Arms and the Man 13


There have been a series of American commentators popping up on the TV, explaining that the right to bear arms is necessary to guard against an over-mighty executive. The strange thing is that the US now has an over-mighty executive, which has completely unbalanced the famous separation of powers. As yet I see no sign of the NRA forming up to march on the White House.

I am irresistibly reminded of Borat asking what the best gun was to use against a Jew, and the unblinking reply “9mm or a .45”. I wonder what answer he would have got if he had said “Student” not “Jew”?

Yet more grieving families. Margaret Beckett shows up on screen, sending her commiserations. Thank God she doesn’t send commiserations every time thirty people are killed in Iraq. We would have to see her whine on self-importantly several times a day.


13 thoughts on “Arms and the Man

  • Randal

    "There have been a series of American commentators popping up on the TV, explaining that the right to bear arms is necessary to guard against an over-mighty executive."

    This was always the weakest argument of the liberty-based case for gun ownership, as I have repeatedly pointed out to Americans in discussions of this issue over the years. I suspect it appeals disproportionately to Americans, despite its inherent weakness, for historical reasons.

    For me, the case for unrestricted gun ownership is based upon simple principle – the right to self defence is a fundamental consequence of inherent personal liberty (the fact that all men are created equal, etc). That's the end of the debate, for me, and whether or not there are costs to pay in terms of increased gun crime is an interesting but irrelevant separate debate.

    However, principle is not a popular basis for ethical discussion these days, when moral relativism and materialist utilitarianism predominate. In that context, therefore, I believe politically it is probably more effective to base any argument for non-prohibition of gun ownership on the practical effects in terms of disarming honest people, in the face of armed criminals (including corrupt policemen).

    It is not my impression tha gun crime has been reduced in Britain, for instance, in consequence of our having the most restrictive gun laws in the world.

    I suspect that my side of the argument will continue to lose (politically, that is) in Britain, though, until personal responsibility returns to our culture – probably a generation or more.

  • NightWatch

    Did anyone see the White House initial comments on the shooting?

    After empathizing appropriately, the statement continued with "in no way will todays events affect our support of the NRA or the publics right to bear arms". Not a direct quote, but close enough.

    I so wished I could have been at the WH after that statement was made, to witness the collective gasp and the ensuing chinese firedrill as they all fought to put out that fire. I was crossing my fingers that somehow the president would go on air with it, but no luck.

    Yes, it is surprising in a way that the "enemy within" seems to have taken over our country without firing a shot. But don't forget the long campain to neutralize us. The government uses crackpots like the unibomber, and expose's of redneck para-military groups to demonize any law abiding gun owner. They make a point to the whole nation at places like waco and ruby ridge, that the government will do what it wants, with full force…including killing 80 (?)american children in a roaring inferno, in spite of religious or personal rights…or the facts. At the same time, our president makes it clear christianity is the only true religion and all other cultures are suspect. If you sense inconsistency in the administrations actions, you are correct. Isn't that a necessary element of terror?

    It is interesting that gun owners tend to be republicans and those fighting for gun control are democrats. Seems like a nice plan to have your supporters armed and the opposition defenseless. Kind of like an american republican guard.

  • writeon

    Thing is, Craig, whilst your words sound so reasonable, you just don't get it do you? People have to die someday, so why not die young? You clearly don't understand the alure and fascination of weapons. You don't sound like you've ever fired a weapon in anger in your life. You've never known that special, special thrill. You've never been on a sniper course, learning to kill at over a thousand metres. Nothing compares to that, nothing. It's almost like being the angel of death, or God himself!

    Gun metal, though cold, soon becomes warm to the touch when caressed by hands and soft finger-tips. The hard, metal barrel then begins, almost magically, to take on life-like qualities. A man, a real man, instictively understands this. A real man can become one with his gun. The gun can become an exstention of his own body, his best friend and sometimes more, much more.

    Body heat is special heat when transferred from soft, vulnerable, flesh, to metal. I knew a man who loved his gun so much he slept with it. It lay, hidden, but never forgotten, under his pillow. A stiff, hard reminder, that we live in a hard and brutal world.

    Sometimes he'd wake in the night and feel the barrel pressing against his cheek. This was not only re-assuring, it was also a comfort in the darkness. Almost like touching a lover, but a lover who never lied to you and always obeyed you. He often dreamt about his gun; the barrel, the round chamber, the blunt-headed bullets, sitting tight and snug, perfectly balanced; innocent – though ready and willing.

