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Gun Control and the Right to Bear Arms: a Foreign Perspective on the Pro-Gun Lobby

Alun is a freethinking moderate on political and philosophical issues of general interest; some of his views can be found in his articles.

Looking down the barrel of a semi-automatic pistol - a frightening, yet all-too common sight

Looking down the barrel of a semi-automatic pistol - a frightening, yet all-too common sight

Recent atrocities in America involving mass killings by people armed with guns have re-ignited and heightened the continuing debate on gun control, individual rights, and the intent of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. Opinion polls suggest that America is deeply and passionately divided on this issue, whilst Internet posts on the subject suggest that some Americans will go to extreme lengths to counter any changes in the law. It does seem that America - in tackling this difficult problem - is facing a long, traumatic and potentially lethal battle for hearts and minds.

The Purpose of This Page

I should make clear the primary purpose of this article. The key concern of mine (as a British citizen) is not so much gun control which is an issue purely for Americans to decide. I will give my views on this, because I think it is necessary to explain my standpoint, but I must say that the motivation behind this article is not gun control per se, but the very shocking eye-opener about aggressive human nature which I have received from several visits to gun lobby web sites, and the outspoken comments of some who write on these sites. No aspect of human nature since the Cold War - apart perhaps from the words of fundamentalist religious extremists in some parts of the world - has seemed more worrying to me than the viewpoint of a minority of Americans on this issue.

A Note About Quotes

Throughout this page I will include quotes from some of the more radical opinions expressed on the pages I visited. An abbreviation of several quotes was necessary, but I will not change the quotes to correct for bad grammar or spelling, or of course to change the emphasis, as I feel it is necessary to present the full strength of opinion exactly as it was intended to be read in a public forum. (The quotes are in bold, and any words in brackets included within the quotes are my own added comments which are included for clarification).

My Involvement in the Issue of Gun Control

Some time ago some information was shared with me about a pro-gun lobby forum on the Internet. I really had no previous detailed involvement or deep interest in the subject, but I thought I would visit the page anyway, purely out of curiosity.

It was the very extreme and blinkered nature of views expressed on that forum and on others I subsequently visited which compelled me to reply to some comments and to discuss the gun issue from the perspective of an outsider (I am a British citizen). It has to be said that not too many believers in gun control visit such pages and sites, so my opinions soon attracted opposition, and some of this was of such intense hostility and irrationality that I felt the need to defend my myself further.

I believe I used objective evidence, restraint and reason throughout, and yet the correspondence escalated until such time as I felt I had spent enough time standing alone against a torrent of abuse and (to my mind) really quite bizarre thinking on the subject of gun law. That's when I stopped writing there and decided to compile this web page for a hopefully more receptive and tolerant audience.

What follows are four key arguments of varying degrees of reasonableness put forward by the pro-gun lobby in the correspondence which I have read. These four key arguments will then be followed by some other points which were raised in discussion.

A semi-automatic AK-47. AK-47s have been used in mass killings in America. The fully automatic version is not legal in America, but semi-autiomatics can still be bought [1]

A semi-automatic AK-47. AK-47s have been used in mass killings in America. The fully automatic version is not legal in America, but semi-autiomatics can still be bought [1]

guncontrol-righttobeararms

World Firearm Statistics

Personal ownership of guns is higher in America than anywhere else in the world. There are 88 guns per 100 people in America - the next highest figure is for Yemen in the Middle East which has just 55 guns per 100 citizens. Indeed, the United States with under 5% of the world population has more than 35% of the world's civilian-owned guns [2]. See also the map which follows this section.

Coincidentally or not, Americans are on average 20 times more likely to be killed by gunshot than are citizens in the other leading developed countries of the world (most of Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan etc) in terms of the number of deaths per 100,000 people [3].

In terms of the total firearm homicides by country (regardless of population size), the USA ranks fourth in the world. South Africa has the greatest number of gun homicides [4].

