I have a bone to pick with the right to carry a gun, and it’s a major one that has been successfully and unnervingly running through my conscience for years. It is one that so far I thought I could deal with, provided the necessary regulation was being enforced, but what happened in Tucson proved that there are only so many loopholes one can ignore before a nation decides to collectively shy away from the bloodshed.

Ever since Michael Moore released his groundbreaking documentary “Bowling for Columbine”, investigating the gun lobby surrounding the ability a 16 years old had to purchase a semi-automatic rifle with which to shoot down his schoolmates, the debate on gun control has raged in Congress. Until it died down, like all great ideas, stifled by more pressing preoccupations (going to war), nipped in the bud by overwhelming amounts of money (gun lobbyists) and a certainly respectable admiration for the Constitution. However, ever since the 2008 election, and the increasing amount of miles covered by the railroad tracks of the Tea Party Express, a sense of growing discontent – perfectly understandable – has found a way to express itself outside of the usual democratic process. The call to violence, of not-so-peaceful civil disobedience, is an issue most democracies have had to deal with in the past. Riots, rebellions, violent protests, hard repression by law enforcement, they all come into play whenever a government displays an appalling failure to satisfy those it was elected to represent. The catch here, exposed by the recent Tucson shooting, is a very American one. Because in America, contrary to other western democracies, it is perfectly legal to carry a gun and to use it. And we all know what happens when someone is pissed and already has a finger on a trigger.

The United States ranks fourth in the list of countries fighting gun crime. That is behind South Africa, a country in an almost permanent state of civil war, and Colombia, a nation where drug cartels are taking the population hostage. In 2005, the FBI reports that 75% of violent deaths were caused by a firearm. In 2004, 36.5% of Americans reported owning a handgun.

The Guardian published an article by Alexander Chancellor on January 14th aptly titled “the insanity of America’s lax gun laws“. This is indeed a country pretending to fight off terrorism, yet allowing people on the terror watch list to buy a gun; this is a country that was once the pride of Eleanor Roosevelt, who fought for the protection and care for the mentally ill, yet allowing mentally ill people to purchase a gun; Arizona, the state where the shooting took place, allows people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Not only can just anyone purchase a lethal weapon and carry it around with them, regardless of whether it has been assessed that they were fit and trained to use it, but they can choose to hide it from law enforcement and not be ever apprehended. The word “insanity” hardly begins to cover the gaping horror that America’s gun laws have inflicted and will continue to inflict on the american people. It is one thing to endorse police departments and federal agencies such as the FBI or the infamous Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) bureau to investigate gun crimes and help the prosecution. It is one another to flood the nation with what they are precisely trying to fight.  It’s a never ending vicious circle of hatred, bloodshed, and, ultimately, death and sorrow. Those are not attributes you’d want to pin on a healthy, independant and strong country. A country that willingly puts its citizens in harm’s way is one that should be under tutelage, not in charge of invading other countries.

It will be for other bloggers and commenters to make a case study of the culture of violence in the United States. I for one will like to see the Second Amendment, if not repealed, at least amended in a way that will not allow Congressmen to vote in favour of cop-killing bullets or undetectable plastic guns. As the votes show, this is not a partisan issue. That Dick Cheney was one of four Congressmen, only four, to allow the free circulation, access and purchase of ammunition that has no role and place in civil, peaceful society and that is so clearly aimed at disrupting the course of justice by precisely attacking those (supposedly) placed to have it respected. It’s nothing short of government-approved chaos.

And when said chaos is so openly preached by those seeking democratic approval to gain office, this turns into a scenario one should only witness in science-fiction or B-rated movies. Sharron Angle, a hopeful runner in the Nevada gubernatorial race this year, has claimed that, should she not win the election (she didn’t), her unhappy audience should not hesitate to turn towards “Second Amendment remedies”. There is no subjective interpretation possible: Sharron Angle, who claims the government is anti-american, yet still runs for government, also believes that her personal failure and unsatisfaction should lead to armed insurrection. To her credit, her fellow Tea Party idol, Sarah Palin, did release a video in which she asserts that what is most American is not violence, but virulence in debate; that the democracy survives and persists through a commonly shared values and ideals surrounding freedom and tolerance; that it is through discussion, conversation, and exchange of ideas that a nation grows and stays united. It is not through “gun remedies”, in short, that one gets their point across. In that, Sharron Angle is nothing short of a terrorist, if the way of violence and insurrection is the only one she can see out of the disappointment she feels with the Obama administration.

