Gun Control

In Guns We Trust

This article originally appeared at Souciant, where I have a weekly column

The United States is the only country where owning a gun is considered a God-given right. For some, perhaps, it is merely held to be a constitutional right (in this, it stands with only three other countries: Guatemala, Haiti and Mexico.) But whatever level of divinity is bestowed upon it, the gun is American culture’s Golden Calf.

After the horrifying shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty children, along with six adults, were repeatedly shot dead, half the country demanded limitations on the availability of guns, especially semi-automatic weaponry.

The other half, incredibly, argued that guns were not the problem and, in a refrain that was far too common, suggested that if the teachers were armed, the killer would have been stopped. The vociferousness with which this proposal was put forward, was astonishing, considering the bloodshed. Support came from a variety of establishment quarters, and included numerous and prominent Republican officials.

Unfortunately, firearms advocates have constitutional backing, which plays no small part in undergirding our country’s culture of violence. The US Constitution was a groundbreaking document in its day, even if it has been improved upon in other countries since. However, the Second Amendment to that Constitution, which grants Americans the right to own guns, was a masterpiece of  vagueness that has left a bloody legacy behind it. Continue reading

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How Much Longer? Time To Take Guns Seriously

The latest breaking news story, as I write this, has at least a dozen children gunned down at a Connecticut elementary school, the latest example of the appalling trend in the United States of the abuse of guns. It should come as no surprise to anyone, and I, as someone who routinely writes about the devastating effects the so-called “pro-Israel” lobby has on peace, US policy and the future for both Israelis and Palestinians (the Lobby is anything but pro-Israel as its actions have demonstrably worked against the

The gun, an American icon almost as central as the flag

The gun, an American icon almost as central as the flag

interests of the Israeli people and Jews the world over), appreciate only too well how the National Rifle Association (NRA) has warped the debate over guns in this country.

So here are  a few points, and forgive any typos as weeping over dead children while I try to write is always difficult, no matter how practiced I have had to become at it.

First, it’s certainly not just the NRA or other extremists who believe everyone should have the right own a bazooka or a fully automatic high-powered machine gun. The problem is much older and much more ingrained in American culture. As with no other country, the gun is seen in the US as a symbol not only of personal security, but also as an historical icon which won the US its freedom and conquered the land “from sea to shining sea.” Many, correctly, understand that to be glorifying genocide, but it doesn’t change the reality that the wild-west gunslinger as well as the iconic image of the pioneer with his musket and, later, his rifle are at the very heart of romantic notions of American history.

But in the modern era, the discussion really comes down to the Second Amendment to the Constitution. And, as someone with a background in the study of Talmud, I can attest that the Second Amendment is unsurpassed as a piece of writing which has been parsed and reinterpreted to suit people’s needs. But here is the full text, as ratified by the states and certified by Thomas Jefferson:

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. Continue reading

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