By Paolo von Schirach
December 14, 2012
WASHINGTON – Mass slaughters keep happening in America. At Virginia Tech the victims were young adults. Today in Newtown, a small Connecticut community, they are little children and some of their teachers killed in The Sandy Hook Elementary School. All of them murdered by deranged individuals who, God knows for what reasons, went on shooting rampages.
Today, in the wake of this Connecticut shooting perpetrated by 20 year old Adam Lanza which caused the death of almost 30 people, America is stunned. President Obama ordered flags on all government buildings to fly at half staff. House Speaker John Boehner ordered the same for the US Capitol. Washington mourns. When President Obama spoke to the Nation he could not control his tears. All this is very moving. Yet, I suspect that very soon this mass shooting that killed almost 30 people, most of them little kids, will be forgotten –just like all the other instances of mass shootings have been forgotten.
Guns and crazy people
The fact is that America just does not want to deal with its senseless addiction to guns. And when you mix easily obtainable guns and crazy people able to get hold of them without too much effort, we have to consider ourselves lucky that there are relatively few such incidents involving a deranged armed person deciding to go and kill people, most of them total strangers.
The Second Amendment
Our gun culture is supposedly blessed by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, itself part of the Bill of Rights. This is the famous “right of the people to keep and bear arms“. And yet, if you read the entire text of the Amendment, its intended meaning should be obvious:
“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”.
This was December 1791, ladies and gentlemen. A difficult time in which the young American Republic was moving its first steps. At the time the issue at hand was the citizens’ right to bear arms in order to protect the Republic from would be tyrants. The issue was the right to keep Militias; and Militias had to have the right to bear arms. Hence the constitutional protection of this right. The noble goal of the Second Amendment was to protect freedom.
Guns for everybody
But over time our collective interpretation of the Second Amendment morphed into a sacrosanct right to self-defense that includes the legal right to purchase almost any kind of weapon with the easiness we buy a gallon of milk.
It is true, as the spokesmen for the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby, gently remind us, that “Guns do not kill people. People kill people“. Absolutely.
However, it is also obvious that a lot of easily available guns create a lot of opportunities for bad or crazy people to kill fellow citizens. And when deranged people have easy access to guns, then we may have incidents like today’s shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut.
Fewer guns, fewer incidents
It is true that it would be impossible to absolutely prevent all such incidents. A determined bad guy may find a way to get a weapon, even when doing so is illegal. All true. Still, if guns were not so easily available, chances are that we would have fewer such incidents of shooting rampages. Unarmed crazy persons may be dangerous enough. Crazy persons with guns are deadly.
But unfortunately I suspect that, even though all the above is just simple common sense, nothing much will be done to seriously restrict access to fire arms. Most Americans are still very much in love with their guns. The Second Amendment is treated as a divinely inspired utterance, literally a God given right that no man can take away from us.
A price worth paying?
This being the case, we have to conclude that America is in fact prepared to accept more mass slaughters such as this one in Connecticut, if this is the price we occasionally pay so that our good citizens can continue to enjoy ”the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. May one day we shall grow up and abandon this nonsense. But not just yet.