Thursday, October 5, 2017

Life is no longer an unalienable right in America

Our country was founded on the declaration of Life as an unalienable right. That’s no longer true in Red America. What went wrong?

Our nation’s Declaration of Independence reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

If you favor gun ownership over gun control, specifically stringent controls on assault-style weapons, then you declare yourself to be against the Right to Life.

The 59 people killed in Las Vegas were pursing happiness but were deprived of their liberty and life.

One political party is OK with that. Another political party is not. If you are a Republican, I have a 76% chance of accurately knowing one thing about you – that you favor gun ownership over limiting access to guns. If you are a Democrat, I have a 78% chance of knowing the opposite about you – that you favor limitations on gun access over gun ownership rights. The numbers come from this significant digit reported in this morning’s FiveThirtyEight’s email.

54-point gap
Guns are about the most divisive issue in America. A Pew Research Center poll found 22 percent of Democrats chose protecting gun ownership rights over limiting access to guns, compared to 76 percent of Republicans. That staggering 54-point gap makes abortion look like an issue with a minor divide, same-sex marriage look like a mild discussion point and marijuana legalization look essentially unanimous. [FiveThirtyEight]

John Cassidy in the New Yorker addressed Las Vegas, Gun Violence, and the Failing American State.

Writing on Twitter on Monday, Matt Bevin, the Republican Governor of Kentucky, said, “To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs … You can’t regulate evil …” Perhaps not. But, as countries such as Australia, Britain, and Canada have demonstrated, you can certainly regulate the sale of guns, especially weapons of war, to good effect.

Between the summers of 2015 and 2016 alone, President Barack Obama responded to seven different deadly shootings. On some of these occasions, he didn’t hide his frustration at the inability of the United States to tackle the problem of gun violence. “America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love,” he said on October 1, 2015, the day that a student at Umpqua Community College shot and killed nine people. “It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America—next week, or a couple of months from now… . We are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.”

Citing the example of Australia and other countries, such as Britain, that have passed strict gun-control laws, Obama went on, “So we know there are ways to prevent it … And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up. Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws. And this is not something I can do by myself. I’ve got to have a Congress, and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.”

Obama didn’t come out and say it explicitly, but he was suggesting that the U.S. government, in its totality, is abandoning one of its basic duties: the protection of its citizenry from readily identifiable threats. And, of course, Obama was right. Of all the ways in which American democracy is showing symptoms of turning into a dysfunctional state, the inability to face down the gun lobby is surely one of the most egregious.

If you have any doubt about this, here is what Trump had to say to the NRA.

… Addressing the National Rifle Association in April, the President declared, “the eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to an end,” and added, “You have a true friend and champion in the White House.” In February, the President signed a law that made it easier for people with a history of mental illness to buy guns, including semiautomatic rifles.

You see? Just by him being a Republican I know that he is accepting the loss of life as a tradeoff for more liberal gun “rights.” He’s not alone. Read on.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, preparations continued for the passage of the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2017, a carefully misnamed piece of legislation that would make it easier to import assault-style rifles, transport weapons across state lines, and purchase silencers—the sale of which has been strictly restricted since the nineteen-thirties, when they proved popular with gangsters. Last month, the House Committee on Natural Resources marked up the share Act and passed it. Until the shooting in Las Vegas, it had been expected to go to the floor of the House as early as this week, and its supporters, including the N.R.A., were expecting a victory. “There has never been a better opportunity to pass this important and far-reaching legislation,” a piece on the Web site of the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action noted last month.

Following the massacre in Las Vegas, the Republican sponsors of the share Act will probably let a little time elapse before they put it to a vote. But there is little reason to suppose it won’t ultimately get majority support, at least in the House, while efforts to tighten up the gun laws will continue to flounder. In a failing state, that is how things work.

Into our lives despair will creep

Also in the New Yorker Adam Gopnik takes on the Second Amendment in In the Wake of the Las Vegas Shooting, There Can Be No Truce with the Second Amendment.

The facts remain facts. Gun control acts on gun violence the way antibiotics act on infections—imperfectly but with massive efficacy. Yet, even with that knowledge, some of us, in our innocence, proposed a sort of truce about Second Amendment issues in the face of the ongoing national emergency—the Trump Presidency—in which it seemed essential to make common cause, even with those who have the strange American fixation on the right to own military-style firearms. They don’t have a reason for this fixation—no reason can be found. There’s no argument for it—such weapons are useless in sport, except for the sport of using them; they play no role in hunting, or not hunting anything except helpless people; and they protect no one from a tyrannical government, since the tyrannical government, if it would ever come to that, is hardly in need of small-arms fire to assert its will. Absent an argument for it, they merely have a fixation about it, but it remains practically religious in its intensity. Between the consolidated power of the pro-gun right, and the truth that gun control has slipped down the agenda of even anti-violence liberals, this means that the only American response to regular mass gun killings will be a shrug and faked sympathy. It is hard to know how to stay too far ahead of despair.

What all this is about

It’s about our national character. It’s about a fundamental conflict between a misinterpretation of the Second Amendment and the assertion of the “unalienable” right to life. It’s life versus guns. Right now, our nation seems hell bent on guns, not life. Despair indeed.

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