As South Dakota passes a bill to arm teachers in the wake of the latest High School Massacre, I’m filled with a feeling of crushing acceptance. You can’t reason with idiocy.
The American constitution is a very strange and problematic document. For one thing it begins with the words “We the people,” despite having been written by a select group of educated few. The bigger problem is that it’s written down at all. A huge amount of stock is put in the written word, especially if it was written by “founding fathers” and is all calligraphic and shit. Not quite “set in stone,” but close enough. However, the EVEN bigger problem is that it was written in 1787. You remember 1787 yeah? When slavery was a thing and people burnt people for being witches and men and women couldn’t have sex for fear of eternal damnation and nobody even knew what a coconut was. I’ve just found out, using maths, that 1787 was 226 years ago. TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY SIX YEARS. Things change in that time. We don’t burn witches anymore. People fuck at will, and feel great about doing it. Bounty bars exist, and we have a black man in the Whitehouse. However, there’s still that one niggling little clause that sticks in the craw. Five little words.
“The right to bear arms.”
The second amendment in its entirety reads thus: “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.” Much smarter and more educated people before me have explored this issue further, but essentially, in 1787 the founding fathers were more than a little wary of things like, oh, I don’t know, slave rebellions, insurrections, invasions from other empirical sorts, and firearms were all they had, unless they wanted to indulge in some fist-fighting.
Now, of course, if a country wants to drop a nuclear weapon on America, then a “well regulated militia” ain’t gonna do shit. Now though, we’ve reached a tipping point. Young children will now be going to school in an openly aggressive environment. Weapons used to kill will now be normalised to an even greater extent than they already have been. We now have the very real possibility of a shootout happening in a school between teachers and those mentally unstable enough to stage an attack in the first place. The likelihood is that children will be caught in friendly fire, so to speak, who shoulders the blame then?
I’m in no way surprised that we have reached this scenario. Trying to convince Republican Americans that their second amendment rights should be taken away by presenting them with overwhelming evidence that it’s not a good idea that anyone is allowed to have not just one gun, but LOADS of guns, is like trying to convince a Christian that God doesn’t exist by presenting them with Darwin’s theory of evolution. When something is so culturally ingrained as the 2nd amendment is with certain swathes of the American population it’s nigh-on impossible to find a solution that suits both parties, and the reason it’s so culturally ingrained is simply because it’s written down.
Words change over time, connotations differ, languages become obsolete, we hold this truth to be self evident. However, when words are written down, they don’t change, they remain indelible, and it’s much harder for connotations to be shifted. Simply put, if the entirety of America is being taught that these documents written two-hundred odd years ago are the most important things in guaranteeing their liberty from a young age, then certain beliefs will become so entrenched that nothing can shake them – even overwhelming evidence that they might not be so great.
This is why the pro-gun lobby and the NRA is so strong. It’s about identity. America is still a baby in comparison to the rest of the world, or if not a baby, then a petulant teenager who won’t stop playing on his Playstation and come down for dinner. Because of that, Americans (well, Republican Americans at least) will find National Identity wherever they can, the second amendment being one of those places. Any alteration to that is, to this group of people, eroding the fabric of their country, forcing them to change their national identity, easier said than done.
So, with that in mind, perhaps it’s time to change tack, to reach some kind of compromise with the NRA. For example, the right to bear arms, whilst having a limit on the amount of arms you’re allowed to bear? People don’t need several huge, powerful assault weapons and sniper rifles, do they? That’s not covered by the constitution, is it? Also, the media have a part to play too. The people who commit these crimes aren’t evil people – they are mentally unstable, emotionally fraught, attention seekers. The media gives them the attention they crave, makes celebrities out of them. They don’t need to do that. News channels don’t need to implore us to understand the mind of a mass murdered. We don’t need to watch Youtube videos they made or be directed to their manifestos. That shit encourages other mentally unstable, emotionally fraught attention seekers. No argument, it does, and the way these things are reported in future seriously needs to be addressed. If it means the State intervening, then so be it.
Unfortunately, I have the horrible feeling that this is a debate that will rear its ugly head further along down the line, for all the wrong reasons. I also have the feeling that when it does, nothing will have changed. The pro gun lobby will shout “more guns”. The anti gun lobby will shout back, maybe louder than before, but nothing will get done. Perhaps it’s time to stop shouting altogether, and start talking, before it’s too late.