Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Individual Mental Illness vs. Social Lunacy

"Perhaps the horror of 20 children being killed in Newtown will finally push members of Congress to locate their spines and begin working to pass some sensible gun legislation. Consider that on the very same day as the Newtown massacre, a deranged man walked into a school in Chengping, China and tried to kill as many children as he could. He attacked 22 of them. But because he was wielding a knife, not one of the children died." Paul Waldman, US editor and author

The current heightened debate in the US media on gun ownership is as highly polarized as so much of American social discourse. Their argument seems to distill down to strategies for dealing with the nut jobs in society versus limiting access to automatic weapons that facilitate massacres. In any other civil society the difficulties presented by identifying and effectively managing all mentally ill individuals who might pose a danger to society, when set against those presented by rigorous screening and licensing of gun owners and limiting military-grade weapons to security forces, would create only a brief debate.

Not so in the US. Uniquely there it all boils down to the historical right of an American Patriot to carry a flintlock to fend off the 'foreign' tyrants, especially those known as the British Crown. Only nowadays that's morphed into fending off your fellow patriots with repeating weapons that don't need reloading. It's worth remembering that, at the time of the American Revolution, 40% of the population of the Thirteen Colonies weren't opposed to the Foreign Tyrant. Those guys fared badly in the first 40 years of the new republic, and many left. The descendents of those United Empire Loyalists, at least those here in Canada, don't seem to be any more gun-loving than the rest of us. Too bad they couldn't have stayed home down there - they might have kept things a bit saner.

1 comment:

  1. Your musings have been great, especially this one. There is something that is slightly off however, which is the whole concept of the right to bear arms. It’s not about individuals holding automatic machine guns but it’s about keeping all of the arms out of the hands of the armed forces – so that the armed forces can’t attack the People.

    The 2nd amendment to the U.S. constitution – which was made out to be an amendment instead of part of the Bill of Rights (much debated at the time) was to repel Tyranny (internal)as it were – as opposed to Foreign Tyrants (external).

    Ironically, at the time, England’s Bill of Rights had the Right to Bear Arms but the Americans didn’t want to make it a right 1)without corresponding responsibilities 2) make to be more about the people (constitution) than an individual (bill of rights) and 3) make it part of the constitution because it was more about ensuring that the U.S. government didn’t slide into tyranny without some way to combat it.

    Most Americans would see that in Egypt this past Spring, the People had to rely upon the Army to ensure their safety. Americans have always felt that the government would use the armed forces against its own people, thereby requiring an amendment to the constitution

    It’s an important distinction for historians but that’s it. American needs very, very strong gun control laws. As you know, I am all in favour of getting rid of them all completely, everywhere! The point about the crazy Chinese man is so well taken, it’s a joke to think that some people actually think that if the principle of the school had her own gun, that lives would have been saved. Give me a break!

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