Life mirroring art
A term often heard, but how often can we point to incidences of it actually happening. Now comes the opportunity to be involved in a literary project that has a ‘shot’ at having a tangible, grass-roots impact in real-life.
The novel at the heart of this, The Second Amendment, is already mostly finished. Copies are already available on Amazon Kindle as an e-book (so you can partly check out this project in advance) – so what will the funds be used for?
The book has already gone through two edit phases. There’ll be a final edit phase, plus getting The Second Amendment produced as both a trade paperback and hardback. Those ‘final edit’ editions will also include the names (in an acknowledgement section at the back) of all the people who have helped take this project to the ‘next level’ – which means YOU (picture Lord Kitchener pointing to you from a poster).
The Next Level
At the core of the plot in ‘The Second Amendment’ is a thesis which could have impact in real life on the way gun control is viewed in the USA. In the book, the far-right want to ensure it doesn’t come to fruition. The battle lines are drawn and a hard-edged conflict ensues.
Now that thesis was based on my own research at the time of what might work in real life. Using my experience and contacts as a past political magazine editor and novelist, I was in touch with numerous gun control supporters: Congressmen, Senators and Brady Campaign supporters (including veteran actor Paul Newman three years before his death, a keen gun control advocate). Many were supportive, and out of that a thesis gained shape.
But that thesis is still in raw, embryonic form. Only so much detail was needed for it to play a part in a thriller, and the main research was done some ten years ago. It needs updating, fleshing out and shaping as a final document that could actually work in practice. This will entail exhaustive further research amongst gun-control support groups, political leaders and lobbyists. Hard facts and figures will be required to back up the thesis/proposal.
Most importantly, once completed, it will be sent to Congressmen, Senators, lobbyists and support groups who might actually be able to guide that thesis/proposal towards implementation in real life. Therefore transforming an initial art/literary project into one which could have real grass roots impact on future gun control legislation. And that final thesis, as with the last edit of book, The Second Amendment’, will also include the names of all those who’ve offered their support in taking the project to that ‘next level’ (again, YOU). This is what the majority of funding will go towards.
A brief history lesson
The problem with gun control is that it’s written in the Constitution as a core right of the people, straight after The First Amendment on free speech. Now the reasons for that are perfectly understandable: without guns in the American War of Independence, Americans might still be sipping tea or have a picture of the British Queen above their fireplaces. Of course, the Brits, being polite and accommodating, also had their soldiers wear bright red uniforms so that they were easy to pick off.
But the actual wording of the Second Amendment (possibly in light of that history), didn’t simply give leave for all Americans to carry arms on a loose, general basis. It was tied specifically to militia and national defence, as follows: ‘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.’
Now unfortunately that isn’t what has happened in the evolution of gun distribution and/or limited control. ‘Some’ sections of US society are reasonably regulated and trained and could be seen as a valuable militia to support national defence; but the vast majority are not, and ‘Saturday night specials’ can come out for anything from fender benders to a neighbour playing their radio too loud.
So this made me look towards a nation that does have a proliferation of guns specifically for the purpose of national defence: Switzerland. Partly as a result of its neutrality, Switzerland historically (until a partial reduction in 2004) has had an ‘on call’ private militia army constituting almost 30% of all eligible Swiss males between the age of 18-50, making it pro-rata the second largest reservist army in the world (after Israel). In the USA this would equate to an on call reservist army of almost 20 million, six times its current size (standing army and reservists).
However, 90% of the weapons of this Swiss ‘on call’ militia army are held in the private homes of militia members (generally in secure, locked cupboards). Furthermore, upon induction militia members are trained in the use of those weapons and have regular refresher courses. But despite such a proliferation of weapons in private homes, incidences of these weapons being used against their fellow Swiss are practically unheard of. Would this then better represent the ethos of what the original Constitution drafters had in mind when they linked arms to ‘militia’ in The Second Amendment? And, more to the point, could such a system possibly work in practical terms in the USA?
Shaping the proposal for today’s USA?
The Swiss model has many merits which would transpose well to the USA: the locked cupboard or casing would deter casual shootings; it should also prevent guns being fired by accident, as in the case of children, an increasing hot-button area of concern. The induction and training, apart from aiding a militia to be more efficient, should also help people be more responsible with the use of firearms. Driving a car requires passing a rigid test, so why not guns as well?
But in order to satisfy The Second Amendment, those arms (in a locked case at home, with initial induction training) should be available to all Americans upon request. Guns would not be allowed to be carried freely on the street (which follows more the Canadian model and is the law in a number of US states). Those uncomfortable about having a gun at home could nominate a local neighbourhood warden to carry their gun for them. A local warden could also be an option for the carrying of automatic weapons.
The initial thesis in The Second Amendment added an extra twist to that home gun case; a glass front, similar to fire alarms, with the sticker: ‘Only to be smashed in the case of national emergency’. The only other allowable incidence would be if there was a cogent threat (an intruder or burglar). The act of smashing the case would then ring an alarm in the local police station. Handy, being able to call reinforcements for that intruder, but not so handy if your aim was to shoot your neighbour; all things being equal, the police should arrive while the gun was still smoking (or in an ideal world, before you’d fired – but let’s not get too carried away here about police efficiency :)
A pin-numbered case would be another option. Also, in the age of GPS, an alarm if that gun case was moved from the house. These are all elements the final thesis would investigate and expound upon.
The other key element the final thesis would study is that of amnesty. An enormous number of guns are already in circulation in the USA, so perhaps some sort of trade off between those weapons and the newly ‘allowable’ weapons to be held in a case at home? Also, what sort of time scale would be workable for such an amnesty to take effect? What restrictions and penalties would then be placed on the weapons that fell outside of the new regulations?
Main aim and pricing structure
The main aim is to get as many support names as possible for the final thesis proposal to be presented to the powers that be. Fifty or so names probably wouldn’t make much of an impact, but several hundred or a thousand (or more) would. So I’ll be pricing this lean and mean and offering exceptional value for money.
So as a high-volume-name and low-price exercise, I won’t be adding fridge magnets, posters or Second Amendment T-shirts and bathrobes to inflate the upper-level packages. Besides which, wearing the latter within telescopic range of GOA or NRA members might get you shot :)
It will just be the plain book in its different formats and the final thesis, with your name added with thanks in both. So that for the price of the average Grisham or Clancy novel (far less in e-book format), you can be a part of a unique ‘life mirroring art’ project and have your name included in the roster of those who actually tried to make a difference.
About the author
John Matthews is the British author of nine novels: Basikasingo, Crescents of the Moon, Past Imperfect, The Last Witness, The Shadow Chaser, Ascension Day, The Prophet, BlindSchool and The Second Amendment. And two film screenplays: Of Lesser Angels and BlindSchool. In between writing novels, he has been a travel courier, war-zone journalist and editor of a range of magazines from decor and architecture to computer technology and politics. Between 1996-1998, he was editor of European Brief, the main magazine for the European Parliament.
His books have sold a total of 1.2 million and been translated into twelve languages. In 2007, Past Imperfect was included in a list in The Times (London) of top ten all-time best legal thrillers.