In America the gun debate is a political issue. Those on the Right tend to be very vocal about citizens right to bear arms as stated in the second amendment to the American constitution. Republicans often claim those on the Left have no respect for the constitution.
Those on the Left reject this criticism. Few Democrats argue for a total ban on weapons. However they are critical of America’s National Rifle Association (NRA) and see it as a group with far too much influence and control on government. Broadly speaking, Democrats want to limit the availability of guns, hence Obama’s recommendations.
I still maintain (as I wrote here) that ultimately us Brits won’t get our heads completely around this important debate. But we can move beyond a simplistic “guns are bad, let’s ban them” attitude that shows complete ignorance of the real issues.
Britain and America are incredibly close in many ways. But when it comes to ‘gun culture’ we couldn’t be more different. We must keep this in mind when we think through political issues that are foreign to us.
I’ve chosen to focus on arguments for guns, plus short responses from the other side of the debate. The reason for this is I think among Brits there’s a lack of understanding of why Americans would want to own guns in the first place. If Brits understand just a little bit of why guns are so important to Americans, perhaps we can help move the debate forward, rather than writing off Americans as crazies and loonies (like I’ve seen so many people doing recently). Just because someone has a different strongly held opinion to you, doesn’t mean their an idiot. I had hoped this was common sense, but recent comments suggest otherwise…
Three Top Arguments FOR Guns, plus responses
1. The Constitution
For a lot of Americans the Constitutions is holy. It’s set apart and not to be messed with under any circumstances.
The second amendment says: “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.”
This single sentence explains why in the eyes of many Americans, it is necessary for gun ownership to be legal: It’s seen as a law which allows America to be free and secure.
The initial response is often an emotional one: “How many more massacres does America have to endure before tighter restrictions are put in place? How many more lives need to be lost? What’s more important – saving lives or saving the constitution?”
The constitution has been changed before (hence the word “amendment”), and some argue that now is the time for it to be changed again. But most Americans don’t want to rip up the constitution. They are happy for some people to own guns.These people who advocate for tighter restrictions are desperate to find a way of preventing more massacres. Those such as Obama believe part of the answer lies in tighter legislation.
2. Individual Protection
Why is there a “right to bear arms” in the first place? It’s because Americans want to be able to defend themselves.
Those on the Right tend to be sceptical of big government control in Washington. They would balk at some UK legislation (such as it being illegal to drive while using a mobile phone) which in their eyes limits the individual’s freedom.
This scepticism of authority structures results in a greater emphasis being placed on the individual to take care of themselves and not rely on institutions such as the police. How do you take care of yourself? You get a gun. These people rightly point out that if you get burgled, drawing a gun on the intruder is going to sort things out a lot quicker than dialling 911 and waiting for the cops to arrive.
Anti gun campaigners tend to have a lot more faith in authority structures. They would argue that America isn’t the Wild West anymore and would doubt the necessity of carrying a firearm 24/7 to protect you. For those who want to bring religion in, the argument here would be “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” (to quote Ghandi misunderstanding Jewish law). In other words you don’t stop violence and bad people by buying a gun, otherwise the cycle of violence in society becomes never-ending. “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword”.
3. National Protection
Talk to a gun rights activist long enough and this issue will come up. It sounds a little conspiracy theory-esq until you realise history is very much on their side.
The argument goes like this…We don’t know who is going to be elected to the White House next. Democracy doesn’t always work. If we end up with a dictatorship or a tyrant, we want to have the power to overthrow them. Owning a gun gives us that power.
Modern European history proves dictators can quickly rise to power – even in a democracy. As much as those on the Right dislike Obama, they aren’t concerned he’s going to turn into a Middle Eastern style dictator. “But who knows what the future holds?” gun rights activists say. These Americans would rather be safe than sorry. They’d rather be able to defend themselves but not need to than not be able to defend themselves when they do need to!
On a much smaller level, there’s the issue of crime. Gun rights activists argue that statistics show that the more guns there are, the less crime there is. “Why do you think gun stores never get robbed? They know someone will fire back!” one person said to me recently. It’s also true that mass shootings often happen where guns are completely banned – shopping malls, schools and cinemas. The argument goes that if guns weren’t banned in such places, it could a) act as a deterrent as b) if something terrible were to happen, people could respond by firing back.
Response: Few historians would argue against the premise that very bad people can work their way to the top of entire nations. What is disputed is whether citizens owning guns would be any real threat to a government in charge of one of the world’s most powerful armies.
As for crime, this is very much a battle of statistics. The more guns there are, the more gun deaths there are. But it’s also true to say the more guns there are, the less overall crime there is. No single statistic tells the whole story, as this helpful info-graphic states.
For the third guest post looking at the tricky subject of patriotism, I’ve invited a friend from the Midwest of America to contribute. Here, Chris Johnson explains why despite corruption in the political system and growing trends to the contrary, she remains patriotic.
As I have tried to write this, I’m pretty sure I’ve written and deleted more words than I would ever care to count! The hard time that I’ve had gathering my thoughts has caused me to ask myself some questions:
Firstly, “What is patriotism?” Webster’s 1828 dictionary says: “Patriotism is love of one’s country, the passion which aims to serve one’s country, either in defending it from invasion, or protecting its rights & maintaining its laws & institutions in vigor & purity. Patriotism is the characteristic of a good citizen, the noblest passion that animates a man in the character of a citizen.” I liked this definition. It feels right. Challenging, but right.
Am I patriotic? I have always felt like I was patriotic…unashamedly patriotic! But I must confess that in recent years, I have become somewhat disillusioned by the evidence of corruption I’ve seen. I see it in the federal government and I see it in both major parties. I hate this! I have felt disgusted by some of the things I’ve become aware of. It not only disgusts me, but it’s heart-breaking. This is not what our founding fathers would have wanted.
Has this corruption of my government caused me to be less patriotic? I don’t think so, especially when I compare how I ‘feel’ about my country to the above definition. I have not given up defending the rights of this great nation – even when we have to defend them against our own leaders.
I am still proud to be an American. I am still thankful to live in a nation who offers so many precious freedoms (for now anyway). I am so thankful to be able to read the history of our founding fathers of this nation and to read their testimony of God’s Hand at work in their own lives, as well as the life of this country. And I still believe all of this is worth fighting for!
This country was populated by people who wanted a better life and believed that through hard work their dreams of a good life could be fulfilled. That spirit & dream lives on in men and women today who through hard work and a dream can achieve anything. This belief and idea fuels our patriotism.
I’ve noticed that during the last several years, it’s become quite popular to be decidedly unpatriotic. I believe this is a fairly new thing. When I was younger you rarely heard anyone speak disrespectfully about our nation. (ok, here I should admit that I have lived my entire life in the Midwest. Things are sometimes different here, I know!) We wouldn’t always like who was in the White House, but as for this country, we were proud to be Americans! But for some reason these words have become something to say if you want to start a debate!
Are you proud to be British? Philip-Anthony Gardner is. In the second part of my series on patriotism, Philip lays out what he believes ‘Britishness’ means…
When the chance came to write for Sam about what it means to me to be British, I jumped at the opportunity. Now I know what you’re thinking. You are imagining I’m going to start a speech about the British Empire and about ‘small c conservatism’, the Queen and afternoon tea. Well, not quite.
I’m not a Conservative. I’m not a royalist. I am British, however, because the UK today is what my grandparents and yours made it.
I am the grandson of a war-refugee, and of an immigrant who came to Britain to be educated. I am the grandson of a man who served as a soldier in the fight against Fascism, and of a woman who went to Oxford to study even though people around her did not think she belonged because of pervasive sexist attitudes.
This country is a product of their generation, and it is because of them that I am so proud to be British.
It is my grandfather who served with his school friends in the army, who brought home with him a young wife who had been made homeless by that same conflict. Who served his community as a local council member while his wife went to do the most important of all things; teach others.
It is my grandmother who went to Oxford to learn and better herself, despite the ridicule and anger it provoked. It was her husband, who taught law in universities and helped emerging new states write constitutions.
Two mixed marriages in terms of nationality, a set of values of tolerance, the rule of law and equality that is typically British.
