Tag Archives: iceland

Welcome Jack — Data Center Tech

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/welcome-jack-data-center-tech/

As we shoot way past 500 petabytes of data stored, we need a lot of helping hands in the data center to keep those hard drives spinning! We’ve been hiring quite a lot, and our latest addition is Jack. Lets learn a bit more about him, shall we?

What is your Backblaze Title?
Data Center Tech

Where are you originally from?
Walnut Creek, CA until 7th grade when the family moved to Durango, Colorado.

What attracted you to Backblaze?
I had heard about how cool the Backblaze community is and have always been fascinated by technology.

What do you expect to learn while being at Backblaze?
I expect to learn a lot about how our data centers run and all of the hardware behind it.

Where else have you worked?
Garrhs HVAC as an HVAC Installer and then Durango Electrical as a Low Volt Technician.

Where did you go to school?
Durango High School and then Montana State University.

What’s your dream job?
I would love to be a driver for the Audi Sport. Race cars are so much fun!

Favorite place you’ve traveled?
Iceland has definitely been my favorite so far.

Favorite hobby?
Video games.

Of what achievement are you most proud?
Getting my Eagle Scout badge was a tough, but rewarding experience that I will always cherish.

Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars.

Coke or Pepsi?
Coke…I know, it’s bad.

Favorite food?
Thai food.

Why do you like certain things?
I tend to warm up to things the more time I spend around them, although I never really know until it happens.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I’m a friendly car guy who will always be in love with my European cars and I really enjoy the Backblaze community!

We’re happy you joined us Out West! Welcome aboard Jack!

The post Welcome Jack — Data Center Tech appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

ЕСПЧ: свобода на изразяване и добро име

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/echr_reputation/

Стана известно решението на Съда за правата на човека по делото Einarsson v. Iceland. Съдът трябва да балансира правото на свободно изразяване на медиите и правото на добро име на г-н Ейнарсон и да се произнесе дали намесата е в нарушение на чл.8 ЕКПЧ.

Жалбоподателят  е радиоводещ, телевизионен водещ, известна публична фигура. Обвинен е в изнасилване, впоследствие всички обвинения срещу него са отхвърлени, тъй като доказателствата са недостатъчни. 

По този повод в Инстаграм се появява снимка на г-н Ейнарсон с квалификации (“Fuck you rapist bastard”).   Всеки потребител на платформата  има достъп до снимката. От Инстаграм снимката тръгва и към медиите. В съдебния  процес Исландският съд застава на страната на медиите, като намира, че става дума за обществени дебати, за лично менние – коментар и публичната фигура  не е оклеветена. Лицето се обръща към ЕСПЧ за нарушение на чл.8, право на личен живот.

ЕСПЧ анализира баланса между свободата на изразяване и защитата на доброто име. За разлика от Исландския съд, ЕСПЧ приема, че изнасилвач не е оценка, а твърдение  за факт, и че Исландският съд не е успял да постигне справедлив баланс на правата.

Член 8 от Конвенцията трябва да се тълкува в смисъл, че лицата, дори спорните публични лица, които са предизвикали разгорещени дебати  с поведението си  и публичните си  коментари, не трябва да търпят публично обвинение в насилствени престъпни действия […] Ето защо Съдът намира, че изявлението е от сериозно естество и може да навреди на доброто име на жалбоподателя   [52]

В частност, коментира се и факта, че става дума за онлайн съдържание:

Съдът счита за важно да припомни своята предишна съдебна практика –  предвид неговата достъпност и способността му да съхранява и да позволява обмен на огромно количество информация, интернет играе важна роля за повишаване на достъпа на обществеността до новини и улесняване на разпространението на информацията като цяло. Същевременно опасността от вреди […], особено по отношение на правото на зачитане на личния живот, със сигурност е по-висока отколкото при  пресата (вж.  Delfi AS срещу Естония). [46]

Нарушение на чл.8 ЕКПЧ.

Има  две особени мнения, според които  – напротив – не става дума за твърдение за факт, а за по-обща оценка предвид  възгледите на жалбоподателя в миналото като цяло. Освен това в особените мнения се напомня, че преценката по  начало следва да се предостави на националните съдилища.

