The right to life or the right to have a gun
The most fundamental right is of course the right to life; without it all other rights are irrelevant.
I once read of a tragic shooting of an innocent person and I cannot remember all the details. I think that it was a British tourist who was lost somewhere in the United States and knocked on a door to get some assistance. The householder was taking no chances and shot him dead. So take care if you visit the United States.
The United States of America has part of its Constitution that is widely seen as giving people the right to carry lethal weapons but that interpretation has also been questioned. It is the Second Amendment that reads: '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 intention of the authors of that amendment was clearly to permit a well regulated militia and how allowing anyone to buy a gun achieves that aim is not at all clear to me.
In a United Nations conference on the control of small weapons the United States representative said that he was proud to defend the Constitution, including the Second Amendment. He could not support any move that might interfere with citizens of the USA having the right to bear arms. This obsession of Americans with guns is not just a domestic American issue because guns washing around everywhere in the United States can easily lead to guns falling into the wrong hands in other parts of the world.
(Update, April 2009: The Brady Campaign has issued a report on Exporting Gun Violence on how criminals in Mexico and the USA take advantage of the weak controls on guns. Mexican drug cartels are able to acquire deadly weapons.)
A result of the Second Amendment is that many people in the USA are killed by guns and every so often a mass killing makes headlines around the world, perhaps making more Americans question whether they should start to control guns. In 2004 there were 73 people murdered with guns in England and Wales but 11344 in the United States. The Second Amendment clearly needs to be amended.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.