The National Rifle Association, which likes to describe itself, apparently without irony, as ‘America’s oldest civil rights organisation’, recently held its annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona. You can check out the NRA’s cheerfully sinister website here, but be warned: not the least sinister thing about it is that it seems to require a dauntingly high level of processing firepower, liable to cripple the more modestly armed computers of those of us who aren’t committed to defending the second amendment.
It was a gloomily upbeat occasion, by all accounts: unlike the automobile and most other industries in the US and around the world, the gun trade in America is booming. The semi-automatics are flying off the shelves; to no one’s surprise, the men who love and trust their guns neither love nor trust their president, and are bulking up their arsenals just in case. Just in case what? Well, you never know. . . If a history of paranoia were something the FBI looked for in their background checks on would-be gun-buyers, sales would drop off precipitously.
Next week is this year’s Control Arms Global Week of Action. Amnesty International UK is encouraging people to write to the foreign secretary to demand that the Arms Trade Treaty which the UN is to start drawing up in July be ‘tough, comprehensive and effective’. (The form text thanks David Miliband for his ‘personal commitment to the Arms Trade Treaty and the leadership that the UK government has shown in pushing for this initiative’.) Well absolutely: I’ve just sent off my email. Unfortunately, however, the British government is unlikely to want to do too much that might harm one of its last remaining successful export businesses. And it’s probably a fairly reliable indicator of the prevailing attitude in Westminster that in September London will once again be hosting the world’s largest arms fair.