Filed under: Digital, Media Law Tagged: еспч

ЕСПЧ: твърдения за факти и отговорната журналистика

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/echr_journ/

В решение по делото Halldorsson v. Iceland   Европейският съд по правата на човека (ЕКПЧ) заявява, че журналист, отговорен за телевизионна новина, която засяга доброто име на идентифицируемо публично лице, трябва да може да докаже, че е действал добросъвестно, що се отнася до точността на твърденията в новината. Журналистът не може да се позовава на тайна на източниците на информация, когато не може да представи доказателства за сериозни обвинения. И в по-ранни решения ЕСПЧ вече е посочвал, че правата на журналистите могат да ползват тези, които действат добросъвестно и според стандартите на отговорната журналистика (вж Pentikainen v Finland).

Жалбоподателят е журналист, работещ в новинарската редакция на Исландската национална телевизия (RUV). Телевизията  излъчва серия от новинарски предавания за сделка  от около 20 милиона евро между исландско дружество и компания   в Панама. Съобщава се, че са замесени трима исландски бизнесмени (A, B и C). Показани са техни снимки заедно с текст  „разследва се”, придружен от съобщението, че властите разследват случая. В друга новина  снимки на А, Б и С са показани над карта на света, като купчинка пари се прехвърлят визуално върху снимките на мъжете, като се споменава, че парите са в “джобовете на тройката”. Обобщение на съдържанието на излъчваните новинарски материали е публикувано и на интернет страницата на RUV. След излъчването на новините единият от засегнатите А   отрича всяка връзка с предполагаемата заподозряна сделка.  По-късно А подава дело срещу клевета срещу Свавар Халдорсон,  автор на новините.    Халдорсон е осъден да заплати на А около 2,600 евро като обезщетение за неимуществени вреди.

Пред Европейския съд по правата на човека Халдорсон поддържа, че изявленията в новините не са  засегнали  А,    не са клеветнически и не се твърди, че А е виновен за финансово престъпление или други действия, наказуеми от закона.
Стандартите

В съответствие с констатациите на националните съдилища ЕСПЧ потвърждава, че новините действително съдържат сериозно обвинение за незаконни и престъпни деяния; следователно ЕСПЧ е на мнение, че спорът изисква проучване на справедливото равновесие между правото на зачитане на личния живот и правото на свобода на изразяване

Принципите, които се отнасят до въпроса дали “в демократичното общество е необходима намеса в свободата на изразяване”, са добре установени в практиката на Съда (вж Delfi AS срещу Естония). [37].

Съдът е постановил, че доброто име  на дадено лице, дори ако е критикувано в рамките на обществен дебат, е част от неговата лична самоличност и психологическа неприкосновеност и следователно попада в приложното поле на неговия “личен живот” “. За да влезе в действие член 8, атаката срещу личната чест и доброто име  трябва да е достигнала определено ниво на сериозност.  [38].

Тъй като многократно е трябвало да разглежда спорове, изискващи проверка на справедливото равновесие между правото на зачитане на личния живот и правото на свобода на изразяване, Съдът е разработил общи принципи, произтичащи от богата съдебна практика в тази  област. [39].

Критериите, които са от значение за балансирането на правото на свобода на изразяване срещу правото на зачитане на личния живот, са inter alia: приносът към дебатите от общ интерес; колко добре е известно заинтересованото лице и какъв е предметът на публикацията; предишното му поведение; метода за получаване на информацията и нейната достоверност; съдържанието, формата и последствията от публикацията; строгостта на наложената санкция (вж. например Axel Springer AG срещу Германия и Von Hannover срещу Германия (№ 2 ).

Накрая, Съдът напомня, че в зоната на преценка на националните власти   са необходими сериозни мотиви, за да не се приеме  становището на националните съдилища.   [40].

Решението

ЕСПЧ е съгласен, че А трябва да се смята за публична фигура и че предметът на спорните новинарски материали е въпрос от обществен интерес.