1) The Gun Lobby: The Right to Use Armed Self-Defence Against Criminals

In my previous state of naivety, I had assumed that the protection of the individual and their family against criminals, was the main argument in favour of the right to bear arms. That argument actually does make some sense. There are now an awful lot of guns out there, and whatever the folly of allowing such a situation to develop in the past, the fact is that if all law abiding citizens immediately gave up all their guns in the event of sweeping gun control measures, it's a safe bet that most criminals wouldn't follow suit. One could foresee a situation in which criminals armed with guns would feel quite free to carry out crime including burglary, shop theft etc without fear of encountering a citizen who is capable of defending himself. At least at the moment one could argue there is a 'balance of terror' between citizen and criminal.

However, this is a balance of terror which gives the United States by far the highest gun homicide rate in the developed world. So whilst there may well be a valid case for personal gun protection against criminals in today's society, the need to protect against criminals is certainly not an argument against the controlled and gradual removal of most arms from all people including criminals in a future society.

World Map of Civilian Gun Ownership

Countries in green have less than 5 guns per 100 people. Only one country has more than 75 guns per 100 people - the United States

Countries in green have less than 5 guns per 100 people. Only one country has more than 75 guns per 100 people - the United States

The Glock 17 and its variants is a pistol used in self-defence and the most widely used law enforcement firearm in the world [5]

The Glock 17 and its variants is a pistol used in self-defence and the most widely used law enforcement firearm in the world [5]

2) The Gun Lobby: The Fear of a 'Tyrannical' American Government

It has become clear that for many who believe in the right to bear arms, the enemy is not gun toting criminals; rather it is the Government of the United States itself. There seems to be a conviction among these people that if guns (the power of the people to defend themselves) are taken away then they will soon be subjected to tyrannical governmental oppression. The mere suggestion by Barack Obama of possible gun control has led to him being branded as a traitor, a tyrant and a dictator by many on gun lobby web pages.

Gordon from Georgia expresses this well:

  • 'I do not see the reason to give up my weapons because a tyrant, and his band of merry tyrants want to take control of our country, and turn it into a dictatorship. --- 'While I feel deep regret that peoples lives have been taken (in mass shootings) I am far more feerful of what tyrants like obuma (Obama) will do to us if we cannot defend ourselves from his ilk'.

Rodney from Michigan thinks:

  • 'They are not banning guns to lower crime, they just want to disarm the people so we can not protect ourselves from the government'.

Lynda (unknown state) worries that:

  • 'Here, we speak openly without thought to reprisal. But will we be able to next year or the next? Banning guns is the first step. Freedom of assembly next. freedom of speech right after that.'

Rebecca from Kentucky is clear what she thinks about Barack Obama:

  • 'Im not afraid to show my name and how I stand this is a free country and tell Obama and his gang we the people don't want him or his Muslim ideas go back to where you were born and it wasn't here!!!!!'

Gibson from Tennessee goes one stage further. It seems the Government aren't merely capitalising on mass shootings such as those in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado - he believes they may actually be organising them:

  • 'i personally believe this was all orchestrated by our government. the auora shooting the CT shooting. i think this is all a ploy to remove guns from citizens.. wouldnt be the first time a government has murdered its people in order to put forth laws'.

Finally, Charlotte from Texas draws parallels with other countries in the 20th century:

  • 'in our century history has shown that the shortly after taking the guns from their citizens who were then defenseless, the governments rounded them up and executed them...ethnic cleansing....nice words for bloodd bath'.

The general idea on many of these forums is that a potentially evil Government lives in fear of people power, and gun control is some kind of devious plan to remove this power from the people before clamping down on all other rights. It's an idea which seems very alien and paranoid to those of us who live in other stable democracies.

In large numbers of democratic nations including my own, the right to carry guns has long been lost, and yet there is absolutely no sense that true fundamental rights have gone, or are likely to be lost in the future. In my country, fear of an armed citizenry is NOT the reason our Government respects democratic rights. Democratic rights are respected because over centuries we have as a nation learned the inherent value of this kind of society, and no one - Government or People, Army or Police - wants to throw away that society in favour of dictatorship. It isn't going to happen here in the UK, and I don't think it's going to happen in America if and when sensible gun laws are introduced. America, like us, is a free society with a free press and independent judiciary and police force, and I am sure the great majority in authority recognise the value of maintaining such a society, come what may.

