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El Comercio, Ecuador

Obama’s Disarmament

By Julio Echeverría

Translated By Rachel Davenport

20 January 2013

Edited by Natalie Clager

Ecuador - El Comercio - Original Article (Spanish)

The democracy of the United States is a very unique case study. A pioneer in institutions that guarantee the rights of citizenship, it preserves, however, features like the death penalty and the right to bear arms, which don’t seem appropriate for a modern society. Both policies, in the name of liberty, infringe on the most fundamental of human rights, the right to life.

Obama’s administration just started a battle to limit U.S. citizens’ right to bear arms, which promises to be bloody. What surely made sense in the 18th century in a vast and wild territory has now become a basic element in asserting individual rights and a cultural touchstone for relevant parts of North American society.

Despite the majority of the population being in favor of Obama’s proposal, the mobilizing capability and the political and economic influence of the supporters of the right to bear arms is enormous. The lobbying power of the arms industry and its mechanisms for influencing decision-making in U.S. politics will show themselves in full force in the debate over the president’s legislative initiative in both houses of Congress.

Citizens’ unlimited access to bear arms contradicts the substantive basis of modern political rationality as it is recognized today throughout mature democracy. This rationality identifies the monopoly on the use of legitimate force as a central basis of the modern state. Citizens renounce the use of direct force in exchange for their security; the state guarantees this security through the professionalization of the police, the armed forces and the justice system, entities which exist to ensure the just fulfillment of the rights of the citizens.

This basic principle is not adequately regulated in the democratic institutions of the United States and gives room to those who defend the right to bear arms, those who assert their right to defend themselves from real or fictitious threats.

Ordinary men and women end up accumulating impressive arsenals, which include high-power military artifacts that are used to take lives and, ever more frequently, to provoke mass murders. This indiscriminate access to weapons is also associated with the increase in criminal activity linked to the drug cartels in Mexico and the southern United States.

Obama’s proposition puts to the test the quality of his leadership and the validity of that cardinal principle of political rationality: how to preserve the fundamental values of liberty and, at the same time, guarantee citizens’ right to security.



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