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Newtown, CT school shooting. I wept inwardly with the bereaved parents. Two of my cousins teach school. Will they be safe, I asked myself? America is the greatest country in the world, so why do we have this problem of gun violence? Why does nobody seem to notice the disturbed teens and young adults who mostly perpetrate these crimes and act to correct their violent tendencies before they get catastrophically out of hand? Or is it really not a problem but isolated violent outbursts by deranged individuals? What, if anything, can we do about it? Indeed, should we do anything? Don’t Americans have the right to bear arms? Aren’t the overwhelming majority of Americans decent law-abiding citizens? Won’t more gun control infringe Americans’ constitutional rights without ensuring our kids are safe in school? As a college teacher myself, I know how important it is to get the facts before we engage in debate. That means going right to the sources, the Supreme Court, the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and well-respected non-partisan surveys of opinion like the Pew Center for the People & the Press. That way, whatever our opinions, we start out right and engage on a level playing field. A third (33%) of Americans told the latest Pew survey (http://www.people-press.org/2013/01/14/) there are guns, rifles or pistols in their home, which is little changed from recent surveys. For the record, I do not own a gun and never have. The state of opinion According to a survey of 1502 adults conducted by the Pew Center 9 – 13 January, 2013, 51% of Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 45% say it is more important to protect gun rights. This and a survey in December, 2012 are the only surveys since Obama became president in which significantly more have prioritized gun control over gun rights. At the same time, according to Pew, there are clear areas of agreement about gun policy proposals. Fully 85% of Americans favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, with comparable support from Republicans, Democrats and independents. Similarly, 80% support laws to prevent mentally ill people from purchasing guns, with broad support across party lines. Yet, continues the Pew survey, bipartisan consensus breaks down when it comes to other proposals. Two-thirds of Americans (67%) favor creating a federal database to track gun sales, but there is a wide partisan divide between Democrats (84%) and Republicans (49%). A smaller majority of the public (55%) favors a ban on assault-style weapons; Democrats (69%) also are far more likely than Republicans (44%) to support this. Similar partisan divides exist when it comes to banning highcapacity ammunition clips or the sale of ammunition online. As an educator, I was especially interested to note the widely divergent responses to two specific school-safety proposals. By a two-to-one margin (64%-32%), most respondents to the survey favoured putting armed security guards and police in more schools. But whether more teachers and school officials should have guns, most were opposed (40% - 57%) and opinion was particularly widely split between the 56% of Republicans would like to see more teachers and school officials armed, compared with just 23% of Democrats.
The gun culture in America The gun culture in America stems from the Revolutionary War, the frontier experience, and the widespread practice of hunting and sport shooting. Guns also figure frequently in movies and the media. Some Americans, especially in the West and South, regard the right to own a gun and to use it in self-defence as central to American identity. In the days when America was an agrarian country, the value of shooting skills for survival against Native Americans, wild animals and (rarely) foreign armies meant that achieving proficiency with a gun marked a “rite of passage” for entering manhood. There is still a widespread false perception that guns won the West, ignoring the roles of homesteaders, ranchers, miners, tradespeople and businesspeople. The gun has long been a symbol of power and masculinity in America, although in urban areas, gun ownership is nowadays associated by some with the “redneck” stereotype of rural, white, working class men. Guns and Revolutionary War
The increasing British military presence in the colonies after the Indian War alerted colonists to the danger of a standing army. When British soldiers shot and killed five men on the streets of Boston in 1770, an event known as the Boston Massacre, colonists grew further concerned. The Boston Massacre became a milestone on the road to the Revolutionary War. When in 1775 the British army encountered the Massachusetts militia at Lexington—"the shot heard round the world"—the ensuing seizure of colonial arms and munitions convinced other colonies that a militia was necessary to achieve the "security of a free state." Because the individual colonies did not have enough money to purchase weapons, each white man was required to maintain a firearm so he could report immediately for duty and form a militia. (African Americans were not allowed to bear arms until the 14th Amendment, 1868.) It was taken for granted by the colonists that the right to individually possess and bear arms was inseparable from the right to form a militia. Otherwise, the right to organize a militia would have little meaning. Thomas Jefferson stated, "No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms (within his own lands or tenements)," and Richard Henry Lee observed that "to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms." In The Federalist, No. 24, one of a series of papers written after the Revolutionary War to convince the colonists to ratify the Constitution, founder Alexander Hamilton spoke of the right to bear arms in the sense of an "unorganized militia," which consisted of the "people-atlarge." He suggested that this militia could mobilize against a standing army if the army usurped the government's authority or if it supported a tyrannical government. Such a standing army, declared Hamilton, could "never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow-citizens" (The Federalist, No. 29). Indeed, founder James Madison attributed the colonial victory to armed citizens. In The Federalist, No. 46, he wrote, "Americans [have] the right and advantage of being armed— unlike citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." (www.libraryindex.com).
