There's an interesting argument being put forward by those favouring the rights of Americans to carry guns in the wake of the tragedy in Virginia:
"Obviously, this man had a lot of problems. You don't know. If he had not got guns, would it have been something else ... People crash cars into people," said Mr Wilder. "When something like this happens, when there is a tragedy, this is not the time to jump on all the political agendas. I tend to believe that when you have freedom, there are responsibilities that go with that freedom. When there is a problem, does it mean we should reduce the freedoms, or increase responsibility?"Leaving aside the obvious flaw in his argument that the man might have found some more efficient way to kill 32 people - is there a more efficient way for a civilian to kill 32 people in that space of time than two semi-automatic weapons? - the gist of his argument appears to be that the many should live with some degree of acceptable risk rather than remove the freedom of the majority because of the actions of the few.
Now, whether carrying around semi-automatic guns is a civil right is a totally separate argument, but it's interesting that the ability to own weapons is the only right that some people are not prepared to sacrifice in order to increase public safety.
14.24 out of every 100,000 Americans die in firearm related deaths. A very much smaller percentage die from terrorist related activity and yet it is constantly argued that Americans (and Brits, as this same argument is employed by Blair) must sacrifice the right to privacy and many other rights in order to protect the populace from terrorism.
If the reason for restricting our rights is to protect us, then surely governments would restrict our rights in the places most likely to reduce deaths amongst the population?
And why do the right wing understand the argument about acceptable risk - versus restrictions being placed upon the entire population - when it relates to gun ownership, but seem unable to understand that argument when it relates to terrorism which, as I say, kills far fewer people than guns?
There are many on the right who raced to defend President Bush when he was found to be listening to calls outside of FISA - which is a Federal crime - because he was "protecting them from terrorism". Indeed, many on the right have supported the establishment of the facility at Guantanamo Bay - which has destroyed America's reputation worldwide - in order to be protected from a threat that kills fewer people than handguns do.
All of us live with a degree of risk every day. Every time I, or any other Londoner, board a tube train we are taking a risk. This is something we inherently accept.
Now, whilst I support my government taking actions to ensure that my journey is as safe as possible, there are some things that I am not prepared to sacrifice in order to help them to do so.
My right to privacy comes pretty near the top of that list. And if the government were to present me with the choice of giving up substantial parts of my privacy in order to reduce any risk, then I would choose to continue to take the risk rather than to surrender substantial parts of my privacy.
It strikes me as very interesting that the right wing understand this argument only as it relates to handguns, but seem unable to grasp it when it is applied to terrorism and the way we all must live our lives since 9-11.
Especially, as I say, since handguns kill many more people than terrorists do.
Facts:Click title for full article.
* There are nearly 200 million privately owned firearms in the US
* In 2004, there were nearly 11,000 homicides involving guns, according to the FBI
* Total number of victims from firearm incidents was 477,000 in 2005
* A British citizen is 50 times less likely to be a victim of gun homicide than an American
* One third of firearms are handguns
* 16 children and teenagers are killed by gun accidents in the US each day
* Guns that are kept for self defence are 43 times more likely to be used to kill a friend or family member
* Possessing a household gun increases the chance of suicide by five times.