Belfast Telegraph

America's founding fathers did not envisage church slaughter

By Nash Riggins

America was founded upon the idea that the government's power should never be allowed to outweigh the rights of its people. That's what the founding fathers had in mind, anyway. But when they etched that conviction in stone some 230 years ago, chances are they had no clue the rights they sought to protect would end up creating a rationale for mass murder.

It's hardly been a month since a black prayer group was mercilessly gunned down in a South Carolina church and we're already mourning yet another act of senseless gun crime. Last week, 100 people in Lafayette, Louisiana, went to go see a new Amy Schumer comedy. Yet just 20 minutes into the film, some middle-aged white guy got to his feet, turned around and started spraying bullets across the room.

He had no known motive, no targets; he was just a sick guy with a gun in his hand. At least three people are dead because of him.

Words of sorrow and kindness flooded in from across the world. Everyone expressed shock and promised to pray for those affected. That sentiment is really nice.

But you know what? Those words are hollow and those prayers are not being answered. This keeps on happening - and it's going to keep on happening until people demand action.

Just hours before the shooting in Louisiana, President Barack Obama pointed out a bitter pill that his freedom-loving countrymen simply refuse to swallow: "If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it's in the tens of thousands."

He's absolutely right. How many causalities of terror can you name off the top of your head? Benghazi, the Boston Marathon bombings, a string of Isis beheadings.

A couple of times per year, brave US citizens find themselves at odds with brutal, senseless acts of global terrorism. But these isolated incidents are nothing compared to the intolerable inferno that Americans inflict upon themselves.

Let's talk about Chattanooga. Charleston. Fort Hood. Virginia Tech. Tucson. Binghamton. Aurora. Oak Creek. Sandy Hook. They don't all make the news, either. Mass killings take place in America every two weeks - and nearly all of them involve a sick mind with a gun.

Many of America's leaders would love to do something to stop these attacks, too. But politicians like Barack Obama don't have the power to change a damn thing about gun laws until voters ask him to.

Around a third of the US population owns at least one gun and most of those people aren't willing to give their weapons up. After all, the right to own a Glock is laid out plain and simple in the US constitution - and the process to amend it is fraught with peril.

Any politician brave enough to call for tighter gun restrictions is branded an un-American nut-job and is almost certain to get the axe within a fortnight. Yet, can we not please address the fact that this fundamental right American gun-owners hide behind is nothing but a dusty remnant of colonial history?

America's founding fathers didn't establish the right to bear arms so that racists could shoot up churches.

This right was drafted during a post-war era in which military resources were stretched thin - when a fledgling American government needed to ensure that every baker, blacksmith and field hand had the means to defend their country in the event of an attack.

Fast-forward a couple centuries and the US has got one of the largest and most well-equipped standing armies in history to take care of those threats. Joe the Baker doesn't need a gun to defend himself from invading Redcoats and neither does his deranged 15-year-old son.

Does that mean every single American should lose their right to own a gun? Maybe, maybe not. But it's something that needs to be put up for discussion.

America has finally reached the point where you can't go to a shopping mall, the cinema, school or even church without looking over your shoulder; wondering who might be carrying a gun and whether today's prayer group, or this year's hottest comedy, may be your last.

That's not the sort of life America's founders had in mind for its people. And it's not the sort of life we should be inflicting upon our children.

Yet, at the end of the day, there's only one way for Americans to put an end to these senseless murders and that solution is frightfully simple: they need only ask.

  • Ruth Dudley Edwards returns next week

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