The right to bear arms

It isn’t often I get stunned into speechlessness. I was reading the paper earlier (that is where I found out about the Elgin Marbles transfer – I really ought to read the papers more often, it turns out they are full of blogspiration) and came across this letter, relating to the recent tragedy in Virginia.

I’ll just copy it in full, I think:

“I was not surprised to see the barrage of rash anti-US sentiment in Metro‘s letters yesterday. Paul Murphy says all he sees is “hopelessness” in the US and Rita Jones even goes as far as to try to point the finger at the US’s “international relations”. For the record, Virginia Tech is a gun-free zone, meaning that only those willing to flout the law can enter the campus armed, in this case Cho Seung-Hui. I can’t help but think that this tragedy would have been far more limited if a handful of professors or students were able to stop this lunatic with their own firearms.” – Brian Corbett, London

Brian, you are a twat. I will not lower myself to comment on this crapulence.

More generally, I know I am not an American, and so really have no right to comment, but is it possible that the constitutional right to bear arms is a tiny bit out of date? Yes, I know that rednecks like guns, I am talking about whether people actually need them like the constitution implies. Seriously America, you are fairly well ensconced as a world power now; it is unlikely that England is going to invade to get our property back. Shall I have a word with Tony? I could get him to write it down and sign it and everything. Then you could get someone to read it aloud to George, and we could all sit down for a cup of tea or a beer and chill out.

A lot is made of the fact that guns don’t kill people, and that it is the person who is holding the gun, but on the tiniest reflection this is a complete non sequitur; I can hold a banana to someone’s head, squeeze it, shout “bang” and there is a reasonable chance they will end up alive. They tend to die when you do it with a semi-automatic weapon. Guns help to kill people, okay?

Pro-gun lobbyists wield a disproportionate influence over mainstream US politics, and it is unlikely that any change in the law is imminent. But I have a dream*: Average Americans, having the confidence to admit they are being manipulated into living in fear. Forcing their politicians’ hands. Come on America, use your heads and say “no” to the spiralling violence. Tighten up your gun laws.

Then I might dare to come and visit. I’d love to see the Grand Canyon.

* I seem to remember this style of rhetoric working for someone before…

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29 thoughts on “The right to bear arms

  1. Having watched the news on America while living in England, I really did think that there was gun violence all of the time, but when you actually live here, you see that yes, there is, but not in the way it is perceived outside of the country. I am not pro gun, I hate them, and I agree that the laws should be stricter. My stupid ex just bought a gun at a show, with no background check and in my state you don’t need a permit to have one and you don’t have to register it. To me, that is just dumb. Everyone knows my ex only has half a brain cell and shouldn’t have something so shiny! But seriously, there are some really stupid people out there who are allowed to buy guns and we need a tighter control on it.

  2. Chris, get Tony to write that letter. A great idea.

    Seriously, the level of gun ownership/use here in Georgia freaks me out. And it has become clear that you don’t have to prove that you’re a sensible person to get one.

    My boss LOST his handgun for a few months, they had put it in a bag with other stuff when moving house and then forgot where it was. Clear example of someone who is not responsible enough to own a gun, in my opinion.

    Sure, people kill people, but if guns aren’t readily available, they are sure to kill a lot less! Also, most gun injuries/deaths are people getting shot by their own guns. So they’re not really protecting you anyway.

    Also, if it is illegal to own a gun that’s one more thing someone who uses one in a crime can be charged with. Just a thought.

  3. Pro-gun people need to be given a state of their own, maybe Texas, where they can run rampant defending their rights to blow people’s heads off.

  4. I know there’s not constant gun crime in America. But there is some. And most of the time the people involved have no proper reason for having a gun. Licences are completely pointless, although selling them without one just pips it to the post.

    Essentially though. If I want to shoot somebody, but I don’t have a gun, then I won’t be able to do it. Sure, there are lots of other ways of killing people (and sadly lots of people willing to try them out) but it seems that they could pretty much solve this by taking away the right to own a gun.

