"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Friday, 7 December 2007

Know Your Rights

“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.”
-Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1791

When I hear of the latest killing spree, when I see the footage of emergency teams stretchering out bodies, more often than not in the United States, I feel a hollow empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I find myself shaking my head because I am no longer shocked given the seeming inevitablity of these events. Now, the only thing left to be shocked by is the size of the number preceding the word victims. I’m sure I sound very liberal, limp and wet to almost any American who stumbles across this but I sound liberal, limp and wet in a Britain remarkably spree killing free.

This time in Nebraska a 19 year old man, who I won’t name, shot and killed eight people and injured at least four others. The names of the victims (two customers, six employees)* are Gary Scharf, 48; John McDonald, 65; Angie Shuster, 36; Maggie Webb, 24; Janet Jorgensen, 66; Diane Trent, 53; Gary Joy, 56; Beverly Flynn, 47. Sadly, the killer’s name will be the more remembered; the victims will become a mere footnote to all but their friends and families.

I don’t hold with total bans on firearms: I think the Draconian British ban on certain types of firearms was a knee-jerk reaction to exceptional events and has been ill-advised and unproductive- there is nothing wrong with sensible, well-licenced and regulated gun ownership- ask the British Olympic shooting team. However, I find it hard to fathom what possible reasons there might be for private ownership of an AK-47. The Right to Bear Arms is specifically historically rooted and, sadly, we Brits are in fact to blame for it. Sorry for that. But just once after one of these spree killings I would like to hear a majority in the U.S. or a few Congressmen ask why do we need all these guns? No doubt the old mantra is already being rehearsed: ‘guns don’t kill people, people do’- so why not limit the people allowed to have guns?

The killer’s suicide note apparently stated he wanted to ‘go out in style’: he wanted to be a celebrity and seemingly this was his only way. Celebrity would now appear to have become so idolized and all-important that it no longer matters what dubious achievment attains it or whether you even live to ‘bask’ in it. A prime-time flash of breast, a night-vision filmed internet-displayed blow-job, a live bug menu or an ability to gun down the innocent… apparently anything will do.

Does it help that killers are elevated to a position of ersatz celebrity? Manson, Brady, Hindley, Dahmer, Bundy, Gein, West… we always remember the names of the killer over their victims… even better to be Chapman, Hinckley or Oswald and kill (or try to kill) a celebrity… can’t achieve success by yourself? Ride on the back of someone else’s. Remember ‘Charlie don’t surf’? Hilarious. Seven acts of butchery, a million ‘ironic’ t-shirt sales.**

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.”
-Article 3, Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

“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… Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”
-United States Declaration Of Independence, 1776

...as long as you're the one holding the gun.

*Sourced at Wikipedia.
**And, yes, the line came from Apocalypse Now and referred to ‘Victor Charlie’, VC, Viet-Cong but it’s long since been expropriated.

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