Съдът потвърждава   заключенията на Върховния съд на Исландия, че Халдорсон не е действал добросъвестно. Не е потърсил информация от А, докато подготвя новината. ЕСПЧ отново заявява, че защитата, предоставена от член 10 от ЕКПЧ на журналистите по отношение на докладването по въпроси от общ интерес, зависи от условието те да действат добросъвестно и на точна фактическа основа и да предоставят  надеждна и точна  информация в съответствие с етиката на журналистиката.

Съдът посочва, че не намира  основания журналистът да се отклони от   задължението си  да проверява фактическите изявления, които засягат доброто име.

Отхвърлени са аргументите на Халдорсон, които се отнасят до правото  да запази поверителните си източници и документацията, послужили за изготвяне на новините. ЕСПЧ потвърждава, че защитата на журналистическите източници е едно от основните условия за свободата на медиите, липсата на защита ги демотивира да оказват помощ на пресата при информирането на обществеността по въпроси от обществено значение.   ЕСПЧ пояснява обаче, че  простото позоваване на защитата на източниците не може да освободи журналист от задължението да докаже достоверността на твърденията, или да има достатъчно основания за сериозни обвинения от фактически характер – задължение, което може да бъде изпълнено, без непременно да се налага да се разкриват източниците.[51]

И накрая, ЕСПЧ не смята, че финансовата компенсация и изплащането на разноските по вътрешното производство са прекомерни или  с възспиращ ефект  върху упражняването на свободата на медиите. Според Съда потенциалното въздействие на медията е важен фактор при отчитането на пропорционалността на намесата. В това отношение ЕСПЧ напомня становището си, че аудиовизуалните медии имат по-непосредствен и мощен ефект от печатните медии.

Върховният съд на Исландия е уравновесил правото на свобода на изразяване с правото на зачитане на личния живот, взел е предвид критериите, определени в съдебната практика на ЕСПЧ,  действал е в рамките на предоставената му преценка и е постигнал разумен баланс между наложените мерки, ограничаващи правото на свобода на изразяване.

 

Поради това ЕКПЧ заключава с единодушие, че не е налице нарушение на чл. 10 от ЕКПЧ.

 

 

Filed under: Media Law Tagged: еспч

Coming in 2018 – New AWS Region in Sweden

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/coming-in-2018-new-aws-region-in-sweden/

Last year we launched new AWS Regions in Canada, India, Korea, the UK (London), and the United States (Ohio), and announced that new regions are coming to France (Paris) and China (Ningxia).

Today, I am happy to be able to tell you that we are planning to open up an AWS Region in Stockholm, Sweden in 2018. This region will give AWS partners and customers in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden low-latency connectivity and the ability to run their workloads and store their data close to home.

The Nordics is well known for its vibrant startup community and highly innovative business climate. With successful global enterprises like ASSA ABLOY, IKEA, and Scania along with fast growing startups like Bambora, Supercell, Tink, and Trustpilot, it comes as no surprise that Forbes ranks Sweden as the best country for business, with all the other Nordic countries in the top 10. Even better, the European Commission ranks Sweden as the most innovative country in EU.

This will be the fifth AWS Region in Europe joining four other Regions there — EU (Ireland), EU (London), EU (Frankfurt) and an additional Region in France expected to launch in the coming months. Together, these Regions will provide our customers with a total of 13 Availability Zones (AZs) and allow them to architect highly fault tolerant applications while storing their data in the EU.

Today, our infrastructure comprises 42 Availability Zones across 16 geographic regions worldwide, with another three AWS Regions (and eight Availability Zones) in France, China and Sweden coming online throughout 2017 and 2018, (see the AWS Global Infrastructure page for more info).

We are looking forward to serving new and existing Nordic customers and working with partners across Europe. Of course, the new region will also be open to existing AWS customers who would like to process and store data in Sweden. Public sector organizations (government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofits) in Sweden will be able to use this region to store sensitive data in-country (the AWS in the Public Sector page has plenty of success stories drawn from our worldwide customer base).

If you are a customer or a partner and have specific questions about this Region, you can contact our Nordic team.

Help Wanted
As part of our launch, we are hiring individual contributors and managers for IT support, electrical, logistics, and physical security positions. If you are interested in learning more, please contact [email protected].

Jeff;

 

ЕСПЧ: балансиране на чл.8 и чл.10 ЕКПЧ, отговорност на редактор на сайт

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/echr-liability/

На 16 март 2017 Съдът за правата на човека постановява решение по делото Olafsson v. Iceland (Application no. 58493/13).