    Finally, he began to dream of using his gun to defend his home against and intruder who was in his bedroom and intent on harming him, or worse. He wasn't a violent man, but when he thought of someone breaking into his house, he became angry, started to sweat and wanted revenge for being defiled. Slowly he learnt to control his anger, to use this feeling that came over him.

    It was strange that he now began to thrill at the thought of pumping lead into the body and face of the intruder in his bedroom. An intruder that hadn't come yet. He knew instinctively that he wasn't the type of man to just wave his pistol impotently in the air without using it in earnest once he'd pulled it out. He'd swing the long, heavy barrel up, cock it, aim carefully, and squeeze the trigger gently, lovingly; and blast away until his gun was empty and spent.

    There were times when he swore he could almost smell the powder in his nose and taste it in his mouth. It was acrid, sharp on his tongue, though a not altogether unpleasant sensation. It was almost embarassing that the thought made him secretly smile. A guilty and strange desire began to grow inexorably inside him. He wanted some intruder, some big, brazen, hulk, with more brawn than brains to force his way into his home and stupidly barge into his bedroom.

    Then he'd watch the stupified look of surprise and sudden horror on his beast-like face, when the oaf realized that he was, in fact, a dead man. There would be no time to ask for mercy, and none would be given. This wasn't a negotiation. It was an execution. The man began to feel breathless when he thought about the hot, red, blood, spurting into his face and running in tiny rivulets over his mouth and dripping down over his naked chest. He'd still be standing, but the intruder would be lying motionless beneath him on the floor like a grotesque and broken doll. Smeared in blood and ghastly whore-like make-up.

    It was no use talking to him about the dangers involved in his growing obsession with guns and ammo, blood and killing. The thin, veneer of civilization was cracking around him. Physically he seemed to be changing, becoming harder and more rigid. The gun seemed to be slowly working some strange kind of perverse magic on him. Turning and twisting him from the inside out.

    One of the lessons I learnt was that men shouldn't sleep with guns, or learn to love them more than sense, more than decency, more than life. I finally broke off all contact with him when he began to leave his door unlocked at night; when he tantelizingly left his bedroom window slightly and very invitingly ajar, like he was looking and waiting for trouble.

  • ChoamNomsky

    I fully understand the distrust of the government, but small arms will not overthrow a tyrannical regime. As we can see from Iraq, to have any effect at all, you need lots of explosives, RPGs etc and there is no right to "bear RPGs" in the US.

    The best way to overthrow a tyrannical regime is to vote them out before it becomes to late. You should also vote out any political party that lays the foundations for future tyranny, such as Labour and it's Protest Exclusion Zone. Guns are not required. Brains are.

  • writeon

    Dear Craig,

    I think your correct to point out that these kind of tragedies occur on an almost daily basis in Iraq. Whilst the events in Virginia cannot be compared directly to what's happening in Iraqi cities and towns, it's still striking how differently we react.

    Is it just because so many violent deaths in our backyard, are, thankfully, a novelty? Or is it because we, at a fundamental level, value our people higher than Iraqi lives?

    Listening to the reactions of the ordinary americans to this senseless slaughter is moving. Listening to american politicians and pundits, is less so. One feels they are spinning, spinning, spinning; for all their worth. Or is this too cynical/sceptical?

    Already we know the names of the dead. We have heard from their families. We know about the lives of the dead, their hopes, their dreams, how much they will be missed and mourned. This is only natural and right. Young people, full of promise and life have been cut down without sense or reason.

    Still, I can't just accept it. There is really no need for Americans to have so many weapons and such easy access to them. They don't live on the frontier anymore do they? They don't need to circle the wagons and fight off the indians do they? Are they expecting an invasion? Is civil war just around the corner?

    Americans do seem to have a kind of schizophrenic attitude towards human life. Sometimes every human life is seen as invaluable, as precious, as more than precious, as almost holy. Then, suddenly, other human lives are not absolutely inviolable and sacrosanct, or valuable. The most extreme illustration of this attitude is the use of the death sentence. Bush himself has sent other, unique human beings to their deaths in Texas when he was governor. Unlike most of us, he had the gift of life in his hands. He could have saved a life, instead he chose to take a life/lives, over and over again. How stunted intellectually and emotionally does one have to be to calmly sign a death warrent, over and over again?

