When looking at America's constitutional position on bearing arms, most British people (I know, because I've talked to all of them!) make a number of assumptions about the American "right" to bear arms:
- that it is an anachronism which has no place in the modern era where there is a functioning state and police force
- that advocates of gun ownership are all right-wing bigots
- that the presence of multiple privately-owned guns is one factor contributing to high rates of violent crime in the United States
- that those who argue for private gun ownership are supportive of the American military, especially in its more recent, aggressive foreign policy operations since Vietnam.
Although there may be some truth in all of these assumptions (!), a new edition of an old book makes the case that private (as opposed to state) ownership of weapons is in fact a practice rooted in an anti-militarist mindset which sees the need for structural limits on the power of the state and the armed forces.
The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Anti militarist Tradition, by Arthur A Ekirch, examines the tradition of civil authority and its decline since 1950. It seems strange on this side of the Atlantic to hear the words America and anti-militarism in the same sentence. But this, apparently, is at the heart of the idea of private gun ownership, according to the author.
I've not read the book, but it is reviewed here.
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