Исландски сайт Pressan  публикува статии и интервюта, в които авторите твърдят, че кандидат за парламента, участник в предстоящите избори,   преди време е злоупотребил сексуално с деца. Авторите са информирали също полицията и органите за защита на децата.

Според закона към отговорност може да се привлече издателят или редакторът, ако авторите не са идентифицирани. Въпреки че в случая авторите са известни, те не са привлечени към отговорност. И въпреки че съдът признава необходимостта от дискусия и съществуващия обществен интерес, в последна сметка е осъден Олафсон, редактор, доколкото засегнатото в публикацията лице (кандидатът за депутат) не е осъдено с влязла в сила присъда.

ЕСПЧ прилага теста за пропорционалност и установява, че

  • има намеса в свободата на изразяване;
  • намесата е предвидена в закона;
  • по въпроса дали намесата е необходима в едно демократично общество ЕСПЧ има практика  – [48] за да се приложи член 8 ЕКПЧ, атаката срещу репутацията на едно лице трябва да достигне определено ниво на сериозност и  да уврежда правото на неприкосновеност на личния живот. Критериите, които са от значение  при балансиране на правото на свобода на изразяване срещу правото на неприкосновеност на личния живот са: приносът  към дебати от обществен интерес; колко известно е лицето и обсъждания казус; методът за получаване на информация и достоверността; съдържанието, формата и последствията от публикуването;  тежестта на наложеното наказание и др. (Axel Springer AG v Germany  и Von Hannover v Germany).

В случая Съдът подчертава, че е спазено общото изискване   журналистите систематично и официално да се дистанцират от съдържанието на твърдение, който може да обиди или провокира другите или да навреди на репутацията им, както и че [56]  наказание на журналист за подпомагане на разпространението на изявления, направени от друго лице в интервю,  би затруднило сериозно приноса на пресата за обсъждане на въпроси от обществен интерес и подобно наказание не следва да се предвижда , освен ако не са налице особено силни основания за това. Освен това  [57] Съдът счита, че жалбоподателят е действал добросъвестно и се е убедил, че статията е написана в съответствие с възприетите журналистически правила за проверка на фактическото твърдение.

Следователно намесата не е необходима в едно демократично общество. Не е извършен прецизен баланс между правата по чл.8 и чл.10, така както изисква ЕКПЧ и практиката на ЕСПЧ.

Нарушение на чл.10 ЕКПЧ.

Filed under: Media Law Tagged: еспч

Instant-replay table football

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/instant-replay-table-football/

So, England, nominally the home of football, is out of the European Cup, having lost to Iceland. Iceland is a country with a population of 330,000 hardy Vikings, whose national sport is handball. England’s population is over 53 million. And we invented soccer.

Iceland’s only football pitch is under snow for much of the year, and their part-time manager is a full-time dentist.

I think perhaps England should refocus their sporting efforts on something a little less challenging. Like table football. With a Raspberry Pi on hand, you can even make it feel stadium-like, with automatic goal detection, slow-motion instant replay, score-keeping, tallying for a league of competitors and more. Come on, nation. I feel that we could do quite well with this; and given that it cuts the size of the team down to two people, it’d keep player salaries at a minimum.

Foosball Instant Replay

Demo of Foosball Instant Replay system More info here: * https://github.com/swehner/foos * https://github.com/netsuso/foos-tournament Music: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Jahzzar/Blinded_by_dust/Magic_Mountain_1877

This build comes from Stefan Wehner, who has documented it meticulously on GitHub. You’ll find full build instructions and a parts list (which starts with a football table), along with all the code you’ll need.

Well done Iceland, by the way. We’re not bitter or anything.

 

 

The post Instant-replay table football appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

The Panama Papers Leak – What You Need To Know

Post Syndicated from Darknet original http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/darknethackers/~3/SPqd2S03BBo/

The HUGE news this week is the Panama Papers leak, a massive cache of 11.5 million documents leaked to a German Newspaper (Süddeutsche Zeitung) in August 2015. It’s one of the most significant data leaks of all time and Edward Snowden has labelled it as “the biggest leak in the history of data journalism”. It’s […]

The post The Panama…

Read the full post at darknet.org.uk

Poland vs the United States: firearms

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2015/06/poland-vs-united-states-firearms.html

This is the fourth article in a short series about Poland, Europe, and the United States. To explore the entire series, click here.

