The Killing Field

Every time we hear news of yet another mass shooting in the United States we inevitably also hear that it is the right of every American to own a gun, sanctified by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. But I wonder how many people making that claim have actually read the Second Amendment, because that’s not really what it does.

Fortunately the section is very short and pretty easy to understand. It reads, in its entirety, 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.

So it’s pretty obvious that the purpose of this law, which should be far more important than the actual wording, is to provide for the “security of a free state”. In the days when the amendment was written the only way this could be readily achieved was by permitting any citizen to bear arms, and to be ready to join with fellow citizens in defence of the community if it was attacked. Obviously that condition no longer applies. The US is the most powerful armed nation in the world and its existential security is no longer dependent on individual citizens bearing arms.

In other words the infamous Second Amendment, which is routinely quoted every time another appalling mass murder takes place in the US, does NOT give an unconditional right for Americans to own guns. It strongly suggests that the right to own a gun is dependent on the necessity of a citizen being part of a well-regulated state militia which, given the fact that the US has the most tooled-up government on the planet, is itself no longer a necessity. But how many of the perpetrators of previous mass slaughters, or even the more everyday suicides and shootings that happen on average 33,000 times a year are members of well-regulated state militias? Because those are the only people the Second Amendment actually authorises to bear arms.

Then we hear from the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ brigade, the people who think it’s well hard to murder defenceless animals as some sort of perverted survival instinct. But the truth is that almost no one needs to kill animals in order to survive. Except for tiny isolated communities living in remote parts of the planet in the way their ancestors have always done, no one needs to kill animals to stay alive. Apart from the fact that the vast majority of human beings obtain their food from shops – much of which is slaughtered animal flesh of one kind or another – there’s also the obvious fact that we don’t actually need to eat animals at all, as millions of healthy vegans can easily prove.

Sometimes we also hear from gun clubs, about the harmless pleasures of shooting at bits of paper. Well, here’s a news bulletin: you don’t need high-powered rifles or handguns to put a hole through a bit of paper. You can do the job very successfully with an air-rifle, or by using an archery bow.

No, the real reason thousands of innocent Americans are destined to be gunned down every year has nothing to do with constitutional rights, or defending the need of a tiny handful of deluded people to murder defenceless animals, or standing up for people who like to put holes in bits of paper. The real reason is pretty much the same reason that’s behind every other factor that makes the United States the most dysfunctional nation on the planet: protecting the sacred right of giant corporations to make maximum profits.

It really is way beyond time for Americans to get a proper grip of their sick government. How many more Americans must get shot by their own people before someone says “enough”? 50,000 a year? 100,000? 1,000,000?

It’s not like it’s hard. All that needs to happen is to make it illegal to own or sell a high-powered rifle or handgun. No one needs these things. If guns didn’t exist, say, and someone just invented them, what chance would there be of being allowed to start selling them? None. Zero. Zip. So get a grip. Outlaw these things. Outlaw the people who make and sell them, and outlaw the people who make and sell the ammunition for them – because a gun without ammunition is only so much scrap metal.

And let’s please stop hearing about this “constitutional right” to bear arms. The Second Amendment does not give that right unconditionally. Its obvious purpose is to authorise armed militias to provide security. But having the most tooled-up government on the planet, supposedly providing security, armed militias are obviously irrelevant today. This needless perpetual slaughter must stop. Come on, America. Get a grip of yourself!

John Andrews is a writer and political activist based in England. His latest booklet is entitled EnMo Economics. Other Non-Fiction books by John are: The People's Constitution (2018 Edition); and The School of Kindness (2018 Edition); and his historical novel The Road to Emily Bay Read other articles by John.