ARTICLE 2 of the US Constitution provides every citizen “the right to bear arms.” Most Americans think it’s there to ensure that no one ignores the other Articles.
The US National Rifle Association (NRA), that big-hearted charity that had more lobbyists than members, thought it was there because a gun in the hand was better than a cop on the phone.
Actually, the Article should not have been there in the first place and for that, you can blame poor, old Ben Franklin.
Alas, poor Benjamin. He had no love for guns in any shape or form but he reserved his greatest loathing for the hot, muggy summers of Washington DC. And he thought Americans should be practical about it and not go sweating around in frock coats.
Instead, he was all in favour of short sleeves. So the Article 2 he had in mind was “the right to bare arms.”
But he was short-sighted and had forgotten his bifocals on the fateful day, Worse, he was a dreadful speller. And so, “bare” became “bear.” Being a soldier, George Washington approved and history got rewritten.
Why am I babbling on about guns?
Early this week, Walmart had to apologise to an outraged citizenry over a sign in one of its stores. The sign seemed to market firearms as a “back to school” sale item. A sign reading “own the school year like a hero” had been placed strategically above a glass case filled with guns of such ferocity that Rambo himself might have recoiled back in fright.
It was taken seriously because Walmart is an institution. It had over 3,000 stores: it employs 2.5 million people and has yearly operating income of over US$25bil.
The corporation has since apologised and the offending signs withdrawn. But as an irate tweet asked: “What are they trying to suggest?”
In 2015, over 13,000 people were killed in US shootings and double the number, wounded. But the NRA, the US’ greatest defender of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, preferably through the mass ownership of firearms, was unmoved.
In the past, the implacable organisation had depended on such spokespersons as Charlton Heston, a granite-jawed, flint-eyed actor, who piously eschewed guns in such forgettable films as “The Ten Commandments” and “Ben Hur.”
In his private life, however, Mr Heston thought that Moses should at least, have had an Uzi just to control those ungrateful Israelis fleeing the Pharaoh’s wrath.
He was a one-dimensional man who thought that no American should settle with words what he might otherwise accomplish with an AK-47.
He thought that Latin America was a fine place with enough guns to win a war. And his only regret was that he hadn’t studied Latin harder in high school if only he might converse better with all those gun-toting guys he’d met there on his last trip.
Mr Heston loved two things with a passion: the NRA and the US Army. Indeed, he’d even devised a winning tagline for recruitment to the army: Join the Army, meet interesting people and kill them.
The line moved him tremendously because it sounded vaguely Biblical and not unlike what Moses might have said when confronted by ingrates bent on worshipping a golden calf. “They should all have been shot,” cried an indignant Mr Heston who felt that a sufficiently aimed rocket launcher would have put paid to the calf.
Alas, the late, unlamented Mr Heston is no more with us. Instead, the NRA has pinned its hopes on Homer Simpson.
Homer had explained his support for the NRA and Article 2 thus: “A gun is not a weapon but a tool much like a hammer, a spanner or an alligator.”