I spent roughly half of my adult life in Poland; for the other half, we lived in the United States. Because of this, my Polish friends sometimes ask about the cultural differences between the two countries. I always struggle to answer on the spot, so I decided to explore some of the most striking dissimilarities in a series of short blog posts. It’s only fitting to start with guns.

Although you won’t see this brought up by any gun control advocate, Poland has long had some of the strictest firearms regimes in the world – surpassed only by a handful of countries such as Rwanda, Niger, Japan, and North Korea. The roots of this policy are difficult to pinpoint, but it may have had to do with the years of foreign partitions, followed by the Soviet-imposed communist rule; in those trying times, private militias must have been seen as a grave threat to the social order and to the personal safety of the ruling class. Whatever the original reasoning, the effects are plain to see: in today’s Poland, there is almost no tradition of gun ownership or hobby shooting sports; the country averages just around one firearm per 100 residents, compared to almost seven in the UK, fifteen in Australia, sixteen in the Czech Republic, or thirty in Austria, Iceland, Finland, and Germany. It’s likely that most Poles do not even know anyone who legally owns a gun.

In many ways, the United States may seem like the polar opposite: we have enough privately-owned firearms to equip every single man, woman, and child. In much of the country, there is no permitting process for new purchases and no registration requirements for handguns, rifles, or shotguns. The weapons can be bought at trade shows, given to family members, or loaned to friends. Long guns and ammo can be bought in sporting stores or at Walmart. And sure, if you want to have AR-15 just because it looks like fun, you can; indeed, many people get it for that reason alone.

In America, the right to bear arms is an ancient tradition going all the way back to the early days of the republic. Its constitutional standing is not very different from that of freedom of speech; there is ample evidence that the Founding Fathers envisioned the Second Amendment as the ultimate way to forever protect all other personal liberties, to resist feudal subjugation, and as to ensure the sovereignty of the fledgling country. Although several other, collectivist interpretations of the Second Amendment have been put forward by progressive thinkers, their efforts have not been successful; today, roughly 75% of all Americans believe that the Constitution gives them a well-defined, individual right to own a gun, and the Supreme Court has sided with their views.

In the minds of some citizens, the Second Amendment is still the only thing that stands between freedom and tyranny, be it at the hands of foreign powers or their own government run amok; but for many others, gun ownership is simply an empowering family hobby pursued at any of the tens of thousands shooting ranges all across the United States. In a country populated far less densely than Europe, there is also a clear utilitarian aspect to it all: especially for rural populations, rifles are seen as a necessity for defending one’s property against wild animals or scaring away criminals or drunken thugs. Across much of the US, the right to protect yourself with deadly force – without having to retreat or to submit to an assailant – is seen as a fundamental human right.

Of course, all this comes at a price: even though it is overall a very safe country, the US leads the highly developed world in homicides, the bulk of which are committed with guns. The causes of this phenomenon are complex, deeply intertwined with the American psyche and the unique structure of the society; the fashionable practice of placing the blame squarely on the easy availability of firearms does not hold up to closer scrutiny. Nevertheless, it would be dishonest to claim that broad gun ownership comes at no cost to the American public. Some of the most vivid pictures seared into people’s minds are the infrequent but soul-crushing school shootings. A more everyday occurrence are police encounters that end tragically because of the presumption that any suspects – even children – may be armed to their teeth.

Over the last century, the worries about gun violence – the bulk of which traces back to drug trade and gang activity – has led to increasing federal and state regulation of firearms. It is probable that some of these rules ended up saving lives with little practical harm to civil liberties; examples of this may include restrictions on fully-automatic weapons or the requirement for seamless background checks. But many other legislative efforts attempted to dismantle or substantially reinterpret the Second Amendment in an emotional response to individual tragedies – and without having an honest, national debate about the amendment’s lasting value to the American society. One can mention Chicago, Washington D.C., and San Francisco, all of which attempted to impose blanket bans on handgun ownership. Another good example is New Orleans, where the officials went as far as going door to door and forcibly confiscating firearms in the wake of hurricane Katrina; their intentions may have been pure, but in light of the case law and the prevailing libertarian sentiments that still resonate with many Americans, the wisdom of that gun grab seemed dubious at best.