What to do, then, when a citizen can’t even rely on its elected (or almost elected) officials to preach the way of non-violence? What is left of a properly working democracy when its very core institution, the Congress, is ripe with lobbying money from an organization as extremist as the NRA, that does not hesitate to put a halt to bills even remotely connected to gun ownership, even when it has to do with animal cruelty? There is one way out of this stinking hole, and that’s a new amendment.

Do not think that I take this lightly or underestimate the importance of amending the Constitution. I am a self-professed strict constitutionalist that has nothing but reverence for fundamental texts. I believe that the United States Constitution is one of the most admirable texts to have ever sprung out of a lawmaker’s mind, especially in dire times of revolution and distress. But as with any law, it was written in a specific context, it is bound to its history, to the time and place in which it was written. The Second Amendment was more than necessary for the Founding Fathers, as they were fighting off the biggest Empire, and were trying to create a nation-state out of virtually nothing. They had fled from religious persecution, from seizure of property, and thought well to endorse their new land with the legal possibility of fighting for your freedom, protecting your wife and children from an enemy (“both foreign and domestic”), and retain control of your house. However, this is 2011; and law enforcement has been specifically created, at federal and state level, to protect the citizen from unlawful behaviour.

As far as I am concerned, trust in the Second Amendment to ensure the viability of your land and your own life expectancy means mistrust and growing defiance against your government to do exactly just that. If I am in awe of the boldness of the amendment for its historical value and what it socially represents for the times, I believe it is now a threat. The Second Amendment can simply not exist if it is taken literally. This very interesting and telling graph represents the intercorrelation between gun ownership and gun crime. It doesn’t take a masters in science to understand that the very fact violence is legally and readily available breeds violence.

And when said violence targets an elected official, during the course of their duty, then it is the whole country that is targeted; it is the whole

Yes, that poster exists. Little known fact, gun nuts: the Statue of Liberty is called to ENLIGHTEN the people, not KILL them.

institution of Congress that is being at risk, and as a whole, the nation itself and the democracy it upholds. The Constitution does not constitute holy writ; it is a legal reference, a political framework, a social ideology, but in no way does it ever set in stone the way the nation should work. Lest we forget the same text once contained the now decried three-fifths compromise, or banned women from voting. It enforced segregation at a time, and never mentioned equality until a series of Supreme Court decisions forced the word into the text. The Constitution is a text that is by very nature changing, evolving, moving. It adapts itself to the very society it is called upon to rule, and as such should be a reflection of the way the society ought to behave. A Constitution can be changed and amended; it has been before, and shall be again. The right to bear arms can be strictly limited to situations of emergency, to screened or authorized personel, or submitted to thorough background checks (that are hardly ever applied in today’s gun shops). Not everyone should have the right to carry with themselves the potential to take a life. Anyone claiming that the Second Amendment is in fact a protection against death is seriously mistaken. They’re fooling themselves in thinking that a gun has a coercive power. It doesn’t. A gun is meant to kill; this is what it’s been manufactured for. The complex machinery of conscience that is set in motion once one hits the trigger is one that not only alters the thought process of the shooter, but on a national level, is capable of altering the very fabric of society.

We all live in fear of one another, and one tragedy after the other, we are justified in our fear. It isolates us, divides us, and forces us apart at times when we should learn to unite, hold tight, and face the pain. It is time to let the NRA back into the hunting shack where it belongs, along with other barbaric and obsolete processes meant to end human life in the most painful, careless and cruel ways. Those animalistic methods are not worthy of the mandate we gave each other when we decided to vote on the ending of war, the closing of illegal prisons, and the promise of health care for all. We wanted a society in which we would feel safe and protected. So why are we walking down the street with the potential of aiming at each other and pulling the trigger? What is it, at the end of the day – the fear of the other, or simply the fear of ourselves and of we might just be capable of?