Friday, 21 January 2011

Amendments can be amended


There's been a lot of press coverage here about gun control, particularly since the shooting of an Arizona Congresswoman a couple of weeks ago. Prompted by this Boston Globe article, I have been thinking a lot about the second amendment - the part of the US Constitution that confers the right to bear arms.  This amendment forms part of the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution - which were not automatically given an "expiry" date when they were written, unlike most of the other amendments).  The fact that the second amendment is in the Bill of Rights makes it virtually impossible to repeal*, but that doesn't fully explain why gun control is still so anathema here.  

Hank tells me that the second amendment is often cited as the very foundation of the USA, and I think looking back on this country's history, that assertion has a reasonable basis:  colonial Britain attempted to confiscate arms and prevent gun powder reaching local militias in the lead up to what would become the American Revolution.  Even after the revolution, nobody could be sure that the new republic's government would be any better at representing the people [they might just reinvent that whole taxation without representation thing in DC!"]  

Wikipedia, (a totally kosher historical source), reminds us that the second Amendment was: "to allow the nascent union to defend itself from potential re-conquest and occupation, but also to guard the people against potential tyranny from the government of the republic."

All well and good but is the tyranny of government still a risk today?  Ok, yes, Sarah Palin COULD be elected but other than that?  Do Americans still need to sit out on the porch rocker  every evening, a shotgun in their lap, peering twitchy-handed at their neighbours?  Of all the material I have read on this subject, the only convincing argument for private firearms ownership related to the LA Riots of 1992. The race riots were sparked by the acquittal of white and hispanic police officers who had severely beaten a black man named Rodney King.  A group of Koreans are often quoted as being the only non-blacks who managed to protect their property through the riots.  Firing shotguns and rifles, they faced off against the angry mobs of local black residents and controversially held their ground. 

An unfortunate white truck driver, Reginald Oliver Denny, caught at a red light, was dragged out of his vehicle and repeatedly bludgeoned in the head, the whole thing recorded by TV cameras overhead.  Wikipedia claims that while Denny was being assaulted "the police never appeared, having been ordered to withdraw for their own safety."  

It is difficult for me to imagine how one could defend oneself without a firearm in a situation so dangerous that even the Police cannot help you.  But I do doubt whether even a firearm could have saved poor Denny from his horrific injuries.   Perhaps what LA needed was a respected, credible Petey Greene figure, to soothe the angry and dispossessed in such troubled times.

Back in modern-day Arizona, it seems unlikely that any community leader could have protected Gabrielle Giffords against a loon with an extended clip (although perhaps a little less anti-Democrat "rhetoric" might have helped).  Would an armed bodyguard have saved Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords?  

If Congress representatives have to have bodyguards, then they may also need to wear stab-proof vests.  In the UK, one poor MP was stabbed by a nutter who reportedly read on the internet that every Member of Parliament supporting the war in Iraq should be killed.  How do you avoid a lunatic like that?  It is the role of elected representatives to interact with the electorate.  Bullet-proof glass and stab vests don't exactly build trust.  And with so little faith in manifestos these days, trust is the big clincher in elections.  

Sarah Palin hunting in a bikini
Palin- the tyranny of
 moronic government
I don't have any answers but my gut feeling is that I'd feel safer if I knew local criminals couldn't acquire a handgun very easily.  For that everyday safety I'd be willing to risk occasional violent mobs.  Who knows, perhaps I would even be willing to remain passive when faced with the faint but terrifying threat of government by Palin.

*No part of the Bill of Rights has been amended but several states have chosen instead to reject the second amendment.   Some amendments not forming the Bill of Rights have been amended: Amendment XVIII (18): Prohibition of liquor was repealed in 1933 - yep, that one was definitely important enough for a rethink!

Chris Rock, again.  This time on gun control.  Language is not really suitable for kids!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog