TUMBY BAY - If you watch any imported American police program on commercial television you’d be forgiven for assuming that the solution to any problem is a gun.
These programs, with their officious acronyms like NCIS, SVU and CSI, feature a never ending barrage of good guys ending the nefarious deeds of bad guys in a blaze of gunfire. Every situation seems to end in gun play.
I’ve no idea what these acronyms stand for but they create the distinct impression that the USA is run by a bunch of testosterone-charged teenagers.
The ownership of firearms and the right to use them are regarded as sacrosanct in the USA by virtue of the second amendment to its constitution. This was ratified on 15 December 1791 as part of a Bill of Rights.
“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," the amendment allowed.
Back then, the right to ‘keep and bear arms’ had a number of purposes, including enabling the people to organise a militia system, participate in law enforcement, safeguard against ‘tyrannical government’, repel invasion and suppress insurrection.
The insurrection that the creators of the amendment had in mind was one led by slaves. Guns were needed to keep people of colour supressed.
Nowadays the same ideology runs to suppressing anyone of difference, be it colour, almond eyes, crinkly hair or any other form of otherness.
One of the other main reasons the amendment was thought necessary was because, during the War of Independence (1775–83), the British rulers had sought to disarm the people for fear they were revolutionaries.
Another reason was that in those days no police force or standing army existed which could provide safety and security and militias were thought necessary for protection and good order.
Without a regular army and police force (which in England was not established until 1829), it was considered the duty of ordinary people to maintain the law and assist the suppression of uprisings.
The USA now has a huge standing military and many and varied police forces so the right to bear arms in that context is no longer relevant.
Given that fact, you would think that any sane government would quickly move to disarm citizens who might be thinking about insurrection.
This hasn’t happened of course. The reason is because the second amendment is regarded as sacrosanct and thus cannot be changed.
Why this is so is strange is because the second amendment is just that, an amendment. Surely an amendment can be itself amended?
Or perhaps there is something else at play.
Right wing capitalists who want free reign to plunder don’t want any government interference in their activities.
Maintaining the right to bear arms through organisations like the National Rifle Association is now the totem of such people in their resistance to government regulation.
It is a position of standoff with the government that plays well in their song book.
There is also lots of money to be made feeding gun-toting citizens with lots of increasingly lethal firearms.
This would be well and good if the Americans kept their beliefs to themselves. They could go on slaughtering each other with their guns while the rest of us got on with saner lives.
Unfortunately they also export their beliefs in television cop shows and increasingly violent films featuring incessant gun play.
Not to mention the small wars they generate across the face of the earth.
This stuff is certainly not benign. Neither does it reinforce the message of good transcending evil. What it does is simply illustrate the might of the gun. The gun is power and power is all.
Even in remote places like Papua New Guinea, violent American films are very popular. Raskol gang members model themselves after Rambo, as do gun-wielding tribal thugs in the highlands.
The power of the gun has a long history in PNG. The presence of firearms in the hands of the colonisers underpinned what made the early pacification of warring or aggressive tribes possible.
Getting the message across that problems can be solved without resort to violence and guns is severely compromised by gun cultures.
The current standoff between China and the US could descend into warfare. The Chinese are currently only using economic measures in a trade ‘war’ but the Americans may have more than tariffs and embargoes in mind.
Who would have thought that what started off as ordinary people throwing off oppression could end in the possible annihilation of the world.