Tag Archives: Newtown

The Second Amendment: An Outdated, Ideological Fallacy

This is not about rationality: arguments against gun control are almost entirely constructed and founded on their ideological underpinnings. And as with any devout ideologue, the wider picture and the resultant implications are willfully and purposefully ignored.




This piece was co-authored by Peter Kelly.


Anthony Machinski’s recent piece on TRS – “Gun Control: You Can’t Test Irresponsibility” – is, at best, the work of an individual firmly fixated on trying to make reality look like a world in which the Second Amendment is still relevant. At worst, it is one so dedicated to this fantasy as to have dangerous illusions as to the continued relevance of an armed militia concerned with resisting a tyrannous federal government. For that was the purpose and reasoning leading to the Second Amendment.

Machinski’s arguments are based on statistics, but these are either incorrect, invalid, or irrelevant to the matter at hand. Like Machinski we wish to take a moment to remember the lives devastated by this tragedy, however to do so without seeking ways to stop this trend towards such tragedies is a fatal mistake.

If we do not look at the underlying and facilitating factors to Columbine-esque shootings such events will continue to feature: is the post-revolutionary right to bear arms really worth the continuous killings of so many children?

Firstly however, we would like to address some incorrect claims made in the Machinski piece.

1) People will always be able to “get their hands on whatever item they want if they so choose”

Machinski chooses to exemplify this with reference to prohibition and the failure of legislation to tackle drug abuse. These are wholly illegitimate comparisons.

Firstly, there is a huge difference in intent.

The intent of someone who drank alcohol during prohibition was not to be able to maim or kill. Similarly, for one who is recreationally taking illegal drugs the intent is to enjoy themselves.

Irrespective of our respective views on the use of recreational drugs, it is readily apparent that for the vast majority of users the intent is not to commit any violence. With guns, the sourcing of a weapon is for the sole purpose of being able to maim at some point in the future, even if this is under the guise of defence.

Secondly, and more applicably, most killers lack the connections or experience to get hold of illegal weapons (as opposed to gang members).

Reductio ad absurdum: why don’t we just give all mentally unfit persons a firearm? According to Machinksi they are going to get them anyway.

2) The UK “has problems with school shootings”

The factual inaccuracy here is startling. A simple Wikipedia search would have displayed to the author that the only school shooting in the UK in living memory was the Dunblane massacre of 1996.

The Cumbria shootings of 2010 had nothing whatsoever to do with schools or children – as proven by virtue of the fact that all victims were over the age of twenty three. We can further consider that the only other major gun massacre in the UK (again, in living memory) was that which occurred in Hungerford in 1987. Again, nothing to do with a school.

Thus, of the three mass shootings in the last three decades in the UK, only one has taken place in a school.

3) In “no way, shape, or form would gun control laws have helped prevent this tragedy”

Firstly, should the type of guns permitted to be licensed be lower down the “ease-of-use” scale it is highly unlikely that this tragedy would have been as extreme as it is; had the shooter’s only weapon been a handgun it is doubtful that the casualty count would be so high.

The weapon he used was akin to the M16 (as employed by the U.S. Army). Its efficacy in lethality is demonstrated by the short time-frame of the killing spree (the killer shot himself less than ten minutes after the first shot was fired, just as the first police officer entered the school). Less efficient legal weapons would likely result in less deaths per mass killing.

Secondly, legal weapons have been used in approximately seventy five per cent of the sixty two mass killings in America since 1982, thus demonstrating the complete failure of the American licensed weapons system.

A more holistic attempt at ensuring that active weapons do not get into the wrong hands – a greater degree of federal specificity over how guns are stored; the enforced separation of gun from ammunition in storage; the ineligibility of those living with person(s) with mental health issues to possess a weapon, etc. – would indubitably result in less legal weapons being used for illegal purposes.

Such restrictions – gun control laws – would likely have limited (if not put a stop to) this mass murder.

We must also consider arguments which frame the fight against the Second Amendment; this is a debate which cannot be won solely on the defensive.


The Second Amendment is archaic and belongs to the time of slavery and the looming threat of the British Empire. In short, a time well before the U.S. could truly have been called a democracy. Now, when federal government depends on votes to remain in power, votes are the weapons every household needs.

There is no need for every man to wield a weapon to warn off a federal army which has its hands tied controlling Afghanistan, let alone the three hundred and ten million citizens of the United States – even were they completely unarmed. Besides which, where is the organised militia such armed citizenry are supposed to belong to?

The Second Amendment is a disastrous carry-on from a past era. The eighteenth century solution (to eighteenth century issues which no longer exist) has created a twenty-first century problem.

The Statistics

The homicide by firearm rate in the U.S. is completely disproportionate to its position as a Western nation. It is only bested by developing countries and the nearest developed countries to it are Liechtenstein and Switzerland (also low gun-restriction countries).

The disproportion is by a rather telling factor of four.

One can point to all kinds of different mitigating statistics to this, but the inescapable line is that lax gun laws equal more gun murders in developed states. In the United States, unless you were to insult the entire populace with the assumption that they are more homicidal than average, a factor of four is simply too large of a difference to be challenged.

Bringing the United Kingdom in hardly helps the case – it has a gun-related homicide rate of approximately forty times smaller. The rate of gun crime has halved in the years since stricter gun laws were enforced and cannot be attributed to a culture of less crime, as the United Kingdom has a slightly higher crime rate.