Of course, being British is not all there is, certainly not in my life. Being British is also about being European. It is about believing in the values that abolished war on a continent, about celebrating the wonderful history, the languages and the cultures that make up this place. Not everything about the great European project works, but that’s the best thing about it. We are still in the process of building and strengthening our society and the way it operates. If everything was perfect, what would be the point, after all?
My parents taught me the value of Europe. From my father working in human rights law to my mother interpreting and studying languages, they both taught me the importance of different perspectives informing your beliefs and morality.
Like all great identities, I believe my British and European attitudes have much to learn from another. I treasure the sense of fair play that is inherent to this country, and indignant reaction we all have to people cheating the system. That said, I believe the European attitude towards intellectualism is so much more rewarding, none of this ‘too clever by half’ business. The two personalities belong together, warts and all. What political will, peace and shared values has brought together, let no man tear asunder.
The Britain that has been built is one we should all be proud of. Not because it is perfect, but because it tries to be. It honours the fallen in the most moving of ways on Armistice Day. It is polite and bloody-minded all at the same time. It is knowledgeable and arrogant concurrently. It gave the world the welfare state and William Shakespeare. It gave you free healthcare and a belief that society should value people regardless of background. Those who shirk faith in what Britain stands for just because it is fashionable are anything but. Their dissidence is as bland as flag-waving is; we have simply seen it all before.
Being British is something that fills me with pride. I am proud of the opportunities this country gives me and others. I am proud of the service our nurses, police officers and armed forces do. I am proud of the way we honour tradition, and the way we are so intolerant of intolerance.
It means something to me when I hear the national anthem, and when I see Adele go global being so different. It meant everything to me when Jess Ennis conquered the world, and when Ellie Simmonds did it as well. To see us triumph in the Paralympics (that we came up with) and punch so above our weight in the Olympics brought me to tears again and again. Did it not you?
Honest hard work, and a belief that we can be stronger tomorrow than we are today. That’s what it means to be British. It is absolutely something to be proud of.
Opening this post with anything other than a tribute to those who were killed on Friday would be wrong.
Whether you are pro or anti guns is irrelevant. Everyone agrees this was a terrible tragedy.
Now, the following historical cycle must be broken… 1) A tragic shooting in America 2) Calls for ‘now is not the time to debate guns’ 3) The tragedy remembered, the debate forgotten.
The predominant view of UK residents re American gun laws is one filled with a total lack of understanding. Many admit to this. “I just don’t get it,” said one tweeter.
Of course you don’t get it! You haven’t grown up in a country where a huge percentage of the population own a gun. You’ve never walked into their community, sat down and asked questions about gun control. You don’t understand why people would own a gun because you’ve had the chance to ask a gun owner that very question.
Those currently sitting on their high horses think it’s a simple issue. Get rif of the guns, then no one can kill anyone.
But as proverbs says “The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines.”
This group of “we-know-it-all-uk-residents” (one of them even dared to call America ‘the facepalm nation’) aren’t hearing the other side of the argument. They’ve made up their mind and don’t want to be confused with the facts.
Gun ownership isn’t a moral issue. UK Christians need to stop attacking US Christians who own guns. It’s not morally wrong to own a weapon. In the same way it’s not morally wrong to own a kitchen knife! Now is it a good idea? Well that’s very much open for debate. But it’s a debate. NOT a black and white moral issue.
Those reading this post as a defence of guns are mistaken. It’s not. It’s a defence of Americans and America. They aren’t stupid. They understand the issues better than any UK resident ever will. The gun debate is for US residents to have. I’m not saying those of us in the UK have nothing to offer, but at the moment it’s probably best if we all shut up. Including me.
If you’re downloading music or films without paying for them, you’re probably breaking the law.
People don’t care they are breaking the law. But if they worked in the music industry and witnessed redundancies all around them because of illegal downloading, they probably would!
Today I stumbled across a recent live Christian worship album uploaded in its entirety to YouTube. This was not done by the producer, record label or artist. It was done by someone who didn’t own the copyright. I politely pointed this out to him, and he kindly promised to remove it. His excuse? He didn’t know it was illegal.
You may think I’m being picky and being a kill joy. Many of you seemed to have this impression when I relayed some of the above on Twitter. I was shocked at the number of Christians defending this person’s actions!