The Colt M1911 A1 .45 pistol, a popular civilian gun both for recreational purposes and as a concealed carry weapon (6)

The Colt M1911 A1 .45 pistol, a popular civilian gun both for recreational purposes and as a concealed carry weapon (6)

3) The Gun Lobby: Fear of Invasion by Foreign Nations

The most strange of these objections to gun control is the belief in the possibility of invasion by a foreign power. The following comments illustrate the thinking on this issue.

An unnamed writer suggests:

  • 'our goverment is to poor to take on anybody if they decide to TAKE guns away and we cannot borrow money to have a war. that is when another country will come in and take our country when we are defenseless'.

Robert from Florida thinks likewise:

  • 'If you disarm all the citizens, then somebody will try to invade us. Red Dawn is just a movie ,but it could happen if the government has its way'

Janell from Georgia is more specific:

  • 'How much sicker does it have to be, when obummer (Obama) has us all hating each other, taxing us to death to send our money to his Muslim allies, raising our healthcare cost out of sight, denying care to old people, weakening our defense so his Muslim terrorists have a chance to destroy our country,etc., etc.'

How can people believe this? Do they really think that in all the years of the Cold War, it was guns in private ownership which kept the Russians at bay? It was the American army and the nuclear deterrent which stopped the Soviet Union from attacking America. Do they really think that across the world malevolent nations are just waiting to invade America, and it is guns in the hands of private citizens which are deterring them? Which countries do they think are currently being deterred by American citizens carrying guns? Iran? North Korea? Cuba? Or maybe it is those neighbours who share a dangerous land border with America - Mexico for example? Canada has the longest border - are they a threat? Nobody is capable of invading America today, but if weapons are deterring them, it is not citizens' weapons; it is powerful weapons in the hands of a professional army, navy and air force.

Smith and Wesson Model 60 .38 Revolver. Similar weapons to this one are the most common guns to be confiscated by American law enforcement authorities [7]

Smith and Wesson Model 60 .38 Revolver. Similar weapons to this one are the most common guns to be confiscated by American law enforcement authorities [7]

4) The Gun Lobby: Respect for the 2nd Amendment

It seems therefore that some want to keep their guns for protection against criminals, some want to keep them for protection against the Government, and some want them for protection against foreign powers. But for many, one argument embraces all of these issues, and that is the argument based on the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. It does seem to many in the gun lobby that the 'right to bear arms' is not simply a matter of safety and security - it is an matter of almost sacred reverence for the Constitution, and more specifically the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. This is seen by some as inviolable, and so any Government legislation which contravenes the 2nd Amendment, is deemed illegal in their eyes. The wording of the 2nd Amendment is as follows:

'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.'

Unfortunately, the precise intent behind the 2nd Amendment and its rather curious wording is unclear. The actions and writings of the 'Founding Fathers' only add to the uncertainty. Words such as these by Thomas Jefferson are often quoted in support of the gun lobby:

'The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government'

And yet George Washington's suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, and Jefferson's own actions such as the confiscation of firearms on Blennerhassett Island, West Virginia in 1807, are seen by some to conflict with this trust in people power [8]. Of course, whatever their judgement at the time of the writing of the Constitution, whether they would have expected that judgement to hold true in all circumstances for all eternity is another matter. Could they possibly have envisaged the nature of modern 21st century democratic society with a national army and police force. Is there a need for well-regulated militias to protect the security of a free state today? And if there isn't, is the right to bear arms still legitimate? From my reading of the 2nd Amendment, the second part of the statement is conditional on the first part.

But what is the judicial position? Prior to 2008, the judgement of the US Supreme Court in a case in 1939 appears to have held most sway. In this case (United States v Miller) the Court had ruled that ownership of a shotgun did not have reasonable applicability to the preservation of a well regulated State Militia - in other words, the 2nd Amendment only protects the State's collective authority to form militias, not the individual citizen's right to bear arms [9]. However, in 2008 (District of Columbia v Heller) and again in 2010 (City of Chicago v McDonald) the Supreme Court gave rulings which decided the right to bear arms was an individual right of the citizen. Thus the pendulum had swung back in favour of the gun lobby's position [10]. These two recent rulings were only carried by a narrow 5:4 majority however, and all three rulings referred to very specific cases of gun ownership / control, so it is clear that interpretations of the 2nd Amendment still divide not just citizens, but also senior judges. In their minority view in the Heller case, four judges took the line which I have taken in an earlier comment in this section. Their way of expressing the apparently inextricable link between the need for state or government organised militias and the right to bear arms, was recorded thus:

