A senator from Florida was interviewed on the BBC this morning and although she is a fervent supporter of gun control when asked about the right to own guns per se she seemed surprised by the question and referred to the US Constitution that allowed gun ownership more than 200 years ago. The Orlando shooting brings two issues, not normally considered together; US gun control and the tenets of Islam that motivate Moslems to kill innocent people. Many Americans make a distinction between a terrorist massacre motivated by an alien ideology and a mass shooting by someone considered to be mentally disturbed or a psychopath. But both are made possible by the availability of firearms anywhere in the USA.
The US Constitution has become as sacred to many Americans as the Koran is to most Moslems. Although it is occasionally updated the US Constitution has received only 27 amendments (like the abolition of slavery in 1865) since the 1st in 1791.
Guns occupy a special place in the US consciousness; to many Americans they represent the pioneer spirit, the self reliance of those who forged a path across the continent in the early days and exemplified by the celluloid heroes of the 1950’s. Every nation romanticises it’s past but in America it seems a particularly powerful force that can limit progress. To anyone outside of the USA the lack of gun control seems utterly crazy as does the fact that an organisation that is in fact just a club, the National Rifle Association, can have such a powerful influence on US policy and law making.
Islamic terrorists often refer to their past glories, the great Muslim caliphates and in particular the Ottoman Empire that lasted for 400 years but one fact cannot be avoided, the Koran itself not only allows but mandates Muslims to commit the most despicable acts on non Muslims and demands equally obscene punishments for fellow Muslims who defy its edicts, the fact that the majority do not is hardly reassuring.
Both the US Constitution and the Koran should be regarded as historic documents that inform but not dictate policy and behaviour. For Islam this can only be achieved by Muslims themselves demanding this change; the circumstances today are very different from origins of Islam 1400 years ago. Similarly the US Constitution should be regarded as having been appropriate for a new nation more than 200 years ago but inadequate for a country that claims to lead the free world in the 21st Century.