The Security of a Free State

I wonder today, as I do whenever I hear news of a mass shooting in the United States, if this might be the one. If this might be the moment where that nation is so appalled by the suffering and pain wrought by guns that a push for change doesn’t just sweep politicians, but rises from the people like a tide. I often wonder and I am often disappointed.

I wonder if the fact that this latest shooting occurred in a centre that provides services to disabled people might provoke an emotional response – where shootings in churches, women’s health clinics, shopping centres, movie theaters, even schools, have not. I wonder if the steadily rising number of gun massacres – already outnumbering the days passed this year – will inflame public concern. I wonder if the fact that the San Bernadino mass shooting was not even the first that day will flicker across the radar of some peoples’ periphery, or whether they’ll notice that ten more people across the country have died as a result of gun violence in the time since. I wonder.

I perused the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, wondering what all the fuss is about. What piece of text could provide so conclusive an argument for the possession of lethal weapons around a country? I did not find it largely compelling.

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.

One sentence. One concise sentence that has given license to millions of murders since it was added to the Constitution in 1791. I am extensively aware that guns have been debated in legislative arenas, courts, and universities in the years since. That the limitations and protections that the Amendment affords have been assessed, tested, evaluated and reinforced. If anything, this makes it worse. A world in which America is responsible for the most defense spending, and has the most powerful army in the world, still has room for there to be a gun for every man, woman and child? A world in which theaters and methods of warfare have changed so dramatically, still relies on guns to create security for American citizens?

The Constitution gives room for Americans to have guns so as to safeguard a free state – to ensure protection of one another. But overwhelmingly, the use of guns has nothing to do with protection. This year the US has seen 2,708 incidents of home invasion involving guns; the deaths of 640 children (between the ages of 0-11) and 2,422 teenagers involving guns; 52% of suicides caused by guns; all out of a staggering 48,297 incidents involving guns.

How many more times, in how many more ways, can it be said? The NRA smirks that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But in the United States, more often than not, people kill people with guns.

I wonder if that will ever change.


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