'The "right to keep and bear arms" protects only a right to possess and use firearms in connection with service in a state-organized militia. Had the Framers wished to expand the meaning of the phrase "bear arms" to encompass civilian possession and use, they could have done so by the addition of phrases such as "for the defense of themselves".' [11]

The 'founding fathers' - for all the respect due to them - were only human beings, and they did live 200 years ago. Should the judgements of people who lived 200 years ago take precedence over the democratic laws of an elected government in the 21st century, if those laws are supported by the majority of the population, and if they are laws which can be amended or removed by future governments?

The Smith & Wesson Model 10 Revolver has been described in its various forms as 'the most successful handgun of all time'.

The Smith & Wesson Model 10 Revolver has been described in its various forms as 'the most successful handgun of all time'.

guncontrol-righttobeararms

Strange Analogies of Weapons

Some forum writers like to ridicule suggestions for gun control by pointing out that all sorts of other objects can on occasion kill. They say 'should these also be banned?'

'Duke' from Arizona points out the dangers of bricks:

  • If I pick up a brick and hit you with it, I have 'assaulted' you with a 'weapon', thereby that brick, by definition, is an 'assault weapon'. Does that mean that in the name of public safety --- we need to outlaw those deadly 'assault bricks'?

Jonathon (unknown state) weighs in with drugs, cars and screwdrivers:

  • perscriptions and cars kill more people annually than guns. If someone got stabbed with a screw driver, would you push for registration and background checks for screwdriver purchasers?

Others use similar analogies to cell phones (used to trigger bombs), hotdogs (on which someone can choke) and aeroplanes. They fail to point out that all these other items have specific primary functions which give them a value to society (apart from maybe the hotdog?) other than to take life. Guns may be used for recreational purposes, but the primary function of most is to kill.

A Human Right? Whose Side Is God On?

Although many passionate lobbyists are keen to quote the words of 18th and 19th century politicians, some take the issue much further even than the 2nd Amendment.

Allan from Kansas says that invoking the Constitution and specifically the 2nd Amendment is not necessary:

  • 'The Right to Keep and BEAR Arms exists PRIOR to, and REGARDLESS of, The Constitution'.

And some take the argument about the sanctity of the 2nd Amendment to the ultimate conclusion. Not content with merely invoking the rights which were decreed by the mortal founding fathers, they go one better:

Willie from Kentucky says:

  • 'Owning guns is a God given right'.

John (unknown state) agrees:

  • 'In America we have always had the God given right to bear arm's, and most of us hold these freedoms very dear'.

I'm not sure which chapter or verse in the Bible indicates that God approves of guns, or how this interpretation is derived.

Comparing Countries

To be fair to the gun lobby, it is very difficult to compare circumstances in very different nations. The example of Japan's extraordinarily low gun crime figure is given opposite. It must however be pointed out that this is only partly due to strict gun control. A very high crime clear up rate helps reduce violent crime. There is also a cultural difference which makes the Japanese much more tolerant both of reduced personal privacy and of 'intrusive' police rights of search - rights which may be unacceptable in the West. Nations do have to decide on their own priorities in their own circumstances.

Switzerland is sometimes raised as an example of a country with very high personal gun ownership, and yet a very low homicide rate. There are reasons for this - in Switzerland professional military service is very limited, and the people are expected to serve in a conscript or 'militia' style army and are permitted to keep their own Government distributed weapons at home. In these respects, the Swiss model is perhaps more similar to the America of 200 years ago, and less comparable to America today, or indeed to most other democracies.

It is obvious that relationships between gun law and crime are complicated as cultural and historic factors have to be taken into account, but it also seems true that as a general rule, more gun murders can be equated with more guns freely available in society.

Strange Views on the Rest of the World

Some gun lobbyists clearly are very mistrustful of their own Government and State, and have an extremely low opinion of the politicians they elect to govern America. And yet they seem to have an even lower opinion of other nations, believing that countries which have gun control are living without basic rights under the strong arm of political masters - masters who can do whatever they wish because the people lack the fire power to resist.

