A fatuous piece of propaganda has been doing the rounds in America. It’s an image of two young women cycling through a field with semi-automatic rifles on their backs, with the text: “Switzerland: 1 in 2 citizens has guns, lowest crime rate in the world”. The idea that this somehow discredits calls for US gun control is laughable. The high rate of gun ownership in Switzerland is owing to the fact that, with no standing army, virtually every male citizen is conscripted into the militia, but doesn‘t store state-issued weapons (without ammunition) at home.
This is nothing like the US, where “untrained yahoos” can “hang about Starbucks with loaded AR-15s”. Yet the militia link is still instructive. It brings to mind the Second Amendment to the US Constitution: “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”. The founders included this on the assumption that the US, like Switzerland, wouldn’t have a standing army and would need militias to protect the state. But US gun nuts interpret it differently: for them, it confers a right to stock up on arms with which to protect themselves from the state. Which, when you look at it, is not the same thing at all (Heather Digby Parton, Salon).
Foreigners look at the American gun scene in horror and disbelief (see Owen Bell’s excellent comment on my posting yesterday). All I can say is that, truly, there are grown up, wise and sensible Americans of all ages who abhor the gun culture and think it totally inappropriate for the modern world. One person allowed a concealed weapon is enough to frighten a dozen other people into arming themselves. Thus does the NRA and its extemists make tons of money out of death or threats of death.
Guns should be locked away and the lock-up was inspected regularly by the police. The idea of walking around “legally” with concealed firearms is an appalling idea, dangerous to innocent passers by and useless in an emergency. Concealed firearms are simply extensions of a fragile manhood. Real men don’t need them.
This issue is not an issue of personal freedom or the Constitution; it defines whether one wishes to lives in a modern, civilised country or in a vast Hollywood version of Dry Gulch and trigger-happy cowboys.