As someone who , a while back, spent a considerable amount of time debating on US political forums, I would reasonably consider myself something of a veteran – by British standards – when it comes to the question of gun control and the 2nd Amendment to US Constitution. Been there, seen it, done it, trolled it, know the arguments forwards, backwards, sideways, etc.
So, horrific as the Virginia Tech shootings are, the political/media debate that has ensued in their wake is a thoroughly mundane ‘by the numbers’ exercise in raking over the same old ground – or so I though until I came across Martin Kelly’s take on the media coverage of the story at – regrettably – Devil’s Kitchen, where the proprietor is infinitely more cogent and reasoned that what you’re about to read from one of his occasional contributors.
Oh fuck. Doesn’t your heart just sink at reading a title like that?
On ‘Newsnight’ last night, the impeccably coiffed Gavin Esler began the report into the Virgina Tech mass shootings by pronouncing, in that inimitable Ulster-Scots twang, that the shooter had ‘exercised his consitutional [sic] right to bear arms’.
Yes, that’s about the standard opening for any media report on a mass public shooting in the United States of America and is nothing more than a reflection of the nature of the public debate in the US on the subject of the meaning and intent of the 2nd Amendment. Without getting too deeply into the detail (which would take hours) gun control is a deeply contentious and divisive issue unlike anything that us Brits are used to in our own public discourse – the nearest equivalent would, perhaps, be a debate around completely privatising the NHS and even that would fall short of the kind of passions raised in the US whenever gun control comes up in the wake of a serious incident like that at Virginia Tech.
It’s simple – in the US a mass shooting means a subsequent debate on gun control and the 2nd Amendment as surely as night follows day.
If, as has been reported in some quarters, the mass murderer was a Chinese national, he wasn’t exercising his own constitutional right to bear arms – he was in fact exercising somebody else’s.
Actually, it seems he was a South Korean national, but that’s entirely immaterial – as long as he was residing in the US legally then even as a foreign national he is still entitled to the vast majority of the rights that the US constitution – specifically its first 10 Amendments, which make up the Bill of Rights – affords to US citizens, including the right to bear arms.
The bedwetting British left has predictably got its Pampers in a twist about the idea that people can use guns to kill other people. Even the Daily Telegraph has got in on the act.
Generally, an assertion that the ‘bedwetting British left has got its pampers in a twist… blah, blah’ is one I’d expect to see backed up by a either quotation or link to an article that did, indeed, demonstrate that just such a thing is happening – and it may well be happening in some quarters but when Martin goes on to slate the Daily Telegraph for publishing a ‘bear shits in woods’ observation that this shooting will spark off a debate about gun control in the US, then I can’t help but think that Martin is talking complete and utter bollocks.
But the idea that immigrants can do a bad thing, any bad thing, is anathema to opinion-formers – they rush to blame the guns he used to kill, not the immigrant’s own hideous, warping hatred. They rush to blame the university authorities – as if journalists have any have any experience of trying to organise the mass evacuation of approximately 8,000 very frightened people from a small area while under fire. The idea that the resulting stampede might have caused an even higher death toll doesn’t cross their minds – coming from a culture where it’s apparently legal for a crook to bounce cheques and then sue to claim back the resulting bank charges, their absolute (and unjustified) belief in their own competence means they have developed a correspondingly absolute lack of humilty.
Having been in more than my fair share of intellectual firefights on the subject of the 2nd Amendment – and for the record, Thomas Jefferson made his intent that all law-abiding US citizens should have the right to bear arm perfectly clear in observing that one of best arguments for an armed citizenry was so that citizens could defend themselves against the government – I can honestly say that even by the flagrantly partisan standards of such debates that last paragraph stands out as being the worst commentary on the subject that I have ever seen – it is nothing less than the work of a complete fuckwit, the senile maunderings of quasi-fascist low-grade moron who’s head is so far up his own arse that he can comfortably lick his own tonsils.
The nationality of the shooter in this case – and in any other similar shooting – is completely and utterly fucking irrelevant. A murderous nutball with a gun is a murderous nutball with a gun no matter where in the world they come from and where in the world they might be at the time that something snaps and they go postal. If life should tell us anything its that in country of 300 million people or so, you simply can’t legislate for the occasional unexpected murderous nutball.
The actual gun control debate in the US is a very complex one and riddled with bizarre inconsistencies and nuances that, for the most part, are completely alien to a British audience – to illustrate the point, there are currently 13 States in a which an ex-felon is disbarred from voting, even after they have completed their sentence and served out their debt to society, yet in most of those States the gun laws are such that they would have no difficulty whatsoever in buying a gun from a legitimate gun store. Those are the kind of ‘wrinkles’ that many supporters of tighter gun control want ironed out of the system – they don’t object to law-abiding citizens exercising their 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms, they just want the government to be a little more diligent in trying to ensure that the citizens with guns are not criminals and sane enough not to go on a random shooting excursion to their nearest school or university.