<a href="http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/1719/History-Right-Bear-Arms-AMERICAN-MILITIARIGHT-BEAR-ARMS.html">The History of the Right to Bear Arms - The American Militia And The Right To Bear Arms</a> THE FRONTIER Life on the frontier was harsh, lonely, poverty-stricken, precarious and downright dangerous, plagued with drunkenness, sexual license and violence. Since solving the problems of frontier life was often literally a matter of life or death, and in the period 1865-1890 there was no effective government in the West, each man (and it usually was a man) would have to settle his own scores, even if it involved killing. And that could be justified by reference to the argument of John Locke (Second Treatise, 3:18, 19), that anyone who threatened the self-preservation of anyone else, for example, by robbery, should be deemed to be willing to kill him. In frontier society, everyone would always be armed because they knew what people would do to solve a conflict. The state of war, which Locke had discussed as a theory, could become an actual fact. The right to stand one’s ground, however, appeared relatively recently in law. Under English common law, the threatened party had a legal duty to retreat “to the wall” before fighting back. But from the 19th century on, such authorities as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes rejected this doctrine as unsuited to both the American mind and the age of firearms. Hence, in the face of a deadly threat, Americans now claim the right to stand their ground and fight. They acknowledge no duty to retreat. As the Battle Hymn of the Republic (1861) puts it: “He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never sound retreat.” Famous gunmen such as Wild Bill Hickok (1837-1876) and Wyatt Earp (1848-1929) and grassroots gunfighters—men who resorted to their guns at a moment’s notice—had a tremendous impact on frontier life. Their duels, ambushes, and firefights were more than personal vendettas. They were part of what historian Richard Maxwell Brown calls a “Western Civil War of Incorporation,” pitting gunmen—usually Republicans and Unionists, who sided with the expanding banks, railroads, and businesses—against cowboys and independent farmers, who were often Democrats sympathizing with the Confederacy. In such lesser-known battles as the Mussel Slough war (May 11, 1880), resisting farmers, imbued with the ethic of no retreat, fought for their independent lifestyle against the encroaching rail barons. This civil war fed the culture of violence of the West and reinforced the legal doctrine of “no duty to retreat.” Thus frontier violence helps to explain why America has become the most violent of all developed nations. Even now, in the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, there is a notice requiring legislators to check in their guns before taking their seats. For further discussion, see my forthcoming ebook Gun Control Pros and Cons
Other books by Michael H. Collins If you have found this article interesting, you may like other books by me. St George in English History (Kindle ebook) St George’s Day has become a popular celebration and topic of debate. But who was St George? How did this Palestinian martyr become England’s patron saint and an icon of English culture? And what is his relevance for today’s secular, multicultural England?
In this richly-illustrated survey, Oxford-trained historian Michael Collins reveals what modern research has discovered about how the legend of St George the dragon-slayer grew up, the fantastic variety of ways the figure of St George appears in English culture, and what St George has to do with English identity. With a foreword by Professor Emeritus Dan Brown, this highly-readable, thought-provoking celebration of English culture shows how St George can be reinterpreted for our times while remaining true to our English heritage. English yet international, revered both by Christians and Muslims, St George is a multicultural figure who symbolizes universal values. Anyone interested in St George will find a wealth of information and stimulating discussion in this book. Journalists, teachers, clergy, tourists and exhibition organizers will find much of value here. Guides to further reading provide ample resources for further study and enjoyment of English heritage. http://collinsm.com From the Author St George’s Day has become a popular celebration and topic of debate. But who was St George? How did this Palestinian martyr become England’s patron saint and an icon of English culture? And what is his relevance for today’s secular, multicultural England? In this illustrated survey, Oxford-trained historian Michael Collins clearly presents what modern research, sometimes surprisingly, has discovered about how the legend of St George the dragon-slayer grew up and the origin of the cross of St George, the fantastic variety of ways the figure of St George appears in English culture, and what St George has to do with English identity. The roles of Richard I, Edward III and Henry VIII in making St George England's patron saint are discussed. With a foreword by Professor Emeritus Dan Brown, this highly-readable, thought-provoking celebration of English culture shows how St George can be reinterpreted for our times while remaining true to our English heritage. English yet international, revered both by Christians and Muslims, St George is a multicultural figure who symbolizes universal values. Anyone interested in St George will find a wealth of information and stimulating discussion in this book. Journalists, teachers and clergy will find it useful. Guides to further reading provide ample resources for further study and enjoyment of English heritage. http://collinsm.com The American Panorama
Everyone in today’s globalized world needs to understand at least two countries, their own – and the United States. This comprehensive, easy-to-read, balanced and up to date survey shows what makes America unique and what issues make Americans debate their country’s dramatic past, its contested cultural values and its problematic future. The American Panorama casts its net across the continent from New York, Washington, Albany, Boston and Baltimore to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia; from Chicago, Detroit, Boise and Indianapolis to Boulder and Salt Lake City; from Raleigh-Durham, St Louis, Knoxville, Montgomery and Atlanta to Dallas, Houston and San Antonio; from the coastal ports of Mobile, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Corpus Christi to inland ports, including Memphis, St. Paul, Cincinnati; from Phoenix, Santa Fe and Tucson to San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. The book offers in-depth coverage of the key topics in American civics and culture, giving due prominence to women and minorities, exploring the basis of the Constitution, and acknowledging the role of religion in American life. The American Panorama goes beyond the usual syllabus to celebrate movies and musicals, baseball and books, presenting up a complete picture of what makes the author and countless millions around the world admire America. The book is enriched with factfiles, case studies, questions for discussion, and generous guides to further sources. http://collinsm.com
Your Expert Wedding Gift Guide (Kindle ebook) Everyone enjoys giving gifts. But choosing a wedding gift can make you feel worried, frustrated and embarrassed. There are so many different wedding situations these days, and so many choices of gifts. Social rules are changing too, and you may feel unsure about the etiquette and ethics of gift-giving, such as whether and what to give for a second or older marriage. You may not know the couple well, or even if they expect a gift. And what about gifts of money? Then, how much should you spend? Money may be tight or you may be rushed for time to purchase the gift and mail it if you’re not going to present it in person. This expert guide does make the process easy. It tells you how to quickly select the perfect wedding gift and also save money. The guide covers every aspect of choosing a wedding gift for every kind of wedding, including second marriages, eco weddings, and gay and lesbian marriages and civil ceremonies. It gives clear, up to date advice on what to choose, how much to spend, and how and when to present the gift. The advice in this guide is in line with that of other etiquette experts like the Emily Post Institute and Miss Manners.
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