Kurt from Florida suggests that we in Britain have lost both a right to own guns and also freedom of speech:

  • 'The simple fact that we placed this provision to bear arms as the second amendment to our Constitution, right next to Freedom of Speech, both of which your country (UK) doesn't really have or has direct control over,'

I wasn't aware that in my country I couldn't speak freely, or was in any imminent danger of losing the right to do so!

Jim from Texas made a comment which makes me wonder if he's talking about the same country I live in. Only a tiny minority of people in Britain have ever possessed guns, and I've never met anyone who bemoans the fact that we don't have this kind of personal protection today. And yet according to Jim:

  • 'Now the people in the UK resent that they had to give up their guns and they are telling us AmericanS to NOT GIVE UP OUR GUNS'.

Ron from South Carolina paints another picture of the UK which I do not recognise:

  • 'I've seen the cops in England and most of them actually do carry concealed weapons every day of the week. Because they don't openly carry like the cops in the US, people have fallen for the false idea that they are unarmed'.

That is simply not true. Policemen in Britain do not routinely carry guns. Tourists may see guns, because the places they are most likely to be carried is at airports, and possibly at tourist hotspots for obvious reasons of security against terrorists.

Of course there are also views on other countries. Cheno (unknown state) takes the poor Japanese to task. Apparently in the absence of guns, they are all killing each other with swords :

  • 'japan took the guns away they use sords to kill people with now'.

Again, a quite untrue statement. Japan not only placed very stringent restrictions on private ownership of guns a long time ago. They also placed similar restrictions on the private ownership of swords. As far as gun control and gun related homicide is concerned, Japanese statistics are astonishing. Gun crime is virtually non-existent. In 2008, in America there were more than 12,000 murders involving guns, and 587 people killed by accidental gun fire. In that same year, 11 gun homicides occurred in Japan - a big increase from 2006 when just 2 people in the whole country were killed by guns! [12] One must be clear - there are other factors at work here too, associated with culture and law enforcement methods. These have been briefly mentioned in the section titled 'Comparing Countries'. Even so, the Japanese figures are remarkable.

If there is one message I can give - as a non-American - it is that most people in stable democracies throughout the world, and certainly here in Britain and in most of Europe, do not feel oppressed, enslaved, lacking in basic freedoms, or anything else because of our lack of guns. I can say what I like about our Government and I can say what I like about the Queen of England. I have rights under the law, and I do not fear that a tyrannical Government is about to take away my rights just because I lack the power to rise up in armed rebellion against them.

1973 Colt AR-15 SP1. The AR-15 is one of the most popular semi-automatic rifles, first offered to the civilian market in 1963. An AR-15 was used in the Newtown massacre, and in the Aurora Colorado Movie Theatre shooting [13][14]

1973 Colt AR-15 SP1. The AR-15 is one of the most popular semi-automatic rifles, first offered to the civilian market in 1963. An AR-15 was used in the Newtown massacre, and in the Aurora Colorado Movie Theatre shooting [13][14]

Comparing the American Government and the Nazi Party of 1930s Germany

The favourite foreign target of the gun lobby posts however is not Britain or Japan, but Germany. Not Germany today, but Nazi Germany. A popular theme is a likening of gun control in America to gun control measures introduced by Adolf Hitler in 1938.

LJ from New York says:

  • 'The Powers that be just want full control and they do not care about our rights or our safety. This is all about Power over us. Look at Germany's Nazi History and then Look at America since 9/11 it is scary how close they Parallel each other!'

Bruce from Colorado, in reference to Diane Feinstein - a senator noted for advocating gun control - follows up on the Nazi theme:

  • 'This woman and others like her want to turn our country into another nazi germany, wake up people, do you want another Hitler ran country or do you want to be free?'

Keith from Wyoming thinks likewise:

  • 'Taking away our guns will lead to something like the German people got in the 1930s. With out weapons we will be like sheep!'