Given the extended period over which the shooting take place, questions will naturally be asked about whether more could have done to evacuate the campus before the gunman got into his full stride – that’s no more than a sensible question that needs to be asked as a means of ensuring that any lessons that may there to be learned from this incident are learned – could we have done anything differently/better and maybe saved a few lives along the way is a perfectly sensible and prudent question to be asking in the circumstances.
And as for Martin’s comments on the businessman who sued successfully to recover bank charges, I might ask exactly when did a business having cash flow problems make anyone a ‘crook’, why exactly should a bank be permitted to ream its customers for charges well in excess of their actual costs and, given that the central issue in this matter would appear to be that the man’s cashflow problems stemmed from the three days it still takes banks to cash a cheque, even today, would he not be better off asking why it takes them so long to cash cheques when most other forms of payment can be processed in, at most 24 hours.
Supporting a free market economy may be one thing, but I can’t recall anything in the ‘Wealth of Nations’ that specifically suggested that it was a good thing to permit banks to ream the living fuck out of their customers with complete impunity.
I have no intention of going to London for the forseeable future; principally because I don’t think I’d feel safe there unless I’d be able to defend myself.
Spoken like a true chicken-shit.
It’s people, not guns, that kill other people. And the more people you have, the more they will kill.
Is it just me or this twat appear to be channelling Melanie Phillips? – can I suggest a new personal mantra – medication first, blogging second.
Sorry DK, but if there’s a candidate for going postal anywhere around here its Martin – he’s plainly off his fucking rocker on this one.
9 thoughts on “Gone Postal”
The second amendment to the American constitution reads,
Congratulations, E – you made exactly the argument that kicks of every single 2nd Amendment flame-war you’ll ever see.
And yet, here’s what Thomas Jefferson had to say on the subject:
I’m just sorry Martin won’t be coming to London. We will miss his company, and his enlightening insights, so much.
YOUR POSTS ARE TOO LONG!!!!!!!!!!
I get the idea that you might have some decent things to say but the posts are so bloody long and visually there is something difficult about looking at them so I end up switching off (and logging off).
Try at least to edit…..?
I personally think your posts are well considered and long enough to keep me reading with a little bit of excitement.
As for America, God love it, it’s made it’s bed and should really sleep in it. I don’t fancy prying Heston’s gun from his “cold, dead hands”.
On another note, I don’t know what weapons this kid used, but is it not time for Bush to actually re-instate the Assault Weapons Act? I don’t think it’s the right of every citizen to own a fully fully automatic high calibre killing machine, is it? Thom would’ve mentioned it…
The underlying principle in Jefferson’s remarks is as valid today as it was in the 18th century – Jefferson was by nature and inclination highly skeptical when it came to nature and motives of centralised authorities. One could say that while he recognised the necessity of government and the state, he remained deeply suspicious of those institutions – and of the Church for that matter – and saw in them always the potential to become tyrants.
Would he see thing different in the light of what we know today? No, I don’t think so – he saw an armed citizenry as, if you like, a deterrent, a final recourse against tyranny when all else failed. As such he would have drawn a clear line between the global principle and the misdeeds of an individual.
It should said that the right to bear arms does not means the right to own weapons without being subject to reasonable regulation to ensure that gun owners behave responsibly, much as the right to free expression does not cover the right to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre. There is no fundamental constitutional reason why a ban on owning specific types of firearms, such as Assault weapons, would violate the constitution, for all that the NRA lobbies against any such restrictions, nor would such a ban violate the principles expressed by Jefferson.
What makes such a ban politically difficult is simply the manner in which gun control polarises opinions – mention it and the NRA will immediately deploy the old slippery slope tactic to suggest that what you’re trying to do is ban all weapons, not just those whose extreme killing potential is such that its difficult to see quite for what legitimate purposes they might be owned.
As I said, its a complex and highly nuanced debate that’s all too often overshadowed by the views of a relatively small number of ‘absolutists’ who tend to drown out any semblance of reasoned argument.
I still think that if Americans want to bear arms as part of a well regulated militia they should join the National Guard. An armed citizenry can be as much of a tyranny in itself as a safeguard against corrupt government. Although give me an AK47 and I would happily shoot a few of our own Politicos ;-).
I’m glad that you made the distinction between myself and Martin, as many people seem not to read the “author” line.
All I will say is that when I first invited people to contribute to The Kitchen, I chose people whose opinions I did not generally agree with…