So let’s deconstruct some of the arguments for illegally streaming or downloading music and see if they stand up…
I believe we as Christians should be leading the way in acting within the law and acting morally and in accordance with our own scriptures (Rom13:1-2)
1) It’s not stealing because it’s not physical!
According to this argument, when it comes to downloading, there isn’t a physical object to take so it can’t be called stealing.
I don’t know of many people who would steal a CD for the artwork! They steal it for the information (songs) on it. When people download – they are taking that same information. So the same product is being taken. It may not be being taken in the same manner, but the outcome is the same.
2) The artists earn too much money anyway. They won’t notice a few quid lost because I didn’t buy their CD.
Christians, let’s get a few facts straight: Probably the best selling Christian CD of the last 18 months was Spirit Break Out. It reached number 9 in the iTunes chart, and according to the people involved, it hasn’t even broken even yet! Worship leaders are clearly not rolling in it. You have to sell millions, not thousands to make a big profit.
But that point is actually an aside.
By the above logic, I could steal Rihanna’s car because she’s already rich and can afford another one.
But I don’t refrain from stealing music or cars because it will or won’t damage people. I refrain from stealing because it’s morally wrong.
3) I just illegally stream or download so I can decide if I like it. If I like it then I’ll buy it.
This is a really common argument. The ’try before you buy’ attitude sounds great to begin with, but what is it based on?
It’s based on the idea that stealing is only stealing if you hang on to something for a certain period of time.
So you could argue the first 45 minutes of listening to an album is not stealing, it’s just sampling/trying. The argument implies that if I continued to enjoy the product and held onto it for X hours or days then it would be considered stealing and wrong. But where’s the limit?
The limit is hour 0. In other words, unless you’ve already paid the money, it’s wrong and it’s stealing.
4) All music should be free, anyway!
These people want there to be a world where everyone benefits from the joys of music, but no one has to pay for it.
Can you imagine walking up to someone who already struggles to sell tickets to their gigs or get money from album sales and telling them to “just do it all for free!”? These people have mortgages to pay and children to feed.
To those illegally downloading music saying “it should be free”, can I just point out there’s already a legal and free way of listening to music? Spotify.
You have NO excuse to illegally stream music on YouTube now that Spotify is here. Thanks to Spotify – the person who wants music to be free, gets what they want. But they get it without damaging the artist.
It is shocking to me that we need to have a discussion on what constitutes stealing and what doesn’t. But all the statistics suggest that’s exactly what needs to happen. (Seeing as Ed Sheeran’s album is the most illegally downloaded, perhaps we also need to have a discussion on what constitutes good music? But we’ll save that for another time)
While I believe it’s wrong to steal regardless of your religious beliefs, I’m primarily aiming this post at my fellow Christians. Check Rom13:1-2 again. Too many are setting a bad example, damaging the very industry (Christian music/film) they claim to love and deliberately ignoring God’s commandments.
Sorry for the preach, but this isn’t an issue that’s going to go away. I welcome your comments and am more than happy to debate this if need be…
1) Number one will come as no great surprise to anyone who keeps up with the news. Thanks to Reuters (who said investigative journalism was dead?) it has emerged that Starbucks UK paid no corporation tax for three years. Critics urge a boycott, defenders point out Starbucks haven’t broken the law. The debate about tax evasion vs tax avoidance continues…
2) From finance to politics (dull, isn’t it?). A lobbying group known as “Dump Starbucks” are also calling for a boycott. Why? At the beginning of the year executive vice president Kalen Holmes released a statement titled “Starbucks Supports Same Sex Marriage“. Interestingly, Ben & Jerrys have come out (for want of a better phrase) with the same opinion. One group has managed to collect a whopping…285 signatures against them. *Snigger*
3) Zionism! Yes, that’s right; my love of Starbucks and Israel have collided. While the idea that Starbucks itself somehow supports Israel is false, the CEO Howard Schultz was honoured in 1998 with “The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award” for his services in “playing a key role in promoting close alliance between the United States and Israel.”
4) Firearms. And you thought the last point was a bit wacky. But yes, just as I’m beginning to scrape the barrel for ideas, my American friend informs me that the company support concealed carrying of firearms in US stores! Despite having the right as a retailer to ban customers from entering stores with weapons, Starbucks have declined, and therefore allowed themselves to be labelled pro-guns.