  5. Juliet: Pretty much. In Australia it’s illegal to own guns.

    (Although I have some dim recollection that farmers can apply for them if they need to shoot particular pests like feral pigs. Or, y’know, those vicious bloodthirsty man-eating… kangaroos. WTF?)

    Is it the same in the UK? Is the US the only crazy land where people can wander about with handguns?

    Ooh verificaton word qtoleo. I’m pretty sure that’s Basque.
    ; )

  6. In the UK, guns over a .22 calibre are illegal, and there’s a move towards a total ban. I’m not sure if there is an exception for farmers.

    In Switzerland, every adult (male, I think) has to do a certain amount of national service, and has to keep a gun in their home in case they get called up. In Canada, there is actually a higher rate of gun ownership than in the US (as a whole; some states are higher).

    It’s not gun ownership that is inherently a problem – it’s that they let any muppet get their hands on a gun nice and easily. I’m inclined towards the opinion that if you want to own a gun, you should be required to take a six week course in marksmanship, gun responsibility, and gun maintenance. Then, anyone who mucks around with the things should also have their license revoked.

  7. Chris Rock did a bit one time in his stand up routine and said that they should make the bullets more expensive, live five thousand dollars per bullet. Then people would say, “Man I wanna shoot you, I’m going to get me two jobs just to save up $5,000 to buy me one bullet and then I am going to shoot you”, or something along those lines. As hilarious as it was, he actually did have a point.

  8. I remember that Chris Rock routine and often think about it when these debates arise.

  9. Excellent post! I followed your equally eloquent comment from Bills and Moon Returns, glad I did.
    southernbelle: It isn’t illegal to own all guns in Australia, but semi-automatics where recalled after the Port Arthur Massacre, by the most conservative Prime Minister in decades no less. Most people in Oz, including me, view gun ownership for ‘fun’ as an extremely odd hobby. I’m not sure exactly which guns are allowed, but I know farmers etc who have rifles. My old boss’s son has a few guns that he has to keep under lock and key and be a member of a gun club (to get training etc) in order to keep them. She and her husband are not thrilled by his new hobby.
    As for shooting kangaroos, some species are at feral proportions because all of their natural predators are gone. Sometimes culling them is kinder than letting them starve. Also, they are tasty if cooked just right.

  10. Lots of fun comments here. No-one disagreeing which is a shame. Ah well, I suppose I should be grateful we are all so sensible.

    The bit about the gun’s illegality (is that a word?!) being something a criminal could be charged with is not something I had previously considered, but it is a good point.

    In the US, not only are guns foolishly easy to get hold of, but any information gained as part of a background check must be destroyed within 24 hours. I didn’t know this until earlier today.

    I can’t possibly think of anyone who could benefit from this except for criminals.

    The whole thing confuses me so much.

    Sadly, the Second Amendment is the one thing that won’t be discussed by mainstream American politicians after the Virginia Tech tragedy. And all, allegedly, to avoid infringing anyone’s civil liberties. Sadly, I have heard people discussing tightening up things like college campus security instead – something that seem to me far more likely to involve infringing someone’s privacy and/or human rights than not allowing them to own a killing machine.

    Anyway, enough for tonight, I am tired.

    Your task is to think of any reason why you would want hand guns to be legal in your country of residence. Just one would do.

  11. So that I could shoot the opposing football fans when at a local derby match?
    I am, of course, kidding. But I hadn’t contributed for a while so I thought I would. Anyway, I can’t hit dartboard with one out of three darts so I’m fairly certain I’d be a useless shot…

  12. “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.”

    I happen not to agree, but it is a reason, and a valid one, why gun ownership should be permitted.

  13. That sounds like a familiar quote… Don’t tell me… Winston Churchill? No, no, Oscar Wilde?

    The Simpsons?

    It’s always of those three!

    Interesting answer. Just because the logic is valid doesn’t mean the reason is valid though.

    It’s a bit like saying “we shouldn’t decriminalise drugs because they are illegal”.

    Good answer though.

  14. Brian, you are a twat. I will not lower myself to comment on this crapulence.

    And then in the next paragraph you go ahead and, well, lower yourself.

