The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, united the world, especially the writing part of it, in a new anti-gun crusade. Statistics, both pro and con gun ownership, are being shuffled and reshuffled with the deftness of a chap playing three-card Monte at a street corner.
People take an obligatory bow towards the US Constitution, specifically its Second Amendment, and then flash the smile of a mature adult talking to a slow child.
Even assuming, they say in the spirit of accommodation, that you may want to have a handgun to protect your family, surely you don’t need a military-grade assault rifle for that purpose? These are only ever used for mass shootings.
Before we get to the crux of the matter, a minor point: rifles available to American civilians, such as the AR-15 used in Uvalde, aren’t military-grade. They have no full-auto capability, meaning the shooter has to pull the trigger each time he fires a round.
Another minor point: rifles are used in an infinitesimal proportion of all American shootings. Even in mass shootings, since 1988, rifles alone have been used only in 14 per cent of such incidents. In 13 per cent, the killers used both a handgun and a rifle – but in 56 per cent they used a handgun only.
Yet another minor point: anti-gun enthusiasts tend to talk about gun deaths in general, lumping together murders and suicide. Using the same trick, I can truthfully claim that this week I’ve had three pounds of chicken and foie gras.
This statistic may give you a distorted view of my wealth unless I specify how much of the whole was chicken and how much was foie gras. The former was nearly all of it; the latter, a small slice, and even that I have only a few times a year.
By the same token, gun suicides in America far outpace gun homicides. For example, in 2019 (the most recent year for which full data are available) there were 14,414 gun homicides, but 23,941 gun suicides. And people who want to kill themselves can easily do so just by jumping off a tall building, saving the cost of a firearm.
As an aside, in the same year of 2019, 36,096 Americans were killed in car accidents. However, few people are demanding that cars be banned – this, though car ownership isn’t protected by the Constitution, and gun ownership is.
This takes us back to the Second Amendment, and all I can suggest is that people should read its text attentively, along with The Federalist Papers, in which the framers of that amendment explained the reasons for it. Even a cursory study will show that the Second Amendment had little to do with keeping burglars at bay.
Here’s its text: “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 key word there is ‘free’. People must be able to form an armed militia whenever their freedom – not their TV sets or home computers – is threatened. Who can pose such a threat?
Certainly not freelance burglars, rapists or muggers. People’s freedom can only be threatened by a state, foreign or especially their own.
James Madison, who was to the Constitution what Thomas Jefferson was to the Declaration of Independence, saw the armed population of individual states as another check on the power of the federal government.
State militias, he wrote in The Federalist Papers, “would be able to repel the danger” of a federal army gone despotic. “It may be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops,” he added.
Since Madison had a first-rate mind, he realised that any central state, be it republican, democratic, monarchic or whatnot, carries seeds of tyranny within its body. A successful, free country is one in which those seeds aren’t allowed to sprout, and an armed population can be an effective herbicide.
Madison and the other framers also knew that guns in private ownership could also be used for criminal purposes.
They realised that gun ownership came at the cost of gun murders. Yet they were convinced this price was worth paying. Freedom, they felt, was worth dying for, and for most of them these weren’t empty words. When they rebelled against George III, they knew their lives were on the line, yet to them the benefits outweighed the costs.
Before and after they declared independence, American settlers had to conquer their continent, expanding westwards from their original colonies. Guns were thus a building block of the US, and this knowledge sits side by side with the Second Amendment in the people’s viscera.
Guns are an essential part not only of the American Constitution, but also of the American’s genetic makeup and historical memory. Whatever we may think of any of those things, blithely advocating a gun ban there betrays a woeful ignorance of the issues involved.
Considering that Piers Morgan lived in the US for a long time, I’m surprised he displays such ignorance. But none so ignorant as those who won’t learn.
Thus Mr Morgan writes: “Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about school shootings in Britain because of the decisive action we took to prevent them by introducing some of the toughest restrictions in the world.”
Britain, Mr Morgan, didn’t start life as a revolutionary republic formed by armed revolt. Even though the roots of the Second Amendment go back to the 1689 English Bill of Rights, the two countries have very different cultures, histories and mentalities.
Banning guns in Britain was a simple matter – it was like pulling a tooth. Doing so in America would be more like drastic brain surgery with an uncertain outcome.
Changing gun laws is easy; changing a country’s deeply ingrained culture isn’t. It’s much harder than changing one’s innermost convictions, which Mr Morgan does regularly, depending on which media outlet is paying his wages.