In recent years, such zealous approaches inevitably meet their end in the courtroom – as noted earlier, judges, much to gun control advocates’ chagrin, see the awkwardly-worded Second Amendment as a proclamation of a very clear, individual right. If anything, the zeal of anti-gun activists has made it harder to have a reasonable discussion about gun rights, and enshrined the confusing and half-baked status quo. The constant onslaught of hastily-written legislation, coupled with erratic enforcement of the existing statutes, creates a toxic atmosphere where many firearms enthusiasts and interest groups feel that their freedom is under assault – and that the only way to avoid gradual erosion of constitutional rights is to fight each and every new proposal tooth and nail. One of the sticking points for the National Rifle Association is that federal gun registries would make it easy for the “baddies” to confiscate all firearms in the country. To many, this seemingly preposterous idea rings a lot less hollow after the New Orleans incident.

In Europe, and in Poland in particular, gun laws in the US are often seen as a deranged product of a powerful gun lobby that works against the will and to the detriment of normal citizens; some progressive politicians, scholars, and pundits in the US adopt the same view, demanding new gun restrictions without first winning the hearts and minds of fellow Americans. But when buying into this narrative, it is easy to overlook that the lobby in question is funded chiefly not by large corporations or the super-rich, but by ordinary citizens – and that it enjoys steady popular support, with approval ratings far higher than most politicians can claim.

In my younger years, I remember being entranced by “Bowling for Columbine”, viscerally hating the National Rifle Association, and shaking my head in disbelief at the stereotype of gun-totting, trigger-happy Americans. Today, I see the reality as far more nuanced – and if forced to take sides in this fascinating and emotional clash between collectivism and civil rights, I’m far less certain that collectivism would get my vote.

The article continues with a closer look at the costs and politics of gun ownership in the US; for the second part, click here.

Poland vs the United States: firearms

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2015/06/poland-vs-united-states-firearms.html

This is the fourth article in a short series about Poland, Europe, and the United States. To explore the entire series, click here.

I spent roughly half of my adult life in Poland; for the other half, we lived in the United States. Because of this, my Polish friends sometimes ask about the cultural differences between the two countries. I always struggle to answer on the spot, so I decided to explore some of the most striking dissimilarities in a series of short blog posts. It’s only fitting to start with guns.

Although you won’t see this brought up by any gun control advocate, Poland has long had some of the strictest firearms regimes in the world – surpassed only by a handful of countries such as Rwanda, Niger, Japan, and North Korea. The roots of this policy are difficult to pinpoint, but it may have had to do with the years of foreign partitions, followed by the Soviet-imposed communist rule; in those trying times, private militias must have been seen as a grave threat to the social order and to the personal safety of the ruling class. Whatever the original reasoning, the effects are plain to see: in today’s Poland, there is almost no tradition of gun ownership or hobby shooting sports; the country averages just around one firearm per 100 residents, compared to almost seven in the UK, fifteen in Australia, sixteen in the Czech Republic, or thirty in Austria, Iceland, Finland, and Germany. It’s likely that most Poles do not even know anyone who legally owns a gun.

In many ways, the United States may seem like the polar opposite: we have enough privately-owned firearms to equip every single man, woman, and child. In much of the country, there is no permitting process for new purchases and no registration requirements for handguns, rifles, or shotguns. The weapons can be bought at trade shows, given to family members, or loaned to friends. Long guns and ammo can be bought in sporting stores or at Walmart. And sure, if you want to have AR-15 just because it looks like fun, you can; indeed, many people get it for that reason alone.

