The survivors of a machine gun attack at a high school in upscale Florida participated in a ‘listening session’ convened by the President. But as they confront their local representatives, they are learning what American democracy really means, discovering first hand the determination of elected officials to not go against the gun lobby that finances their campaigns. If ever this is going to change, it will be thanks to the persistent efforts of these students, who are young enough to be passionate and almost old enough to vote. If legislation on guns doesn’t change, expect major trouble.
Alas, the President’s guests did not once mention the fact that the US is the only country in the word where citizens are allowed to carry guns. When several of the first participants complimented Donald Trump, I thought they were preparing him to hear their unpopular demands, but not one person demanded that guns be made illegal outside of military, police and guards, over-riding the famed Second Amendment.
To make their point on an issue that has been festering for decades, they could review the fate of other Constitutional Amendments: were they consistently respected? The fourteenth amendment, passed in 1868 to guarantee American citizenship to all those born in the United States (including slaves), had to be amended in 1964, 1965, and in 1970 to ensure voting rights to black people, who in practice still encounter problems in every election.
Citing this fact, students could confront the far-right’s desire to ‘take their country back’ to the nineteenth century — or even the eighteenth. A constitution written in 1781 referred to a world that no longer exists. Specifically, its reference to the citizen’s right to carry a gun follows from the need for any government to have a militia, and the South was determined to ensure that slave owners could pursue runaways.
The difference in worlds between 1781 and 2018 is a much better starting point than the argument that guns kill people, which implies that everyone should have one for protection. President Trump staked out a position that would see willing teachers and other school personnel armed, for an increase in salary. That idea makes the National Rifle Association happy, but frustrates those who think that the whole point about gun control is that civilians should not carry weapons.
Just as important, though never mentioned, defeating the NRA’s agenda would not only deprive congresspeople of its money. Though never mentioned in respectable circles, it’s also about the pushback Donald Trump will get from Steve Bannon’s Alt-Right gun-toting base, who want to ‘take their country back’ — and their millionaire backers, whose agenda is to ‘destroy the state’.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.