Do the people of America have the right to bear nuclear arms?

29 October 2015

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives the people of America  “the right to keep and bear arms.” This has helped those people who make and sell arms to make lots of money, the consequences be damned. So here is a conversation I fantasize having with the people at the National Rifle Association.

“Do the people of America have the right to bear nuclear arms, for example in their shopping bags?”

And they reply: “Are you some sort of nut?”

To which I retort: “Not at all. This is the answer I expected. We have now established the basic point: that the line has to be drawn somewhere. Where do you draw it: between nuclear bombs and cluster bombs? cluster bombs and automatic weapons? automatic weapons and handguns?” (A friend who hunts tells me that a one shot rifle is all he needs—although he does hunt deer, not tigers.)

I draw the line between guns and knives, since, with knives in every kitchen, it’s tough to restrict them. You should know that handguns account for at least half of all the murders in the United States, far more than do knives.

Do you get the gist of my argument? The right to bear arms can no longer be absolute. This amendment might have made sense when muskets were the only arms available, and took time to reload. Besides, on the frontier there was no 911 to call. But the technology has moved on: now we have arms designed for mass killing, as fast as anyone can dial 9-1-1.

Here’s another mantra of the gun lobby: “Guns don’t kill; people kill.” Actually, people with guns kill, in great numbers, whether a toddler who mistakenly shoots a sibling or a lunatic who is determined to murder aimlessly.

Finally there is the mantra that “We need more guns, not less.” Presumably this is so that some innocent bystander can be ready to kill some killer. But allowing more guns mostly makes it easier for the killers themselves. When was the last time an innocent bystander killed a killer? In contrast, when was the last time an innocent bystander was killed by a killer? If you answered “yesterday”, you may well be right.

A young women traumatized by a recent mass killing nearby mouthed this mantra to a TV reporter. So why didn’t she have a gun in her pocket, finger on the trigger all ready to shoot him? After all, she could have bought one just as easily as he did. OK, so she didn’t expect a mass killing in her neighborhood. But fear not (really fear yes): With the prevalence of this kind of attitude, it’s just a matter of time.

So what’s going on? Can there be something in the water? If not the water, then what? People can’t just be that dumb. (Included in the “Non-negotiable Core Beliefs” on the Tea Party website are the following, in sequence: “Special interests must be eliminated” and “Gun ownership is sacred.” The gun lobby is apparently not a special interest.)

Maybe the world is so out of whack that self-serving interests can get away with manipulating the minds of millions. In that case, the problem goes far deeper than the right to bear arms—to a right of “free speech” that allows corporate “persons” to lobby and lie for the public bad. Here too a line has to be drawn, between real and fake persons as well as between truth and lies.

© Henry Mintzberg 2015. To go deeper into this world out of whack, see Rebalancing Society and related TWOGS

Next week’s TWOG will be about “The lies lobbyists tell us.”