It also rubbishes the claim that those without guns will find other means, as despite the higher crime rate the UK’s homicide rate is significantly smaller than that of the US, 1.2 per 100,000 against 4.2 respectively.


The fact of the matter is that the strength of the argument for gun control is all but irrelevant. As Sam Leith, writing in today’s Evening Standard, argues, “the issue in the US is a dialogue of the deaf because it’s about identity politics, not harm reduction”. The Second Amendment equates the gun to freedom, and as we are aware, freedom is a big word.

This is not about rationality: arguments against gun control are almost entirely constructed and founded on their ideological underpinnings. And as with any devout ideologue, the wider picture and the resultant implications are willfully and purposefully ignored.

Resultantly debate on this matter is nothing but a formality. No matter how much the facts stack up on one side, votes will be matched along these lines of identity, not of rationality. What needs to change is what “freedom” really means: that we should be looking upon it as freedom from death and suffering, not freedom to wield a weapon of your choice to cause it.


This piece was co-authored by Peter Kelly.

Peter holds an MSc in International Security from the University of Bristol and a BA in Philosophy and Politics from Durham University. His focus is on security and conflict issues in the western world, Middle East and Africa. He runs the site A Third Opinion.

Photo credit:  Jenn Durfey

Gun Control: You Can’t Test Irresponsibility

When people are careless or irresponsible, no amount of laws, ordinances, and guidance can help keep things like this from happening.


cartoon gun pistol shooting


Before I start this piece, I would like to take a moment of silence, or space I guess, just to send my condolences to anyone affected by the shootings at the Newtown, CT, school. Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children is a phrase used when a teenager dies in a car accident, but they really shouldn’t have to bury a five-year-old after something like this. Its just really tragic.

To debate gun control, their legality, and other gun-related issues simply takes away from the bigger picture here, 27 people are dead, including 20 children. No amount of senseless debate will take away from that.  Needless to say, people will debate this point and people will crave to be educated at a time when so little is known about many details involving this situation.

Around the nation this morning, millions of people watching the tragic events of Newtown, Conn. will begin to clamor loudly for heightened gun control laws.  “If there were better gun control laws, this would never happen,” is the one statement many, including my own friends will make. However, in no way, shape, or form would gun control laws have helped prevent this tragedy that took 26 innocent lives including 20 children.

The two states really involved in this, Connecticut and New Jersey (where the shooter’s brother lives), are listed as the 5th and 2nd highest. According to The Star-Ledger, Connecticut law has a partial ban on assault rifles and people under 21 are prohibited from purchasing and/or carrying handguns. The shooter, Adam Lanza, was 20.

Time and time again, people will continue to get their hands on whatever item they want if they so choose. Think about it, alcohol was illegal in the 1930 during prohibition yet it became one of the most crime ridden times in recent history. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug-related deaths have more than doubled since the early 80s, even with stricter drug abuse penalties.

“But if they just outlawed guns and had stricter laws, this could have been prevented.”


In 1996, as a direct result of the Dunblane school massacre, the United Kingdom banned the private ownership of handguns in the kingdom with two separate acts simply called “Firearms Act 1997 1 & 2.”  However, despite those heavily enforced laws, the UK still has problems with school shootings. In June 2010, Derrick Bird, a lone gunman, killed 12 people and injured 11 others during a killing spree across Cumbria, England.

Did these extremely strict gun laws, which were put into place 13 years before the incident, help stop the violence?  The answer to that question is no. You can have all the gun control you want, but people will find a way to get the items they need to commit heinous acts such as these.

I’ll speak for New Jersey (as I am a resident) and their gun control programs, listed as 2nd best in the country. In the Garden State, a rigorous six-month process is needed just to obtain a firearm purchase id. This background check occurs several times between state and local authorities, including a full criminal background. Even after getting the card, purchasing a weapon can take several weeks.

That explanation doesn’t even include special handgun purchase IDs, permit to carry and permit to conceal applications, which in total could take over a full year.  With all the hurdles of current gun control there is one statement that rings true.  You can’t test crazy or irresponsibility.

Admittedly, I’ve been shooting under the guidance of my father since I was seven years old. I’ve been through several NRA and Boy Scout programs that encourage safety and take many precautions. When taught right, target shooting (which I partake) is one of the safest activities.  In my home, bullets and guns are never in the same place, guns are checked constantly for chambered rounds or loaded clips. These safety precautions are necessary in order to instill that no one is injured.

Just search “gun accidents” on YouTube and you’ll find a lengthy variety of gun accidents from people that aren’t being responsible. Holding a pistol one handed is going to hurt. Attempting to hold a rifle with one hand is just plain stupid.  There’s no way to test for this sort of irresponsibility and carelessness.

Think about it from another point. Anyone with a driver’s license has gone through hours upon hours of driver safety and testing, yet, you still see people drive drunk and drivers speeding by on the highway at 110 miles per hour. Hell, we’ve all rolled through a stop sign at some point.

The main point is simply this: when people are careless or irresponsible, no amount of laws, ordinances, and guidance can help keep things like this from happening.

Regardless of your stance, 27 people have been taken from this Earth in what has become one of the biggest shooting massacres in U.S. history. No amount of debate will bring back those lives.

Prayers and condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy. May they rest in peace.


Photo Credit: Andorand