“A right to bear arms”?

A few days back I met that, oh, so elusive creature for the first time; a white, Republican Christian evangelical man. Why do I call this stratum of American society a rare one?

A few days back I met that, oh, so elusive creature for the first time; a white, Republican Christian evangelical man. Why do I call this stratum of American society a rare one?

Well, because I’ve never met one in my entire life. It seemed that the only Americans I’d ever met were extremely liberal…and thus probably Democrat.

I’d hate to lump every American in a certain party; however, you can’t blame me for thinking thus. It seemed that everyone I met thought that the last eight years were a disaster.

But I’d finally caught a glimpse of the flip side of the coin.
I’d only seen a specimen of this political animal on CNN and the 700 Club program hosted by Pat Robertson (a former Republican presidential hopeful from a few years back).

I’d hear all the vitriol and conspiracies they were sprouting and think to myself, “these guys have a few screws loose….maybe if they left their little cocoon and went into the real world they’d change their views”. Well, I was mistaken.

I know that if someone is a guest at your home you aren’t supposed to make him uncomfortable, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to start having a talk. A political talk a.k.a “why are you guys so crazy”?

“Why do you love carrying guns around…why is Bush so crazy…”, and the best one of all, “what do you think of Barack Obama”? 

His answers were sometimes surprising. He thought that George Bush Jr. was not a very good president…then confused everything by saying that all American politicians were liars, corrupt and incompetent.

Okay then. What about hope of the entire third world, the great Sen. Obama? He wasn’t too sure of the young chap…he had too many ‘funny’, firebrand black people around him like Revs. Jesse Jackson, Wright and Louis Farrakhan.

Hmm… I’d hate to think that he was simply being racist so I held my fire. Then we started talking about guns. He proudly said that he had ‘only’ three guns that he used to hunt with or shoot the first guy that tried to break into his house at night.

The US is one of the very few nations in the world that allow the possession of firearms; the ‘right to bear arms’ is actually incorporated in their constitution. “But hey,” I countered, “wasn’t that article added because, at the time of its enactment, the United States didn’t have a standing army and the militias were the only defence against the British Redcoats”?

“Yes,” he informed me, “however, guns were given to people so as to avert any attempt by the government to impose a dictatorship on the people. Look at what is happening in Zimbabwe. If people had guns, they wouldn’t be so terrorized by the ZANU-PF machine”.

Wow. I’d never thought about that. I’d never thought the right to bear arms would be a protection against your very own government. It seems as if the writers of the American constitution believed that, under no circumstance, could the government be trusted to do the will of the people and the only way that the government could be kept in its place was by having a well armed populace.

So, here is the pro-gun hypothesis; unless you have a few firearms, the government will use its superior firepower to oppress its people with draconian measures meant not to protect its citizens, but to entrench itself. In other words, the government is something to be afraid of and not a body that can protect you from evil doers and those who want to take your freedoms away.

I personally believe that that kind of pessimism should be resisted. Why should government necessarily be bad? I mean, if government is necessarily bad, then politicians have no reason to be held in high esteem. In fact, using that hypothesis, why should I even pay taxes if the government is only going to use them to oppress me?

If we follow the argument to its natural conclusion, the question should be, ‘why have government in the first place anyway’?

But like I wrote earlier, the premise of this argument is flawed. Governments don’t oppress; it’s people who oppress.

Therefore, the way to ensure that governments don’t oppress is to make sure that politicians have a moral compass so strong that they seek office to improve people’s lives and not just to collect hefty paychecks.

Look at Rwanda’s government today. Despite the challenges it faces, it’s giving its citizens hope for a better future. Take a look back at pre-1994; the government was actively killing its people. What changed?

The people at its helm. Politicians must govern well because it’s a noble calling, not because the people have guns pointed at their heads.

Contact: sunny-ntayombya@hotmail.com

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