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Oct 022015
 

In the wake of yet another senseless slaughter in the US perpetrated by a supposedly anti-Christian mindless thug, it is time yet again for the US to contemplate a sensible level of gun control.

The US does not have a problem with gun control; it has a problem with mindless violence. There are other countries in the world where gun ownership is at the same level or even higher than in the US – such as Switzerland.

But gun control is a sensible measure to take whilst the real problem – a tough problem to tackle – is dealt with. The fact that the US constitution protects gun ownership is a red herring; as the name implies (the Second Amendment), the US constitution is amenable to amendment.

And even that is a bit of a red herring – the second amendment does not protect gun ownership for the purposes of self-defence, playing with guns at a gun range, or murdering innocent animals,  It protects gun ownership for the purposes of making up a well-regulated militia :-

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.

Gun control regulations that do not prevent gun ownership by members of a well regulated militia are not in breach of the second amendment.

If for example the US brought in laws which required gun owners to be members of a well regulated militia (which as a minimum should ensure that militia commanders are subject to stringent checks), store their weapons in a militia armoury, and only be allowed to use those weapons under the supervision of militia officers, it would go a long way to preventing senseless slaughters.

The main aim with that is to ensure that gun usage is subject to collective decision making – crowd-sourcing the decision to use the weapons if you like.

If gun usage is controlled by collective decision making, there is less chance of a murderous maniac slaughtering innocent victims.

You may think that as a UK citizen, this is none of my business, but I dispute that. The victims of this latest senseless slaughter were my fellow humans, and as a human I have the right to stick my oar in.

Feb 222013
 

So it looks like he’s out on bail.

He could be guilty of murder, or he could have been trying to protect his home from burglars.

Let us assume it’s the later. There are all sorts of problems with his story of what happened – if you were to tackle a burglar in your own home in the middle of the day with plenty of practice at that sort of situation.

But in the middle of the night ? Woken from a sleep and still in a daze? And not really knowing what to do ? It’s all to easy to imagine me doing something really daft in that situation is all too believable.

Add guns to that mixture, and you have the recipe for a disaster. Which if Pistorius is telling the truth is exactly what has happened.

There are those who argue that it is a right to keep a gun in the house to protect yourself from burglars. Ignoring whether it’s a right or not, it is for most of us a dumb thing to do. Most of us do not undergo the sort of training that will let us make sensible decisions in such a situation, and those that do have the training are not likely to operate at full effectiveness without the right level of caffeine.

Dec 282012
 

The US has long had an abysmal record in extra-judicial execution by the mob – the lynching – which is a peculiarly US foible. It is noticeable in the linked Wikipedia article that the authors were desperately looking around for non-US examples of lynchings. And some of the examples are not strictly speaking lynchings at all.

Extra-judicial punishments have been common throughout history, but have almost always been due to the absence of legal authority, or the inadequacy of legal authority. In most cases, US lynchings are in fact a perverse preference for extra-judicial punishment where the legal authority certainly was available – many lynchings involved breaking into courthouse jails to extract the “guilty”.

There are plenty of resources out there on US lynchings including :-

Practically all of these sites concentrate on the racial aspects of lynchings, which is perfectly understandable given that lynchings were one of the many weapons white supremacists used to keep the negro “in his place”.

Yet there is another aspect to lynchings that tends to get overlooked. If you look at the lynching statistics provided by the Tuskegee Institute covering the years 1882-1968, of the total of 4,743 lynchings a total of 1,297 were of “white” people. A total of 27% of all lynchings were of “white” people. Of course that simple classification into black and white may be concealing other race hate crimes – apparently asian and mexican-american people have been classified as white on occasions.

But reading the stories of lynchings shows that the victims of lynchings were from all parts of society – men, women, black, and white. But predominantly black, although the last lynching of a white person occurred as late as 1964 when 2 white people and 1 black person were lynched.

This page tries to explain the white lynchings as either under-reporting of lynchings of black people in the 19th century, or the use of lynchings to punish white people who opposed the repression of black people (such as Elijah Lovejoy). Both of which are true enough.

But it’s missing a point – lynching is a tool used by the racists to repress the black people in the US, but it already existed as a tool (and was used) before the racists felt the need to repress and control the newly freed former slaves. Lynching is a way of obtaining “justice” when a community feels that justice is unlikely to be obtained any other way.

What appears to have happened in the US is that some communities seem to have acquired an entitlement to extreme forms of justice and they are not placated by the perfectly reasonable level of justice provided by the state. After all, in many of the examples of lynchings, the state justice mechanisms were “working” perfectly well – certainly a black person in the South was likely to be flung into prison for almost anything on the flimsiest of evidence. Yet the extremists were not satisfied.

What this reveals is that some in the US feel entitled to impose a level of control on their community that is not sanctioned by the democratic majority of the country as a whole. And a willingness to resort to violence to get their way. Whilst lynchings may be a thing of the past (the last recorded one was in 1981, although there is a case for arguing that this was merely a random killing rather than a lynching), the attitude may still be around … and having an effect on the level of violence in the US.

The anti-gun control fanatics are right to an extent when they claim that “guns don’t kill” but criminals do. If you compare the US gun crime statistics with other countries with similar levels of gun control (and there are some; indeed in Switzerland a significant proportion of the population is compelled to store a fully automatic assault rifle in their home), it becomes obvious that the US has a significant problem with violence. Gun control may be necessary in the short term, but long term the US needs to look at it’s violent tendencies.

Dec 222012
 

Given the tragic shooting incident at a US primary school (what would be called an elementary school in the US), it is hardly surprising that the subject of gun control has come up yet again. Normally proposals suggest taking the more extreme types of guns (such as assault rifles) away, without banning all guns.

This may be a mistake given the US Constitution and opposition to changing it. The relevant clause of the constitution reads :-

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

There are a number of interesting things that this does not say :-

  1. There is nothing in this statement about the right to bear arms to defend yourself (at least from criminals).
  2. There is nothing in this statement about the right to bear arms to go out shooting defenceless wildlife.
  3. Although the statement includes the right to “keep” arms, it does not say where such arms should be kept.
  4. Although it does not explicitly say so, it is very clearly defined that a person’s right to bear arms is in relation to a “well regulated militia”; in other words one does not have a right to bear arms unless under orders to do so.

So rather than restrict what kind of arms a US citizen can own, perhaps it makes much more sense to restrict where arms can be held and how they can be used :-

  1. Any three or more individuals are free to establish a militia for the defence of the state or some other suitable purpose.
  2. The state is allowed to appeal to a court in the event of a militia it feels is set up for nefarious purposes.
  3. A militia must establish an arsenal which may not be a personal home. An arsenal must have an appropriate level of security.
  4. A militia or member of a militia is allowed to purchase any reasonable weapons, but they must be stored within the militia’s arsenal.
  5. Weapons may only be used by the members of the militia during training or during an operation sanctioned by the militia.
  6. No weapons may be used by an individual without supervision by another two members of the militia.

Of course the real test for a proposal on gun control is whether the NRA like it or not. If they do, it must be wrong!

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