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i'll say it if no one else will

i can't count the number of times that i've been told by american friends that i just don't get the importance of their second amendment. they're right. i'm canadian and my perspective on gun control is shaped by my cultural background. i don't have a problem with certain items being restricted because the potential for them to cause harm far outweighs their potential to do good. my country was not founded in the wake of a violent revolution, but through a protracted process of increasing distance from our colonial parent. there have been a lot of problems in that process, but no one ever felt that it was crucially important that the populace be ready to defend their existence against the british or anyone else. so yes, i agree, i don't get the importance of the second amendment.

i do get the importance of keeping the government out of your personal decisions. they're there to manage things that need to be done as a group and for the group as a whole and their imposition on personal liberties needs to be limited. but there are all sorts of things that are controlled and regulated because of their negative "side effects"- drugs being the most obvious. drugs have a tiered system of availability based [theoretically] on how much their potential benefits is countered by their potential dangers. and yes, i understand that the constitution doesn't enshrine a person's right to drugs, but i'm tempted to believe that that's because the american founding fathers never imagined a world with the sort of restrictions we currently have on substances. so let's just put it this way: as an outsider, i'm unclear as to why guns don't fall under the same rules as drugs: certain ones are pretty much safe for anyone to have, whereas the more powerful ones require more scrutiny.

any politician who said what i just said would be lucky to escape a national campaign [and a lot of regional campaigns] alive, let alone with a victory. the powerful gun lobby in the united states has become so rigid in their stance that questioning the innate right of the population to own any type of firearm is decried hysterically as unpatriotic. to an outsider, the unwavering, complete commitment to the second amendment appears as dangerously fanatical zeal, but to many in america, it is an sign of reverence to their country's unique emphasis on the primacy of the individual citizen over the power of the state.

as i've made clear above, i have my doubts, but it's not my decision to make, because i'm not american and i don't get it.

what i do get, which many seem to have missed, is that for every liberty, there is a corresponding responsibility and when that responsibility is not honoured, there are consequences. massacres like what we saw in colorado last thursday night are not isolated incidents. they are a predictable outcome of the free availability of powerful weapons to the vast majority of the population and it's time to stop pretending like the two things aren't related. that doesn't mean that some people won't find ways to carry out mass murder. clearly, they will. but there is clearly a correlation between gun violence and gun availability.

rather than try to obfuscate, i think it's time that the nra owned up to that and tell people the truth: unintended deaths are a consequence of the freedom to own guns. if you believe in the second amendment, if you really believe in it, you have to be willing to accept that these sorts of things would happen. that doesn't mean they're not tragic and it doesn't mean that steps shouldn't be taken to avoid them, but it needs to be acknowledged that there will be those who pay for the national right to gun ownership with their lives.

from that point follows the true debate: where does the right to gun ownership for all come in the priorities of most americans and what consequences are they willing to accept to keep it? after all, when that amendment was added, the founding fathers didn't anticipate that gun ownership would be painless. they believed that the american people would have to serve as an army and that a certain number of them would die in the name of defending their newly established state. whether they anticipated that this would also mean a greater number of citizen deaths in general is beside the point- it was always understood that the right to bear arms comprised a toll paid in blood.

so, nra, i think it's time you really had to make your case: the right to own guns is obviously very important to americans and it comes at a price. using those terms, make the case why the price is worth paying.

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