    Which brings us back to Iraq. In Iraq the killing goes on, day after day after day, over and over again. We've turned the country into slaughterhouse. But do we hear the names of the dead? Do we ever see the parents of the dead and hear their stories? In Iraq the tragedy in Virginia is repeated everyday, day after day. But maybe they aren't like us? Maybe the people of Iraq don't shed the same kind of tears we do? Maybe they value human life lower than we do? Maybe, when we get down to it, they aren't human like we are? Maybe we just don't really give a damn?!

  • Randal

    Nightwatch: "the statement continued with "in no way will todays events affect our support of the NRA or the publics right to bear arms". "

    The depressing thing for me, as a libertarian/palaeoconservative, is the way the contemptible Bush administration will utterly discredit such viewpoints for probably a generation.

    Much as the execrable John Bolton will discredit non-interventionism with his laughable but much trumpeted claim to believe in a "hands off" policy in Iraq, even while the policy actually enacted by the administration he was a major part of was actually almost the antithesis of non-interventionism. Naturally, the left, for whom more state interference is the essence of their political creed, will point to that and the failures of US occupation policy and declare that the catastrophe happened because the supposed "right wing ideologues" in the White House declined to intervene enough, when actually the core problem is the original intervention – neoconservatism (a "big government" creed), not real conservatism (a philosophy profoundly sceptical of the efficacy of state action).

    Real conservatives will be flushed down with the neoconservative turds, sadly.

  • NightWatch

    writeon,

    As an American (western USA variety), I can tell you that the right to own guns is as deeply ingrained in us as in those who have been giving their pennies to Jesus since they could drop it into the plate. There are towns and counties which require one to wear a sidearm at all times. Yes, we still do have "injun troubles". I could point you to incidents within the last 10 – 20 years in the area of my folks ranch where white hunters have not obeyed mounted Indians when they were told to get off a disputed mountain and ended up with "skinned eyes" (the eyelids cut off). It is fairly common for Indian police to be bribed to allow hunters from Los Angeles to hunt on Indian lands and the Indians get drunk and end up tearing up a cathouse (whorehouse). I can take you to a spot where the sheriff or deputy didn't know enough to mind their own business and paid the ultimate price. I was last involved (7 years ago)in a dispute with 2 crazy old toothless, bearded ladies and their unbalanced, fugitive sons who were blocking access to a right of way for mother cows we were driving. Everyone armed of course…except for the deputy who was red-faced and screaming for me to give him my gun…so he could shoot somebody. I didn't of course and we talked the other side into lowering their guns and no one got shot. So yeah, it is deeply ingrained. Our jails are full of bad guys who possess a well developed sense of justice and fairness, which they learned in John Wayne or Rocky movies. When our Pres. and VP act the same way, it is doubtful any change is in the near future.

    Randal,

    You got it. There is no Republican Party anymore. It has become a cross between Taliban, Shiite and Nazi…which is also what Israel government seems to be.

    When it comes to Bolton or the administration, don't listen to the words, look at the actions.

    Also, you are right on about the left.

    I hang with that group sometimes and help try to find a way to get out of this war. But, you can't believe how bad the left wants to intervene in Darfur!

    I'm reading a new book: "Target Switzerland. Armed Swiss Neutrality in WWII". They had something.

  • writeon

    I do get a bit confused with much of the American debate about the right to bear arms. I'm not a constitutional expert, but I wonder what this section really means. What did it mean then and more importantly what does it mean today?

    The constitution is not written in stone and it wasn't brought down from the mountain by Moses. The constitution can, must and has been interpreted by successive generations. This is only natural and makes sense.

    The purchase of semi-automatic assault weapons, capable of wreaking havoc when used in an urban environment, is hard, at least to me, to justify on the grounds of personal freedom and the right to defend oneself.

    One could of course try compromise in relation to the right to bear arms. Clearly the writers of the constitution did not invisage the extraordinary developments in weapons technology we have seen over the last couple of centuries. So, let's take them at their word and allow americans to bear arms as they choose, but only at the level of technology that existed at the time the constitution was written. That is barrel loaded muskets and one shot pistols, flintlocks and powder and shot. No bullets or automatic weapons or machine guns. Slaughtering large numbers of people with a musket, when even an expert takes just under a minute to re-load, would seem to be one way of reducing a deranged individuals ability to go on a killing spree.

  • Craig

    From mempry its the second amendment, and I think the proposers were indeed concerned with the ability to form a militia to take on the government, rather than the individual's right to go out and shoot stuff.

