Robert Bolton argues that the American Second Amendment is a dangerous piece of the Constitution.
The Arizona Daily Star put my feelings and the feelings of many oth- ers perfectly: ‘someone should do something. But no one does’. In the wake of the Aurora tragedy that occurred during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in July, I thought the description of James Holmes matched that of the villain Bane in the film, prompting me to think this was a guy who became so obsessed with the trilogy he thought it was real life. But my thoughts changed from reflecting on media violence, to a much more grounded and complex issue: the American Second Amendment.
The Aurora shooting does not represent a once off event. Ironically, just as the Joker in the Dark Knight mocked how people can end up just as evil has himself, James Holmes has left his own subtle insult on Ameri- can society – the insult being that Americans are powerless to do any- thing about this tragedy, as they are just too convicted when it comes to the right to arms and prison as a means to fight crime.
It’s commonly held that ‘evil’ lies in the actions of ‘bad’ people. A murder is evil, abuse is evil, and James Holmes is evil because we see no good in the taking of twelve innocent lives. But perhaps evil not only lies in the actions of a person, but also in the inaction of people and their politi- cians. The ‘not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’ quote rings a bell here. Mass shootings in the United States are all too familiar. It is like a yearly punishment which America must endure for its over-individualistic and patriotic attitudes. Americans seem to love the Second Amendment to the extent that not even death can kill this romance. But if the US has any hope of significantly reducing gun crime, it must tackle the causes of these problems – of which I will deal with one here, the right to bear arms.
Silence is not a sound but a noise. It is a noise that has rung 23 times in Congress when the issue of gun control is brought up for debate ac- cording Diana DeGette, a Colorado congresswoman. She has asserted that Congress doesn’t even want to hear about guns. So how many more shootings will it take the US to realize that not everyone will use a gun for the purpose of self-defence? How many more shootings will it take Americans to understand that their belief in the rights to bear arms is destructive? I believe it is only in dismantling this constitutional taber- nacle that gun crime and attitudes towards crime in America will change for the better.
The second amendment seems to acknowledge that violent crime is an inevitable part of society and that in order to protect its citizens, the US needs laws that allow citizens to counteract this inevitability. It is well known in Sociological literature that poverty, social exclusion, and in- equality play a large role in creating the violent criminal. Sadly, capital- ism is a system that creates inequality, because the premise of capitalism is that everybody has a chance and a right to fulfil their American dream, that everybody has an equal chance to become the millionaire. But not everybody can own a palace, as a palace requires servants.
Further, the American tendency to hype individualism to the point of manic delusion, and an oppressing and regressive lack of understand- ing of how humans behave, needs considered and weighted deliberation. James Holmes has full responsibility for his crimes, which is undeniable. But we cannot always assume that violent criminals have full responsi- bility for the way they think. Thankfully, violent crime can be prevented. However, it must first acknowledge that there is a limit to individual responsibility. For example, psychiatrist James Gilligan argues that the severe abuse that many of the most violent criminals have endured when they were younger is one of the reasons they have the ability to commit violent crimes. Abuse, he argues, numbs their emotions so much that they literally cannot feel anything anymore. As a result, they are the liv- ing dead. They can kill because they feel neither compassion nor regret.
Now, the reason why I don’t commit violent crimes is because I am an emotional and compassionate being. The point I’m making is that it’s not anyone’s fault that the abuse they have suffered has numbed their emo- tions to the point of not feeling any emotions. So in order for Americans to realise that mass shootings like the Aurora shooting can be prevented, they must realise that there are external forces that create people like James Holmes and that people can be influenced by these external forces to the point of acquiring a potentially violent psychological makeup.
Everyone should have a right to defend themselves. But perhaps Ameri- cans, and the rest of humanity, should go a little further. Why not say, ‘everyone has a right to live in a society without crime’? Americans are very convicted and proud when it comes to rights. The constitution is the basis for rights and Americans worship it. Maybe if they believed they have a right to live in a violent-free society, the political and cultural landscape might change to preventing crime in the first place, and so there would be no need for a right to arm. It’s amazing what the belief in rights can do. The belief in the Second Amendment is so powerful, mass shootings or rampant gun crime have not even stirred progressive politi- cal debate. Indeed, it rarely has. The right to arms is just too important for Americans.