Critique

Drop the Gun: Anatoly Ulyanov on the Right to Bear Arms

After only a few days since being created, a petition in Ukraine in favor of the right of citizens to own and bear firearms has gotten more than 25,000 signatures. Anatoly Ulyanov lives in the US, where over 270 million guns are currently in private use, and he thinks that the American experience is an argument not for, but against, the legalization of firearms.

A gun is a temptation. You can hear the beckoning whispers coming from its barrel. This is clear to anyone who has held a pistol in their hands, and it doesn’t matter what the reason is, if there is war or peace, the trigger begs you, “Oh please, just one time…” In this sense a pistol is just as magical an object as a phallus or a vagina: it attracts our attention and plays on our psyche. Like a snake charmer’s flute, it is able to enchant us as a cobra, and because of its accessibility the question must be approached with the utmost vigilance…


{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Shooting_01.jpg”, “text”:”UNITED STATES, Troutdale : TROUTDALE, OR – JUNE 10: A Reynolds High School student is reunited with her parents after a shooting at her school June 10, 2014 in Troutdale, Oregon. Authorities said one student was fatally shot and the gunman was found dead at an Oregon high school. Natalie Bering / AFP / East News.”}

Loaded Freedom

The question of guns is philosophical and, of course, political. Take, for example, American society. The main ideological divide separates it between supporters of two different rights granted by the Constitution. The first one guarantees the right to freedom of speech. The other – the right to bear arms. In other words, whichever of these is more important to you defines your stance on the issue. Freedom of speech is important to liberals, first and foremost, just as the gun is the vale of Republicans, whose conservative hearts are permeated with metaphysical ideas of the Wild West. For them, owning a gun means being independent from the nanny state and the ability to defend yourself, your land and your property. A republican knows that having a gun in your pocket transforms the world around you. People begin to behave differently and don’t dare look for trouble in your direction. The gun, in this sense, becomes a condition of the social contract.

“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 second amendment)

Taking away a gun from a Republican is the same as taking away his Bible and his right to vote.

This idea hits so deep at the foundation of American culture that any attempt to limit the use of weapons in the country sparks an outrage. Taking away a gun from a Republican is the same as taking away his Bible and his right to vote. When such a perspective is looming on the political horizon, ideas of separatism in Texas start whipping up. Even the most liberal of politicians won’t come out against guns because taking this fateful step usually results in political suicide.


{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Shooting_02.jpg”, “text”:”UNITED STATES, Winston : WINSTON, OR – OCTOBER 03: Kyle Workman, his wife Christina and their daughter Pepper (L) and Samantha attend a prayer service and candlelight vigil at River Bend Park to remember the victims of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in nearby Roseburg on October 3, 2015 in Winston, Oregon. On Thursday 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer went on a shooting rampage at the college killing nine people and wounding another nine before killing himself. Both Kyle and Christina were students at the school. Scott Olson / AFP / East News.”}

Barrel on a Leash

The idea of locked-and-loaded freedom can be very convincing, especially if you have an ineffective government, you’re afraid of an enemy invasion or you happen to be a victim of violence. The reality, however, conflicts with all the romantic ideas of an armed citizenry: the more guns we have, the more often people die from their bullets.

Any person who has stood in line in Wal-Mart has seen others bringing slippers, canned food and shotguns to the cash register. Is it even worth it to be surprised, then, that while Pres. Obama left to meet the relatives of the victims at Umpqua, another shooting took place at the University of South Texas. It was the third one in the last week and the 47th in the last year.

The question isn’t about banning weapons altogether, but rather about how to control their spread more effectively. Having studied 14 fresh mass shootings in the US, The New York Times discovered that more than half of the shooters obtained their guns legally despite their psychiatric records and problems with the law. The Oregon shooter had 14 guns. If getting this kind of arsenal was more difficult, there would be fewer corpses in the world today.

TV host John Oliver calls attention to a curious paradox: one unsuccessful attempt to blow up a plane with a bomb hidden in a shoe and now we all have to take our shoes off at the airport. At the same time, 16 years removed from Columbine, more than thirty incidents of school shootings have happened in the US, but there have been no changes in gun laws and there aren’t any on the table today. Terrorism, which has killed 295 Americans, is considered a more frightening and pressing concern than 130,000 citizens killed in shootings (2004-2014).

Any person who has stood in line in Wal-Mart has seen others bringing slippers, canned food and shotguns to the cash register.

Let’s consider the example of Australia with the issue of gun control laws. In 1996, the conservatives in power then decided that thirty mass shooting incidents were more than enough to take decisive measures. In spite of the indignant cries of its constituents, John Howard’s administration passed a law limiting the circulation of weapons in the Australian outback. This decision claimed the careers of the Prime Minister himself and a number of senators who supported the reform. However, the law was passed and there hasn’t been one mass shooting in Australia to this day, and the amount of crimes committed with firearms has fallen by 59% (suicide by 65%).


{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Shooting_03.jpg”, “text”:”UNITED STATES, Los Angeles : LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 31: Surrendered handguns are piled in a bin during a gun buyback event that was announced by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in the wake of a killing spree at University of California, Santa Barbara that left six students dead, on May 31, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. People can exchange their firearms with no questions asked at four Los Angles-area locations for Ralphs supermarket gift cards ranging from $100 to $200 per weapon. The buyback program first took place in Los Angles in 2009 as part of the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program to reduce the number of guns on the streets. The last buyback resulted in more than 1,500 firearms being turned in. David McNew / AFP / East News.”}

A Madhouse with Revolvers

In such a historically unstable country as Ukraine, the question of a citizen’s private arsenal could open up a Pandora’s Box. The petition “on the rights of citizen’s defense” has gathered more than 25,000 signatures in just a few days. Its authors have proposed to add the following to the Constitution:

“Every citizen of Ukraine has the right to freedom of ownership of firearms for the defense of his life, health, land and property, the lives of other people, his constitutional rights and in defense of his freedom in the case of the usurpation of power, encroachment on the constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Given the tradition of Makhno, the annexation of Crimea and the fact that power in Ukraine seems to often rest in the hands of vampires, the ownership of weapons seems entirely necessary. However, in a post-revolutionary country with the absence of psychiatry, a reeling economy, a civil war and endemic corruption, the idea of “the right to own firearms” sounds a little spaced-out. It’s not surprising that it is being supported by a group of ultra-right politicians who dream of an armed coup and use beautiful speeches about rights and freedom to suit their narrow political interests.

It would seem that Ukrainians today, like nobody else, should aspire to peace and economic reform. Instead, the idea of “guns liberating society” speaks to the notion that the god of war has yet to leave the halls of agitated Ukrainians’ hearts.

(Cover photo: Scott Olson / AFP / East News.)

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