How Boston marks the end for the right to bear arms

The massive display of force by local and federal authorities in their efforts to apprehend the Tsarnaev brothers (prime suspects in the bombing of the Boston marathon) may have had one completely unintended consequence – the debunking of the myth that is the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

As yet there are scant details of the arms borne by the Tsarnaevs – one of whom is now deceased, the other in hospital and unable to communicate – so we don’t know if the guns they carried were legal or not.

What is absolutely certain is that there is no way their arsenal – however big – provided any sort of a match for the collective might of the US authorities.

Why is this the end of the right to bear arms? Well, let’s look at the second amendment for a second, as ratified by the states:

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

The basic premise of the amendment is that guns should be kept and militias organised to protect “the security of a free state” – in other words, if the government gets too big for its boots, the people should be able to rise up and take back power.

Given the immense display of power in Boston the last few days, there is absolutely no way that any militia or any individual in the United States of America – in their right minds – could consider rising up and doing anything.

Like the Tsarnaevs, they would  be crushed within hours.

Any doubts about that? Think again.

Authorities ordered businesses in Boston to stay closed. They shut down transport networks. Logan Airport operated under severe restrictions. They closed off Watertown for the whole day. They stopped and searched hundreds, if not thousands of vehicles and people.

Troops were put on the streets. Police officers, federal agents and SWAT teams searched properties and made house calls. The state had decided it wanted to apprehend these two, and no expense was spared.

When they did run into the brothers, late on Thursday night after the murder of an MIT police officer, they responded with massive violence. It’s fair to say the two brothers responded in kind, but with little discernible effect.

They may have killed four people and injured hundreds more, but faced by the state’s apparatus of violence they were without hope.

It’s worth noting that over 3,500 people have been killed by guns since the slaughter of innocent children – none of whom, presumably, were a threat to national security – at Sandy Hook, and yet nothing has changed, apart from the Obama administration getting a bloody nose as agun control measures were voted down.

Despite the lazy media attempts to shoehorn the brothers into the Islamic extremist corner, we know nothing of their motives yet.

Whatever the Tsarnaevs were, no doubt they would argue that they were “fighting” (for want of a better word to paraphrase the murder and maiming of innocents) for a better society – most likely against the tyranny of the state, real or imagined, and a view often shared by extreme right and left alike, not to mention religious groups.

But the idiotic notion that one man or a small group of men or women can hold the government of the United States of America to account died on a Boston street with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his corpse full of state-bought bullets and damaged by his own cheap bomb.

Despite the lockdown, despite thousands of people missing work, despite the university campuses closing down en masse, despite the terror that gripped the city, the authorities will still tell the people of Boston and the world that the end of this operation is a great day for freedom.

In their nation violently born of a frontier spirit, Americans need to realise is that they can only preserve that freedom – much of it already given away – is by fixing their inadequate, broken democracy.

Not by keeping an assault rifle in the garage and thinking Obama is afraid of you.



A protestor holds up an anti-NRA sign.

The saddest thing about the pathetic statement by the NRA is the fact that nothing will now change.

Had they agreed to controls on the most deadly of weapons, some progress could have been made, but the political will in America does not exist to challenge them.

America is effectively ruled by the guns they control.

Because what is it the Second Amendment really guarantees?

In the wake of the Newton massacre last weekend, I sat beside broadcaster Tom McGuirk in an RTE radio studio.

At various points McGuirk suggested that AR-10 guns weren’t the problem, until I politely suggested that there was one thing that could have been removed from the Newton massacre that would have ensured the survival of all or most of those children – the gun.

Moments later McGuirk was talking about the importance of the British secret service and their role in the “defeat” of the IRA.

But given their modus operandi, the IRA and the NRA are not too disimilar – unelected, both nevertheless have a chilling effect on the democracies they exist in.

Like the bible, the American constitution is a document of its time, and when it was written the fledgling nation was intent on doing everything it could to protect its new-found freedom.

Hence the right to defend those freedoms – even against its own government – was enshrined in a dubioulsy-worded amendent. Noticeably, assault rifles are not mentioned, which according to some gives them carte blanche to carry them.

For what the Second Amendment essentially does is give the NRA the right to act as the American equivalent of the IRA, a kind of secretive political police force that malevolently oversees things.

Unelected, it can use fear and intimidation to exert its influence on an otherwise democratic state – much as the IRA did in its “armed struggle”.

For the gun in American history and its current politics is not about violence or machoism, even though both play their part.

For Americans, the gun is a potent symbol of freedom, rather than oppression and death. If ever there was a country that was now ruled with a ballot box and an Armalite (or one of 300 million similar weapons), America is it.

The Europeans who sailed across the Atlantic to settle on the American continet were all fleeing something. Sometimes, as in the case of the Irish, it was hunger. For others, it was religious persecution.

Some of them wanted no truck with any church; instead, they reserved the right to interpret the bible as literally and as opportunistically as they wished.

The same people now choose to interpret the American constitution in the same way – the way that suits them best, much as Irish Republicans twisted their  interpretation of history until it allowed them to bomb and shoot and maim with impunity over almost 40 years.

The discussion in America should not, therefore, centre on gun control; the discussion should centre on how to rebuild trust between the state and its citizens – if such a thing never existed.

It is doubtful that it can be done; American politics is a poisonous mass of extremism, thanks to divisive issues and elements such as abortion, the various wars fought in Asia, the Tea Party and gun control itself.

America is a nation of vested interests that are quick to act should Johnny Sixpack suddenly start demanding safety and security.

That many of the fears propagated by politicians and squawk-box commentators are unfounded make no difference; America has never seemed to have established for itself that solidarity and security go hand in hand.

It is easier to blame the nameless, faceless other than to face up to the truth.

But to do so would be to acknowledge that the Europe its forefathers left had gotten something right.

“War is over, if you want it,” sang John Lennon.

But it appears that, despite 20 dead children, the aftermath of the War of Independence, because the NRA don’t want it.