Another day, another school shooting. Some outlets report there have been 18 so far this year, but reviewing the data reveals that to be slightly exaggerated. What isn’t exaggerated is the fact that my Facebook feed is now 90% people arguing for or against gun control. They don’t even seem to be arguing with anybody, just AT people. When all I see is post after post from someone about one single topic, it starts to feel like I’m being argued AT. And I’m not even participating here, I’m just trying to see what’s up with people I know. Because god knows I can’t actually interact with anybody in real life; that would involve one of us leaving our house. So, I’m being argued at.
So what should be done? First off, let’s establish what isn’t going to happen. Guns aren’t going to be banned. It’s just not going to happen. Americans own a lot of guns and there’s no way in hell they’re going to support guns being taken away from them. It is, afterall, a right guaranteed by the second amendment, and the first thing you learn as an American is that some amendments are more equal than others. The Fourth Amendment is barely fit to wipe our asses with, but the Second Amendment! Now that one is important. The Third Amendment is the one all the other Amendments make fun of and push in his locker, in case you were wondering.
But for all their belief in its sacredness, defenders of the Second Amendment like to ignore the, shall we say, harder to interpret parts:
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.
A well regulated Militia…what the fuck does that mean? Most people ignore this because it’s hard to tell why that phrase is there. The Johnson column in the Economist spent an entire article wondering about it, and it made me wonder, too. The second half is much easier to understand: the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Gun rights activists concentrate on that bit because it fits their views: they get to own guns, point blank, no restrictions. But…but what if we can in fact only legally own guns as long as we’re in militias, the constitutional role of which, according to the Second Amendment, is to maintain the security of a free state?
Wouldn’t it be the world’s biggest irony if the anti-government militias out in Idaho, of which the FBI is so fond of penetrating, were the only constitutional way to exercise our gun rights?
Maybe that’s too extreme; those groups hardly represent mainstream American views. But at the very least it seems to imply we need to belong to some sort of group whose purpose is to train people in the use of firearms and other weapons. Kind of like the National Guard, only you have to bring your own gear and you won’t actually get sent to serve in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Could we just at least make people take gun safety courses before they can buy a gun? Maybe even learn to shoot? Join a pistol club?
Right-wingers in the US like to talk about how pussified Europeans are because they don’t have guns. I still remember one such moment after I got my gun and was taking a basic pistol safety course at the NRA. Among us newbies was a guy from Manchester, who had immigrated to New England for loooooooooove. When we went to lunch, one of the other students started ragging on him about the gun laws in Europe and how horrible they are. As though he himself were responsible for them. The thing is…guns aren’t 100% illegal in the UK, nor even in Germany. You just have to meet certain requirements to own them.
In Germany, you have to be part of a shooting club and thus have a proven need to own a gun. You also have to have an approved safe and always, always, always keep the guns in that safe. There are probably some other requirements I’m forgetting about, but on the whole it’s not unreasonable.
And before Americans start talking about how disarmed Europeans are or Germans are and therefore how wimpy they are, remember: you’re responsible for disarming the Germans. Up until the post-war occupation, Germans were quite well armed. But oddly enough, foreign military powers don’t like the idea that the country they just defeated could shoot them. And when the new German governments formed, they decided they didn’t like that idea either. I suspect that the East German government didn’t want that because the June 22 uprising was bad enough without guns. The west German government? Probably their commitment to peace and not invading their neighbors, crazy moral principles Germany still sticks to today.
The Economist’s article also points out that the first part of the second amendment doesn’t actually hold water: owning guns is not really necessary to maintain a free state. They argue the existence of many free countries without broad gun ownership proves there is no correlation. Indeed, if you look at the latest Human Freedom Index, the top ten freest were Switzerland, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and (tied) the UK. The US came in at 17th. Interestingly, the top ten span a wide range in gun laws from restrictive (UK) to everyone must have a gun in the house (or so I’ve heard is the case in Switzerland). Switzerland, if the information I haven’t bothered to double check is correct, probably has the closest system to what the founding fathers had in mind when it comes to militias: all males receive military training and keep arms in their house in case they have to remind the Germans why invading Switzerland is a bad idea.
This data lends credence to the belief that a free state and the right to bear arms do not correlate. Perhaps what the founding fathers took for granted as necessary for freedom was not so much the right to bear arms, but the desire of the people to be free. Americans don’t really seem to care much about that at all. This may strike you as odd, but bear with me.
Americans care very much about the idea of being free. The idea of liberty sounds great. It’s a wonderful soundbite. But the actual practice of it (allowing people to live their lives as they see fit, minimal government, accepting that football players have the right to protest peacefully, that the first amendment cannot be limited to Free Speech zones, that we have the right to live within 100 miles of the border without being subject to warrantless searches by the border patrol.
But what are we all talking about? Fucking guns. GUNS ARE A DISTRACTION. This whole debate about banning guns, restricting guns, don’t you dare take my guns, arm teachers…it’s all just a distraction to keep us from talking about the issues that really matter. Namely, the fact that we are not free. And we are getting less free. The fact that Russian troll bots have taken to twitter to drum up outrage on both sides of the gun debate is proof of this.
At any rate, I can already tell you what is going to come of all this arguing at people going on on Facebook: Absolutely nothing. There will be no new gun laws, at least not on a federal level. There may be some on a state level, but I can guarantee that any laws passed that are more restrictive will be balanced by laws passed in other states that are less restrictive.
I can also predict that at some point more restrictive gun laws will be passed in the next 20 years. As the US continues to urbanize, it’s going to move further away from its rural gun culture. As the survivors of these mass shooters grow up, they are going to be very anti-gun. It would be a good idea to compromise now and save some lives and arguing in the meantime, but I’m sure as hell not going to hold my breath.