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Unbridled licence

Astonishing.

A court in California has ruled that it is unconstitutional to refuse a gun licence to a person who does not meet the criteria hitherto set down in State law for being of good character.

By three votes to two, the judges decided that it it is equally unconstitutional to prevent such people from carrying a concealed weapon in public, as they have the same right to defend themselves as any person of good character might.

This story appeared this morning on the Yahoo! news pages, and it has already attracted nearly six thousand Comments.

I have not read them all, indeed the first page seemed indicative enough of the collective, foaming insanity that grips Americans at the merest suggestion that carrying loaded guns can be injurious to health.

I have never fully understood the logic. If you need a gun to defend yourself, it can only be against other people who have the same right to bear arms as you do. If no-one else bore arms, you would not need to defend yourself against them. That’s why I don’t bear arms; no-one I know does, and, age 64, I have never heard or seen a firearm discharged in public; although I was school rifle-shooting champion.

Except, that is, in the movies. Usually, American movies.

Many Commenters from the good ol’ US of A argue that they are in fear of being attacked by their own government and so require an arsenal of firearms for protection against the evil Obama and his murderous militia of teenage interns in Washington, with their lethal healthcare proposals and all.

This is not so far from the truth: American law enforcement officers shot dead 1,600 of their fellow citizens last year. (In wimpish, unarmed Britain, pop. 62 million, the grim tally of 2013 was precisely one). The point, I suppose, being that in most of those cases, it was scumbags carrying concealed weapons who needed to be taken down. So why give them guns in the first place?

This attachment to the mythology of the frontier clearly illustrates the danger of having a written constitution, as it comes to have lapidary significance, immune to the passage of time, social change and commonsense. (It could also be because the same people who demand the right to bear arms also refuse to believe in any other kind of evolution… it’s why God gave them an extra trigger finger on each hand.)

In a country where permits are not issued to scumbags to carry concealed weapons, such as tragic little Britain (and let’s not forget our responsibility for inventing armed Americans in the first place), there is no automatic assumption on the part of the police that the scumbag they are pursuing will be packing heat; hence, no necessity to take the precaution of blowing them away first and checking their permit later. (They probably don’t have one.) Yes, British police do have weapons: no, they can only carry them under operational orders. This has on occasion led to loss of life among the police themselves, a risk they have been prepared to take in the line of duty, to protect the principle totally contrary to that of America, that a well-governed society is essentially benign. But again, beneath the screaming headlines copicide is extremely rare.

And the British constitution is in fact written down nowhere, neither in stone nor on parchment. We don’t have one, only principled agreements and precedents; so we can be flexible and move with the times. Of course, we have citizen rights, jury trials and all that. We are innocent until proven guilty, not until we are shot to death. And, yes, we have gun crime, although the incidence is falling year-on-year. We have had gun tragedies, school shootings (very rare), the odd scout-hut caretaker cracking-up and going on a rampage. Also, vanishingly rare. That is because it is impossible to completely eradicate guns from any society. It is surely not a reason to put more guns in the hands of scumbags, some of whom cannot be trusted not to use them feloniously?

Most of the Comments I read were not only wholly supportive of the idea that every scumbag ought to have the right to carry a concealed weapon, they were actually vituperative and threatening towards the judges who had opposed this dangerous notion, in a case that in no way affected their own rights.

Paradoxical, isn’t it, that the most powerful nation on earth has the most abject and disempowered citizens; a tragic class of people, largely lower-class white men generationally infected with the psychopathy of violence, mistrustful of their own elected representatives, fearful of Others, who cannot seemingly feel complete as humans without the prosthetic penises of an SUV in the driveway and an XM8 assault weapon in their hand, spurting lead.

For defensive purposes, naturally.

(It’s okay, put the gun away, I’m not planning on visiting.)

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