An American obsession

The Republican gun obsession is the reason for the deaths of young children in Sandy Hook — not Muslims

Hassan Niazi March 01, 2018
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and also teaches at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He holds an LLM from New York University where he was a Hauser Global Scholar. He tweets @HNiaziii

Picture this in Trump’s America: On a Wednesday morning in Parkland, Florida, a Muslim immigrant enters Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, massacres 17 people with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle.

Now the aftermath: a Republican calls for stricter immigration laws, bans on Muslim immigrants, maybe talks of a Muslim registry? As Trump imagines, rubbing his hands together in anticipation of all the fear and hate he can exploit. Even if, under the American Constitution, some of his proposed ‘solutions’ are deemed unconstitutional; hard decisions, says Trump, must be taken for the safety of the American people.

Parkland exposes the hypocrisy of Trump and his fellow Republicans. The problem is not immigrants, the problem is easy access to guns in America, which Republicans have created and must attempt to deflect at each opportunity by blaming others. However, when people like Nikolas Cruz, Adam Lanza or Stephen Paddock carry firearms to inflict damage upon Americans, Trump and his fellow Republicans have nobody to blame but themselves.

As an outsider I never quite understood the American obsession with allowing people as young as 18 years of age to carry deadly weapons. While countries like the UK made it increasingly difficult to obtain firearms, the American narrative ran in its opposite. Much of this, I learned, was due to the Second Amendment to the US Constitution: the right to bear arms.

By effectively giving its citizens the right to own guns the American Constitution has made legislative measures attempting to remedy the issue like that of the Nikolas Cruz’s nigh impossible. So far, any legislative measures trying to curb access to guns has either been ineffective, or frustrated by the interpretation of the Second Amendment by a Republican majority Supreme Court. Therefore, leaving to do away with the archaic guarantee giving citizens the right to bear arms the only way to deal with the issue.

This shouldn’t be difficult as the amendment bears no relevance to the America of today. Its historical origins suggest it was never meant to give a ‘personal right’ to citizens, to carry concealed handguns wherever and whenever they wanted; it was never meant to allow for AR-15 style rifles in the hands of 18-year-olds. History points to the opposite. For its drafters, the perspective gained from the War of Independence was crucial. The war effort relied heavily on small militias, the need to retain such armed militias was seen as necessary if the newly-created federal government turned tyrannical against the individual states. That fear has proved, over the course of 200 years, to be unfounded. Yet, even if we ignore that, it was the freedom given to state armies to fight back against the tyranny of the federation that concerned the framers of the American Constitution when they drafted the Second Amendment. Not the use of guns for non-military purposes like hunting and personal self-defence.

Unfortunately, the latter view that prevails in America of today, giving people like Nikolas Cruz the right to carry a firearm, is unlikely to change any time soon. The Republican composition of the Supreme Court guarantees that. The Americans can therefore only hope for the repeal of the Second Amendment. However, even this effort is doomed to fail. With the large amount of funds being pumped into the Republican Party coffers by the NRA, it is difficult to see the required numbers for a constitutional amendment coming together in a Republican Congress.

The Republican gun obsession is the reason for the deaths of young children in Sandy Hook — not Muslims. The grasping on to an archaic constitutional provision is the reason for Parkland — not Mexican immigrants. The NRA’s backing of Trump’s presidential campaign is the reason why there have already been eight school shootings in America in 2018 without Trump addressing the issue.

With Florida, we can only hope Republicans finally see the truth and stop trying to make fools out of the American people by blaming its minorities.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2018.

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