The truth is very different. After the Great War, very stringent gun control measures including confiscation of all firearms, were put in place in Germany, and remained so for many years, not least as a way of preventing radical extremists (either Fascists or Communists) from seizing power through force of arms [15]. Power could only be achieved through the ballot box, as indeed it eventually was by Adolf Hitler. Gun control measures were relaxed somewhat from 1928 though strict licensing remained throughout the 1930s. Subsequently Hitler brought to an end fundamental freedoms such as the right to free speech and democratic election, but this was long before any additional gun control measures were introduced in1938. When those measures were introduced they actually relaxed licensing restrictions for most Germans. It was only certain minorities - notably Jews - who had further restrictions placed upon the right to bear arms. However, there is no way in which these groups (who traditionally had rarely owned guns anyway) could have used private arms to withstand the Nazis at this stage when persecution was already far advanced under a ruthless regime.

If gun measures are introduced in America it is purely and simply to reduce the high loss of life from firearm abuse in the country. That was not the reason for gun control in Germany under the Nazis. To compare the two situations as though they are alike is offensive, not only to those who support gun control for compassionate reasons in America, but also because it trivialises the suffering of Jews and all opponents of German Nazism in the 1930s and 40s. To suggest that Obama and his government are as evil in intent as Hitler is a sick failure to recognise the true nature of evil which once existed in German politics, but which does not exist in American politics today.

Articles revealing the nature of Nazi gun laws are included in references [15][16][17].

My Views on Gun Law

I will express my views on how best to proceed, although I know some feel I have no business to do so. I speak from a different perspective, and I do believe that people in any country may well have something to contribute from their own experiences. Americans are certainly free to say what they like about my country and others because no nation, after all, is ever perfect. Anyway, for what it's worth, these are my views on the future.

I cannot believe that as a result of the 2nd Amendment, firearms in every house should be a right enshrined for all eternity. However, looking at it rationally, an immediate ban on all weapons would clearly leave citizens very vulnerable as households give up their guns whilst criminals retain and hide theirs. So I would suggest a gradual and phased elimination of certain gun types from general circulation over many years. I would also suggest background checks, the immediate licensing of all guns, and a restriction to just one or two guns per household. In conjunction with this any convicted criminal should of course have their guns confiscated, and their licenses revoked, I also believe that any criminal caught in possession of a gun whilst committing a crime - even if they do not fire the gun - should have their sentence at least doubled from what it would otherwise have been. This would be automatic. After release, any offenders should face re-imprisonment if they are once again caught in possession of any unlicensed firearms. It goes without saying that stringent border controls and very severe penalties for gun trafficking are also necessary.

Can Anyone Speak in This Debate?

When pro-gun lobbyists first heard my comments, those who thought I was American told me I should go and live in another country without guns. And those who knew I was British told me I had no right to a say. Either way, they didn't want to listen to anyone with a differing point of view. But should I have a say? I hope you will allow me to for three reasons:

  1. Some will say that as a Brit, I have limited understanding of constitutional rights which protect the right to bear arms, and therefore no valid opinion. I would say that even in the USA there is dispute over the exact intentions of the founding fathers. What I do have is the experience of living in a society without guns or a written constitution, and therefore I have a valid opinion as to how life can be freely lived without weapons. I hope that is of interest.
  2. Some may well say that as I have not lived in a firearm-owning society I cannot understand the deep feelings of ordinary Americans on this issue. I would say that in Britain I can speak from an objective standpoint as I have nothing to personally gain or lose.
  3. Some would simply say that no foreigner has any right to 'interfere' in American internal affairs. I would say that if no foreigner is entitled to talk about American internal affairs, then on that basis, no American - as a foreigner - would have a right to make comment on the internal affairs of say, Iran or North Korea. Everyone has a right to an opinion, and in the free world, a right to express it. Whether anyone listens, is of course, equally a matter of free choice.

Intolerance of Opinions From Other Countries

Paul from California says:

  • 'your foreign opinion is completely worthless in the discussion of MY rights and has now been noted and discarded in the garbage where all foreign opinion on this topic belong.....'

Corey from Utah doesn't care to hear foreign viewpoints either:

  • 'I love how all these retards who dont live in the u.s. have an opinion on how our country should be run. Guess what? we dont care what you think. Thats why we chose to live here and not in your country'.

