USA, gun control debate: what will it be after the Orlando attack?

Thursday, 07 July 2016 12:49
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by Valeria Sforzini
EPOS Insights


The second amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads: «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». Orlando’s slaughter highlighted many of America’s contradictions, from the right of a civilian to bear and carry guns, military-style weapons and assault rifles without an effective control, to racial and sexual discriminations that still haven’t been defeated. Gun control opponents link the right to carry arms, even the most dangerous ones, to self-defence and personal security.

Donald Trump, whose campaign is supported by the lobby NRA, national rifle association, recently affirmed: «Gun ownership makes US safer, not more dangerous» and again: «No limits on guns; they save lives».

6 are the American States’ Constitutions that do not include this right: California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York. As concerns the other 44 States, how many of their constitutional principles can be still considered valid? It may sound anachronistic to fight for a law created in 1776 to justify self-defence during Native American and Yankee wars. The main problem is that there are still many politicians that make a paternalistic use of this law or that use guns as the main objective of their campaign, and even more citizens that base their vote on gun provisions andtry to defend this alleged freedom.

Article I, §21 of Pennsylvania Constitution, that dates back to 1790, safeguards the right of a civilian to bear arms in the name of self-defence and in order to protect his family and his State, while in West Virginia the right to keep and bear arms is also provided for «lawful hunting and recreational use». At the same time, the majority of these provisions highlight the importance of state controls over the possession of weapons and the alert condition that a complete freedom in this subject could create. As it can be read in article 17 Pt. 1 of Massachusetts Constitution written in 1780: «[…] in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it».

Second Amendment shows clearly both pros and cons: personal security and recreational use of weapons but also subordination to civil power and danger for freedom. The fact that, during all these years, nobody tried to overcome these contradictions with a revised legislation cannot be justified in the light of recent statistics, like the one carried out by the Duke University’s sociologist, Kieran Healy, who points at the United States as the nation with the highest number of assault deaths among the most developed countries. The outgoing president Barack Obama affirmed, in October 2012: «I believe in 2nd Amendment, but not war weapons on streets» and underlined the necessity to give justice to gun violence’s victims.

Gun control and tough discussions about self-defence, violence and terrorism turned on the Presidential election campaign after the recent, tragic Pulse attack.

Keeping away the enemies of the state but letting them buy guns and weapons is a nonsense that creates the basis of Trump’s campaign. In his opinion, laws would not be useful in this kind of situation; the only solution would be to enforce the mental health system, to give arms to everybody with the instructions to maximize their performance. In his view, it would be a fundamental step towards security the removal of gun-free zones, as they only constitute a “target practice for sickos”. Furthermore, the advertisement of assault rifles and of military-style weapons would only limit a right of which good and honest people are entitled to.

It’s scary to see how easily lobbyism, violence and widespread discrimination have been supported by millions of citizens. To address mental illness as the main cause of slaughters could create new and alarming consequences like wider discrimination and drastic solutions in terms of reclusion and isolation “and hide the real causes, creating an alibi to avoid legislating in this subject”. The alternative proposed by Trump to create watch-lists of Muslims and of refugees inside America’s borders is not only a non-solving solution but it would also constitute a clear violation of basic human rights principles because of all gun deaths in the U.S, terrorism accounts for an insignificant share.

Since 2002, according to data from the New America Foundation, 94 Americans have been killed in violent jihadist attacks on American soilwhile, only during the same weekend of Orlando’s shooting, other 93 American people were victims of gun violence in the US. The situation in action in the USA is an undeniable regression. It brings our minds back to the “security dilemma”, to an arms race that could, in the worst scenario, be extended also to America’s foreign policy. A new, dangerous face of uncertainty and fear has been given to the new millennium, but the common hope is that the new American Greatness will not turn into an American Regime.


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy

Last modified on Friday, 08 July 2016 13:19
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