    The most bloody battle in Britain was Towton – which nobody even remembers happened – when thirty thousand people managed to get hacked to death with bits of weighted or sharpened metal. Just a thought.

  • writeon

    Craig,

    Obviously you're right. We are capable of killin each other with our bare hands if we really want to. But if this deeply disturbed young man had only been armed with a hammer, I seriously doubt he would have been able to kill over thirty people at one go.

    It's almost as if these young men commit a kind of "mega-suicide" to illustrate how miserable they are and multiply the effect by taking lots of other people with them. It really is to much and too sad.

  • Randal

    2nd Amendment, indeed. As far as the particular case of the American Constitution is concerned, as writeon says, if you are looking for reasons to disapply the literal meaning of the 2nd Amendment today, you can point to the fact of technological advances. You can also point to the particular historical circumstances of America as a frontier society and to the experience of the US elite as having just won a war of secession through exactly the kind of armed citizenry that is specifically protected by the 2nd Amendment. The joys of a formal written constitution!

    I think the historical evidence is clear – from the abject failure of the US version – that a written constitution is almost worthless in protecting liberty. The southern states found that out when they tried to exercise their inherent right of secession (something that could hardly be legitimately denied by Americans, whose very existence separate from the British Crown was solely due to their own previous secession) and were bloodily forced to accept that they were now party of a nation state, rather than a confederation of like-minded nations.

    This is a point worth considering when contemplating the European Union. A Virginian man who, in the first flush of youthful idealism, celebrated his sovereign state's accession to a voluntary union with other states with whom the idea of war was ridiculous, might well have lived to see his grandchildren butchered on the fields of Antietam and Gettysburg by the forces of the very formerly friendly states with whom he had earlier celebrated union. What are the odds that our own grandchildren might one day be similarly forced to fight against German and French troops fighting under the banner of a European state? If it happened in the US (and it surely did), why shouldn't it happen here?

    On the right/left thing, NightWatch, I imagine real socialists view Tony Blair's fake left-wing utterances with much the same attitude as we do the pseudo-conservative pretences of the Bush regime.

  • Randal

    writeon:

    "It's almost as if these young men commit a kind of "mega-suicide" to illustrate how miserable they are and multiply the effect by taking lots of other people with them."

    In something I read somewhere this morning, there was a suggestion that there are at least some similarities (in terms of state of mind, anyway) between "spree killers" and suicide bombers. I can't recall where – probably some general piece in the mainstream media about the latest US incident.

    I think the main difference is the attachment of suicide bombers to a cause, but I'm sure there must often be elements – a desire for general revenge, at least – common to both.

    Food for thought, anyway.

  • NightWatch

    All,

    Below is a Wikidedia of the USA "right" to overthrow our government. It is in our Declaration of Independance.

    Both Britain and France are also mentioned using or having this "right".

    On the right to bear arms and our founders not anticipating the "evolution" of arms: Our founders were well educated men. They were certainly aware of the the evolutionary development of man and his weapons. All one has to do is think of rock, club, knife, spear, mace, bow,catapult, flintlock, cannon, cap and ball, artillery piece, etc…to expect that advances would continue. Someone else could make this agrument better than I, but I'm sure you get my point. Da Vinci certainly was able to imagine it, so I'm sure he was not alone.

    Next, our founding documents as "living" documents:

    Someone once said, human thought is not much different now from what it was in Platos time. The underlying principles of human need, thought or even just a particular point of view have a long history which has been tested throughout the centuries. There is a great record of it. I think it is not giving proper credit to educated/founding men to suggest that part of the foundation is not now needed…just because a particular political gust blows once in a while. I believe the founders (who took an awful lot from you Brits to use in forming the USA, btw)expected we might change some of the aesthetics of our new society in the future, but not the basic foundation. The octane in my coffee seems a bit low this morning, but I think you can connect the dots.

    Reading the short exerpt below will help you understand our deep seated indoctrination:

    The right to revolution formed a philosophical defense of the Glorious Revolution, when Parliament deposed James II of England in 1688 and replaced him with William III of Orange-Nassau. Later, the right to revolution would be cited in the Declaration of Independence of the United States, which echoed many of the ideas on the right to revolution:

    "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.

    That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is in the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."

    It was then included in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen during the French Revolution.

    Hope this helps understand the USA mindset…at least of a more conservative/libertarian part of the usa. But, there is a reason democratic majority whip Harry Reid spoke out yesterday that there was no need to talk about banning guns. A whole lot of Democrates are with the republicans on this issue.

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