08 August 2019, The Tablet

The dark side of the American soul


America’s love affair with guns would have mystified the drafters of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Ratified in 1791, the amendment declares: “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.” Only the second part of it is widely quoted, and the courts have refused to regard the first part as the qualification it was clearly intended to be. It represents the belief that citizens have the right to participate in a “well regulated Militia” which can rise up to overthrow tyrannical rulers, which in 1791 the British were perceived to be.

The obsession with the right to bear arms has been taken to the point where it applies even to those suffering mental illness. The United States Congress has so far failed to legislate even for this modest restriction, though the issue has taken centre stage again after the appalling events in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, the first of which killed 22 people and the second, another nine.

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