militias were, compared to large standing armies, a money-saving measure, something Elizabeth relished.

The Colonists also were tight with a dime (after all, the rebelled in part to avoid paying a just tax).

Added to that impulse was the fear of standing armies.

Well, militias ceased being – except for the private ones of weird survivalists and Aryan Nation types back in the hills – a long time ago. America keeps a massive armed forces, spending more than half a trillion dollars a year on it.

So the “right” has lost its original justification entirely.

Now many Right Wing defenders of gun ownership in America always frame the issue around the idea of being able to oppose a tyranny.

In view of the armed forces of the United States – Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and National Guards – which could put down any rebellion by citizens in America in days, this truly is a naïve and fatuous argument.

The mental image of a bunch of belly-over-the-belt, thinning-haired guys in hunting camouflage taking to the streets to oppose tyranny is ridiculous.

That the argument is constantly put forward in America shows the juvenile level of thinking on the matter.

I might add, as a cynical observation, that if they weren’t going to rebel against the lies and abuse and war crimes of Bush, they clearly never would.

The real, underlying reason Americans remain so married to their guns today also has historical origins.

But in this case, the historical origin is slavery.

Those who’ve read about the South in the 18th and early 19th century will know there was a constant fear of slave revolt, paranoid in its dimensions (perhaps the result of guilty consciences?), despite there only ever being one fairly small revolt ever.

Jefferson – the great blubberer about liberty and lifelong holder of more than 200 slaves – supported Napoleon in trying to put down the successful slave revolt in Haiti, a very bloody business. That same Southern fear of slaves and revolts was at work in his support of tyranny over liberty.

Today, Americans remain afraid of black crime to a degree British people perhaps can hardly comprehend.

Guns are felt to be one answer. As are gated communities. And as are blundering, fuel-wasting vehicles like SUVs – deliberately designed to suggest military armored cars and to instill confidence in suburbanites for their safety on the highway as they drive from one safe area to another, through dark and feared territories.

Of course, none of this makes any sense. Black criminals almost always prey on black victims. And the number of times a white middle-class person has actually been saved by a gun is infinitesimal.

But the paranoid psychology continues. There is almost a sense of some Americans seeing themselves as desperate Israel settlers carrying around automatic weapons to stop any nasty Palestinians.

When I was a boy, despite the Constitutional issue, guns had to be licensed in any city and it was illegal to carry them hidden, except for special permitted circumstances. This has all gone further downhill, as now many jurisdictions allow people to carry guns hidden under their clothes or in their purse or in the glove box of their car.

So when traveling, watch who you bump into or get into an argument with. It could be your last.

Guns stolen from legal owners, a common event, likely account for more crimes than legal guns can ever hope to prevent.

There’s no sorting this all out rationally. It will simply take another hundred years for America to become a fully civilized society.

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