    A few points: the right to protect yourself will never be “out of date” and a gun is one tool for achieving this aim. This right is constantly being trampled on by statists like yourself who somehow think the government will nurture you from the cradle to the grave and protect you at the same time.

    You obviously associate guns with people of a class or ideology that you do not like. Hence your comment “Yes, I know that rednecks like guns”. But this is simple narrow mindedness, out of which you display a nasty authoritarian attitude. The fox hunting ban under Nu Labour is another example of this urbanite, pseudo-liberal bollocks. No doubt you are a big fan of this legislation.

    In summary, fuck off. I know who the twat is and it’s not me. Cunt.

    Brian Corbett
    The one who wrote the letter (which the Metro editors almost mangled beyond recognition, by the way)

    p.s. “Crapulent” means “hung-over”, but I wouldn’t expect a fuckwit like you to know that.

  15. I agree with Chris, thie Brian guy is a total twat. I bet his one of those guys who gets tunred on by guns and a big weapon in his hand and drams of cocking it off in the toilets.

  16. Hello Brian!

    Sorry, I am at work now, so can’t reply.

    I will swing by later.

    PS Please don’t find me and shoot me!

  17. Yeah, go Chris. Belittle his views with infantile remarks.

    Yeah Brian don’t come shoot me, oh please don’t…noooooooooooo

  18. Seriously, I am at work – I will come back later!

    I am deeply apologetic for my childishness. Clearly this is a very important subject and humour should be kept well away from the situation.

    I will go and flagellate myself.

  19. it is not infantile to allow people to partake in their intests (such as the British national shooting team who now have to leave the country in order to practice) – even if it means owning a gun. oooh – yes owning a gun.

    personally i don’t own one (nor wish to), so no danger of me shooting either of you two morons.

    have a nice week end chaps. Especially you CAM VU! love you baby.

  20. When the firearms ban come in, I did consider that there should be an exception made as regards shooting clubs. What I considered was that perhaps the law should allow ownership, but that the guns should be required to be stored in a registered shooting club at all times, and when not in use be stored in their safe, and not accessed by anyone other than the registered owner.

    However, I am strongly in favour of a ban which removes firearms from the normal circumstances of most people’s lives. In fact, our existing ban does not go far enough – exceptions for weapons of .22 calibre and below, for air rifles, and so forth, should all be removed. A ban should be just that.

    The argument that the various US school shootists would have been stopped had the other students/teachers/whoever had weapons of their own is flawed, much as the argument that a woman carrying a gun is safe from a potential rapist is flawed. The flaw is this: it takes a great deal of moral fortitude (or a certain degeneracy) to take the life of another human being, even when in a kill-or-be-killed scenario.

    It is also the case that firearms in the wrong hands can cause immeasurable harm. In the hands of the untrained, they are worse than useless, because they provide a false sense of invulnerability, encourage people to buy into the Hollywood myths of firearms, and are generally a nuisance. Furthermore, our shootist is likely to see people with firearms of their own, and move to neutralise those threats with dispatch. For all these reasons, had others had firearms of their own with which to deal with the situation, the carnage may well have been worse, rather than been curtailed.

    No, if American schools and colleges want to deal with this problem (assuming they’re not going to ban firearms generally, and can’t fix the underlying sicknesses in their culture*) then they need to properly gate all entrances to their grounds, with either metal detectors or airport-like security and/or employ numerous armed security to patrol the grounds and deal with any threats. To a certain extent they already do the latter… but they probably need more than one guard for a school of 1,000 children, and they also need to employ the guy to perform only that job, and not overload him with responsibilities for discipline, handling truancy, and so forth.

    * I should note that this is not a particular dig at American society. All societies have their own sicknesses. I’m not even suggesting American has more, or more serious, problems – they just have different ones than the UK.

  21. I sat next to a female cop last night at the Elvis Costello concert and she took great joy in telling my not yet three year old that she got to shoot guns and how cool it was. She stopped as I gave her a look and after hearing my accent said, “oh, you’re from England, you disapprove”. It’s not that I disapprove of the necessity for law enforcement to carry guns, I just don’t agree with her comment that “if we armed everyone in America then the country would be a lot safer because people wouldn’t shoot you if they knew you had a gun also”. Um, okay, sure if you want to think that! Is that why cops get shot at all the time then here, because the “bad guys” have forgotten that cops have guns?