5) The taste. If you’ve successfully navigated yourself through the ethics and politics of tax avoidance, gay marriage, Zionism and guns then it’s time to grab a latte and sample the guilt-free taste. But alas! Coffee snobs complain the coffee is burnt and bitter. They claim Starbucks roasts their beans at a higher temperature in order to produce large quantities of beans in a short time. The high amount of sugar and syrups apparently make it more like “candy than coffee“. Have you fallen at the last hurdle?
If you’re in the fortunate place of agreeing or disagreeing with all five of these points then you have a water-tight argument either way. Some will say that because the company are screwing the government over, support same sex marriage, are gun friendly, love Israel and make excellent coffee then we should all buy more of their coffee.
The opposite could also be true. You could disagree with Starbucks’ take on thorny issues and dislike the taste.
But the vast majority will find themselves in a position where they neither agree or disagree with all of the policies. What then?
Well ladies and gentlemen, may I make a profound point here. May I suggest that when it comes to Starbucks, there’s only one point that has ever mattered. The taste.
I know, it’s a startling idea to consider: We should either enjoy or boycott a coffee company based on what their coffee tastes like! How profound.
The story of school girl Megan Stammers and Maths teacher Jeremy Forrest has shocked my home town of Eastbourne and the whole nation.
After taking Megan to France without the knowledge of her parents, Jeremy was caught and is due to be extradited back to the UK. He will face the criminal charge of ‘abduction’ which carries a maximum sentence of 7 years. From a quick reading of case law, it looks like he could be locked up for around 18 months at most.
But some have claimed any legal action would be a waste of time and money.
“It could be that they are madly in love,” said one Daily Mail commenter.
For me, whether they are “in love” or not is irrelevant. It’s disturbing that people are rushing to defend Forrest.
The Crime of Love?
Another commenter, this time on an Independent article said:
“As his lawyer said, his only crime was that he fell in love with a 15yr old…he was stupid the way he went about it, but I don’t think there will be any more than 5-10% of anyone who knows about this story that thinks he did it with any malice or force/manipulation of the girl, and that she didn’t know what she was doing. Again we’re casting judgement…but all I’m said is that I agree with Martin – love has no boundaries.”
His “only crime” was not to fall in love with a 15 year old. That is not a crime. Taking a 15 year old out of the country against the knowledge and will of her parents is a crime. The fact that he was a teacher and therefore abusing his privileged position only makes it worse.
If the UK government did not prosecute Mr Forrest they would send the message that it’s OK for any adult to take any child wherever they wanted in the world – as long as “love” was involved!
A Willing Abductee?
Forrest’s best defence will be that Megan went willingly. I have no problem with this lowering his sentence, but it does not and should not let him off the hook. ‘Abduction’ may not be the best word to use as it implies Megan was taken against her wishes – but I wholeheartedly defend UK law stating that someone other than a child’s parents taking a child out of the country without consent is illegal, morally reprehensible and totally unacceptable.
Anyone who suggests otherwise need only put themselves in Megan’s parents shoes. Imagine a stranger taking your daughter out of the country and not being able to contact either of them. Once you think that scenario through, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s right that Jeremy Forrest is brought to justice.
As for the sentence, I think we can all agree 5 years in prison would be harsh. But some are saying that any prison sentence would be harsh.
Sending a message
But if Forrest is not locked up, that sends the message that if a teacher runs away with a pupil, the worst that will happen is they lose their job. That will be a risk some are willing to take. Being locked up in prison for running away with a pupil is a different risk to take. I think a prison sentence would be a good deterrent. And in this area, a deterrent is clearly needed to stop such incidents from happening in the future.
There are related issues here. Anyone under 18 is a child. Young people don’t like this. Plenty of teenagers want to be “grown up” and will chase “adult relationships” – many of which will be inappropriate. At the same time there’s an epidemic of adults in their 20s and 30s who don’t want to grow up, get a job and contribute to society. They’d rather live with their parents, remain on JSA and play COD all day long. The children want to be adults and the adults want to be children.
I’ll stop there before I make any more sweeping generalisations that are likely to get me into trouble.
Over to you…Would love to hear your answers to the question in the headline…