Some time ago I was working in Brussels with Dan Mitchell, formerly of the Heritage Foundation, now with the Cato Institute (both excellent conservative Washington think-tanks), and I noticed he was wearing a really great tie — all stars and stripes and antique type-setting. On closer examination, it turned out to be the tie of the US National Rifle Association — that bastion of conservative values in the US of A. And emblazoned on it was the famous Second Amendment to the US Constitution:
“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”.
As my good friend Dan Hannan likes to say, the US Constitution is chiefly about the rights of the people, whereas the EU Constitution is chiefly about the power of the state. Mind you I suppose we could have a debate about whether America’s millions of gun owners represent “a well-regulated militia”, in any sense which the authors of the amendment might recognise.
I admired Dan (Mitchell)’s tie, and with typical American generosity he immediately took it off and insisted on giving it to me, saying he could easily enough get another back in the US. He was across again in Brux last week, and I mentioned how much I was enjoying wearing the tie. He asked for a photograph of it in the European parliament, so here it is, taken in the Strasbourg Hemicycle.
There are those in Britain who will look rather sniffily at the US, and blame America’s high level of gun crime on the Second Amendment. But we should be careful about reaching simplistic conclusions. After the Dunblane tragedy in the UK, we introduced some of the most draconian gun laws in the world, so that even our Olympic shooting teams find it difficult to train in the UK. Has our gun crime gone down? It has not. I understand that guns are cheaper and more widely available in the UK now, than they were before Dunblane.
As the old bumper-sticker put it, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”.