    Stephen, you are a bit of a wise old man – each culture/country does have their own problems, but I really cannot understand the fascination over here in America with guns and the need to have one….just because you can.

    Oh and could someone do me a favour and pull that stick out of Brian’s arse?

  22. Right, I’m back.

    Brian, yes, that is one of my bad habits… Saying “This is so obvious it isn’t even worth saying” and then going on and saying it anyway…

    On this occasion, though, for once I think I did what I said. I went on to comment on a related topic, not your letter. You were my prompt if you like.

    In response to your points: Yes, a gun is a way of protecting yourself, but it is a bit of a leap to then justify the kind of “anyone owning a gun” law they have in the US. Similarly, using “statist” in the pejorative way you do above is a leap from someone like me who accepts a government’s right to impose restrictions on its populace.

    I don’t object to your blatant demagoguery, however, as it is an inevitable feature of such arguments and something I am not immune to myself, as the redneck comment attests. Let me make a leap myself and call your opposition to statism “anarchism”. We used to have societies where people didn’t have to abide by rules you know. If a man wanted to have sex with a lady, he would just do it even if she wasn’t too keen. Rules aren’t always bad.

    Hmm, fox hunting… well, you know, it is very inefficient to kill a fox dressed in red on the back of a horse. The most efficient killer of foxes is the motor car. I suspect this is why country folk get so irritated when “the state” builds a motorway through their village.

    But we are digressing.

    I was sad to hear your letter was mangled. Please feel free to post the original here, and you may upgrade your status from “twat” to “person who I disagree with”.

    Oh and thank you for your description of me as a “cunt”. I would reciprocate, but I suspect you have neither the depth nor the capacity to give pleasure.

    PS ha ha, crapulence of course means exactly what you say. A few years ago, however, when I was a wee lad at school, my English teacher traced the origins of the word louche with us, and explained that the modern meaning (loosely, “dodgy”) is almost diametrically opposed to its old meaning, which sadly he never explained.

    Inspired, I have been trying to change certain meanings of words ever since.* And if we can agree on one thing, surely it is that the world would be a better place if “crapulence” meant what it sounds like it means, rather than what it does mean?

    * I still refuse to use “agreeable” to mean “in agreement with” though… I mean I have got some standards.

  23. Oh and Superkings doesn’t usually have that first “e” in, by the way…

  24. From Molly’s blog:

    “After feeling completely fed up and in need of a lovely boyfriend”.

    Would you accept me, a anti-gun legistlation bloke with a stick in my bum? xxx

    to chris:

    i withdraw all profanities spewed across you blog and retire from this argument, but no-one has persuaded me that people should be denied access to things simply because there are nutters out there that are abusive.

  25. Oh Brian, what a lovely gesture! But no. It is very awkward and uncomfortable dating someone with a stick up their bum, but cheers for the offer mate.

  26. More often than i wanted to, i’ve heard would-be criminals say they won’t attack a certain person because they know he/she has a gun and would be quick to use it.

    Many years ago when i was in school, being without a weapon was a STUPID move – i never did it – a knife, a gun, a metal bar. Though now that i’m older, i have learned other ways of getting away without using a weapon. But with my kids or grandkids, if i travel, i would NOT DO SO without a weapon.

  27. Hello Tina (in America).

    Ultimately it is very hard to counter the kind of “from experience” argument you present, and in all honesty I am not sure I wish to.

    Where you live sounds like a scary place.

    Your point about criminals being aware of potential victims owning guns cuts both ways, however, as I am sure you see. If no-one owned a gun, then criminals might feel less like they needed to own a gun too, and you could go about defending yourself in one of your non-lethal ways.

    One other point: when you say criminals are aware that certain people would be “quick to use [their firearm]” do you mean these people have actually shot and killed people in the past?

    May I ask where you live?

  28. Oh and I would still be interested in seeing your unadulterated letter, Brian.

    (If you are still here, which you could easily not be, of course.)

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