Responsible Ownership

George (unknown state) describes his gun cabinet and is clearly is ready for a fight with Government officers, or for several dozen burglars - whichever comes first:

  • 'I got mine STUFFED FULL! 12 gun safe with 18 long guns + numerous sidearms. Cant get another one in no how'.

However, others, feel a gun cabinet is the wrong solution.

Bernie from California prefers to have guns readily accessible:

  • 'Sorry, but a locked up gun doesn nothing to stop bad guys. Mine are all over the house'

David from Texas feels likewise. I can't help feeling he would have been more at home in the Wild West:

  • 'what good is a gun you have for protection if you cant get the drop on the other guy first?'

Abuse of Dissenting and Alternative Views

As a person, I am quite sensitive to criticism. However, I have to say that I have been mildly amused by some of the abuse which has come my way over this issue.

Thomas from Massachusettes tells me to:

  • 'Smarten up, open your mind and shut your mouth and you might learn something...... Get informed before you spew your BS....'

Presumably Thomas thinks he has an open mind, yet doesn't need to listen to other opinions?

Cheno (unknown state) says to me in capitals:

  • 'YOU MAKE ME FREEKIN SICK YOU CAN SET THIER AND TELL ME THIER IS NO GUN VILANCE THIER OR NOBODY KILLING ANYBODY WELL YOU ARE FULL OF SHI?'

Never before have I been told I'm 'an idiot' or a 'retard' so often in such a short space of time as I have in my visits to these pro-gun forums! Never before have I been told so often that my views are irrelevent and I should shut up and go away. It seems there is no desire to listen to an alternative idea. But sometimes there seems to be a confusion of intent - one pleasant fellow told me that he 'respects my right to express my opinion', but then at the end of his comment he said I should 'p**s off!' I'm not quite sure how I could do both. Seriously, even though I had sufficient self-belief not to be hurt by such extreme attitudes, some of my friends actually felt the need to advise me of the potential danger of provoking such people. I must admit to feeling relieved that an ocean separates me from some of those who write on this subject.

AR-15 semi-automatic rifles

AR-15 semi-automatic rifles

Open Declarations of Intent to Murder

We now come to the key reason above all other reasons for the writing of this page. Without this reason, I would not have developed the interest to write anything on the subject because proposed American gun legislation does not directly affect me. But people's lives do. People can believe what they wish about the 2nd Amendment or their own Government, or about other governments, or about the freedoms or lack of freedoms enjoyed by those who live in countries without guns. But one aspect of this issue really needs to be raised. Reading the comments on gun lobby pages reveals a frightening element - the blatant claim by people who profess to be innocent and law abiding, that they are prepared to take the lives of anyone who attempts to confiscate their weapons, even - presumably - if that person is unarmed. The defence they offer is that it is legitimate to use their guns to oppose any 'unconstitutional' and therefore 'illegal' gun control law. These are just a few of the frightening comments I've seen:

Scott (unknown state) promises:

  • 'I Pledge to never disarm, and in particular, to never surrender my military pattern, semi-automatic rifles (and full capacity magazines, parts, and ammunition that go with them), regardless of what illegitimate action is taken by Congress, the President, or the courts'.

Paul from California says:

  • 'I'm keeping my guns and I will use them on anyone who tries to take them'.

Dave who is from Pennsylvania clearly sets out what he intends to do to anyone who might come for his guns:

  • 'not leting the stormtroopers in to get them gonna make a pile of dead storm troopers'.

William from Florida threatens:

  • 'If they want them ,I think we should give them (the 'gun grabbers' or authorities) our bullets first at a HIGH velocity, and repeat till they are all gone '.

Ricky from Nevada says:

  • 'If you want my guns you will have to forcibly take them, there will be blood'

Chase from Virginia foresees violence ahead:

  • 'there would be no way to "confiscate" all the AW's (assault weapons) without 1) taking away the right of freedom from search without warrant and 2) losing hundreds, possibly thousands, of cops to armed citizens. They are turning us law-abiding citizens into criminals to further their own agendas'.

James from Tennessee also reckons there's going to be a bloodbath:

  • 'If they tried to take away our guns by going door to door the war that would insue would make the first civil war look like a paintball match'.