In America, the right to bear arms is an ancient tradition going all the way back to the early days of the republic. Its constitutional standing is not very different from that of freedom of speech; there is ample evidence that the Founding Fathers envisioned the Second Amendment as the ultimate way to forever protect all other personal liberties, to resist feudal subjugation, and as to ensure the sovereignty of the fledgling country. Although several other, collectivist interpretations of the Second Amendment have been put forward by progressive thinkers, their efforts have not been successful; today, roughly 75% of all Americans believe that the Constitution gives them a well-defined, individual right to own a gun, and the Supreme Court has sided with their views.

In the minds of some citizens, the Second Amendment is still the only thing that stands between freedom and tyranny, be it at the hands of foreign powers or their own government run amok; but for many others, gun ownership is simply an empowering family hobby pursued at any of the tens of thousands shooting ranges all across the United States. In a country populated far less densely than Europe, there is also a clear utilitarian aspect to it all: especially for rural populations, rifles are seen as a necessity for defending one’s property against wild animals or scaring away criminals or drunken thugs. Across much of the US, the right to protect yourself with deadly force – without having to retreat or to submit to an assailant – is seen as a fundamental human right.

Of course, all this comes at a price: even though it is overall a very safe country, the US leads the highly developed world in homicides, the bulk of which are committed with guns. The causes of this phenomenon are complex, deeply intertwined with the American psyche and the unique structure of the society; the fashionable practice of placing the blame squarely on the easy availability of firearms does not hold up to closer scrutiny. Nevertheless, it would be dishonest to claim that broad gun ownership comes at no cost to the American public. Some of the most vivid pictures seared into people’s minds are the infrequent but soul-crushing school shootings. A more everyday occurrence are police encounters that end tragically because of the presumption that any suspects – even children – may be armed to their teeth.

Over the last century, the worries about gun violence – the bulk of which traces back to drug trade and gang activity – has led to increasing federal and state regulation of firearms. It is probable that some of these rules ended up saving lives with little practical harm to civil liberties; examples of this may include restrictions on fully-automatic weapons or the requirement for seamless background checks. But many other legislative efforts attempted to dismantle or substantially reinterpret the Second Amendment in an emotional response to individual tragedies – and without having an honest, national debate about the amendment’s lasting value to the American society. One can mention Chicago, Washington D.C., and San Francisco, all of which attempted to impose blanket bans on handgun ownership. Another good example is New Orleans, where the officials went as far as going door to door and forcibly confiscating firearms in the wake of hurricane Katrina; their intentions may have been pure, but in light of the case law and the prevailing libertarian sentiments that still resonate with many Americans, the wisdom of that gun grab seemed dubious at best.

In recent years, such zealous approaches inevitably meet their end in the courtroom – as noted earlier, judges, much to gun control advocates’ chagrin, see the awkwardly-worded Second Amendment as a proclamation of a very clear, individual right. If anything, the zeal of anti-gun activists has made it harder to have a reasonable discussion about gun rights, and enshrined the confusing and half-baked status quo. The constant onslaught of hastily-written legislation, coupled with erratic enforcement of the existing statutes, creates a toxic atmosphere where many firearms enthusiasts and interest groups feel that their freedom is under assault – and that the only way to avoid gradual erosion of constitutional rights is to fight each and every new proposal tooth and nail. One of the sticking points for the National Rifle Association is that federal gun registries would make it easy for the “baddies” to confiscate all firearms in the country. To many, this seemingly preposterous idea rings a lot less hollow after the New Orleans incident.

In Europe, and in Poland in particular, gun laws in the US are often seen as a deranged product of a powerful gun lobby that works against the will and to the detriment of normal citizens; some progressive politicians, scholars, and pundits in the US adopt the same view, demanding new gun restrictions without first winning the hearts and minds of fellow Americans. But when buying into this narrative, it is easy to overlook that the lobby in question is funded chiefly not by large corporations or the super-rich, but by ordinary citizens – and that it enjoys steady popular support, with approval ratings far higher than most politicians can claim.

In my younger years, I remember being entranced by “Bowling for Columbine”, viscerally hating the National Rifle Association, and shaking my head in disbelief at the stereotype of gun-totting, trigger-happy Americans. Today, I see the reality as far more nuanced – and if forced to take sides in this fascinating and emotional clash between collectivism and civil rights, I’m far less certain that collectivism would get my vote.

The article continues with a closer look at the costs and politics of gun ownership in the US; for the second part, click here.