US Constitution and the Koran

Same but different

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.

A Constitution fit for purpose

Gun control in USA

In 1791 a second amendment was added to the United States Constitution; “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed“. More than 200 years later this short sentence is still being used to obstruct all attempts to impose any control over the ownership of firearms in the USA. A few days ago 14 people were brutally murdered by a man and his wife who owned an arsenal of assault rifles and hand guns sufficient to arm a “militia”. On average 88 people are killed by guns every day in the USA, more than 20 times the average of other developed countries. The National Rifle Association along with many US politicians oppose even the most modest control of gun ownership, citing this text as their justification and even recommend more rather than less guns as the solution to this horrific problem.

The attacks on America in 2001 by Islamist terrorists and the numerous attacks since culminating in a campaign of grotesque savagery by so called Islam State has also been justified by citing text, this time not a political document but a religious one, the Koran.

No doubt those die-hard fanatics in the US Congress would be affronted by this description of them but their justification that a text written at a period in history that bears no resemblance to our own should still hold sway, makes them common bed fellows with the Islamists who justify their actions on a somewhat older text. An enlightened society would of course reject both and support policies that are of benefit to all humankind. If America has any right to claim leadership of the “free world” then it must at the very least ban all multi-shot weapons and in the long term the ownership of weapons altogether. If the wise counsel of the founding fathers was available today do we really think that they would support the right to bear arms, I think not.