And I think Deanna from Kansas takes the prize here, referring to her 'arsenal' and enlisting the aid of her children:

  • I'm gonna blow holes in any man/woman who dare enter my arsenal...and my kids are all sharpshooters too...'

It's easy to dismiss these comments as mere bravado, the posturings of people who when it comes to the crunch, will obey the law of the land. I hope that is the case, but most of these comments have received support, and the core posts which provoke these various comments receive approval from many thousands. All countries have their extremists, but in most democracies the extremists are not armed to the teeth with guns. If just a few dozen of these extremists react in the manner they threaten to any attempt to take their weapons, then a bloodbath will indeed result.

The gun in the hand is an iconic image which many feel is a part of American culture

The gun in the hand is an iconic image which many feel is a part of American culture

A Positive Note of Hope

I would like to add a positive note. I had hoped even on the passionately pro-gun forums that people would engage in sensible discussion. But too often, as I say I have found the level of debate uncompromising to say the least. One person I began a conversation with was Laura from Ohio. My first responses from Laura seemed typical. She took the line that as a non-US citizen my opinions were irrelevant. But at least she wasn't abusive. We argued in several posts over various issues - the distinction between 'democracy' and 'constitutional republic' and the indivisibility of rights in the Constitution among others. However after one more long defiant comment arguing against my views she surprised me by ending with the following:

  • 'I am enjoying this discussion with you. It's very obvious you are intelligent. I am listening to what you are saying & I appreciate the civility of our conversation'.

Leaving aside the 'intelligent' bit (though I liked that!), this was by far the nicest comment I had received in any of my exchanges. I reciprocated with an appreciative thank you, for which she was grateful. A few more exchanges occurred over the next few days, progressively becoming more tolerant of each other's opinion, and even finding some common ground. When it came time for me to give up these verbal skirmishes we ended with an exchange of best wishes, and acceptance that even strong disagreement can be debated in a civil manner with mutual respect.

Civility, respect and tolerance go hand in hand, and if indeed it is possible for two people with such diammetrically opposed opinions to discuss with tolerance, then perhaps there is at least a glimmer of hope for the future of America on this issue.

Hunting and sport shooting are considered  legitimate activities popular in America, but they are not the reason for gun ownership pushed by the gun lobby sites. Nor are they an argument for the stockpiling of arsenals in peoples' houses

Hunting and sport shooting are considered legitimate activities popular in America, but they are not the reason for gun ownership pushed by the gun lobby sites. Nor are they an argument for the stockpiling of arsenals in peoples' houses

My Conclusions and Wishes

I repeat my comments the top of this page. I write this article for one reason only.

My target is not really the right to bear arms - even though I make clear my viewpoint on this. It is for Americans to decide on that issue.

Nor is my target those in America who hold genuine concerns for their safety in a society where so many criminals are armed, and where it is reasonable to believe that ownership of personal guns is essential for protection. There are cogent pro-gun arguments.

My purpose in writing is that minority who indulge in a grotesque distortion of reason which I believe I have seen in some who write on this subject. I write because I worry about extreme and violent opposition to the mere possibility of some gun control from those who openly express their intention to use lethal force to protect what they see as their 'inviolable' rights. I write because whatever one's views on gun law, I believe all decent people in America have to stand against such threats to the due process of law and order. Perhaps the threats are merely bravado. Perhaps, if and when the time comes, such people who utter these threats will fall into line and obey the law. But there is a minority - hopefully a tiny minority - who hold a viewpoint which is frightening for what it seems to say about their attitude to democracy and rule of law.

I like America and most aspects of the American way of life. And I am one of those who regard America as having been a force for great good in the world. But as far as gun control is concerned, I fear for America in the future. If gun control is introduced - and I believe that it must be - then it must be handled with great care and wisdom, with strength of conviction yet also with understanding. If things are handled badly and if some of the more extreme views expressed on this page are to be believed, then there is the possibility of a bloodbath. I truly hope it doesn't come to that for the sake of all the many Americans I respect, and the beautiful country they live in.

Whatever the personal views of Americans who read this, I trust and hope that this will remain a rare sight which none will ever have to face

Whatever the personal views of Americans who read this, I trust and hope that this will remain a rare sight which none will ever have to face

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References

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