I SPENT July 4, 2009 at Mount Rushmore, signing a agreement between Historic Scotland and the US Parks Service which resulted in a Scottish 3D survey of the famous presidential heads. At one stage we were told we might be allowed to walk on the hill itself, which is usually off limits, so I went to the local hardware supermarket to get a pair of suitable boots.

The place was the size of a huge B&Q but there was a significant difference. The whole back wall was a gun shop, with hundreds of handguns, shotguns, rifles and assault weapons displayed and available to buy there and then, along with the necessary ammunition.

A few years later I was chieftain of the New Hampshire Highland Games, which was a most enjoyable event. There I met not one, but two, pipe bands which performed with their sidearms on their hips.

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The “right to bear arms” was no abstract dispensation to those pipers and drummers, mostly but not entirely drawn from the local police and border force. Instead it was an everyday, fundamental and guaranteed freedom without which, they believed, the nature of their country and their lives would be changed for the worse.

My obvious surprise at meeting, in a country with the highest rate of mass shootings in the world, amateur musicians who wanted deadly handguns close by when performing seemed to make me, not them, the odd one out.

Of course, the constitutional amendment which allegedly gives that right is, at the very least, ambiguous. Does it imply an absolute permission, or is there a connection between the operation of a “well-regulated militia” and that right?

The courts, increasingly focused on an insistently literal reading of a document from two centuries ago, seem determined to prevent change, even though the consequences of inaction are horribly, and repeatedly, clear.

One modest proposal for change has been stuck in the US legislative logjam for years, prevented from progress by lobbyists, arms manufacturers and right-wing politicians whipping up all sorts of fears and repeatedly asserting that “people kill people, not guns”.

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That perverse and perverted rhetoric has alas persuaded the pipers and drummers, the casual shoppers in Rapid City, South Dakota and many, many others that having guns is normal even if it is abnormal everywhere else.

The few other countries in which that same constitutional liberty exists have all hedged it with conditions but over the past 15 years the restrictions in the US that many thought were in place regarding the sale and carrying of weapons have been whittled away by courts and elected politicians, often in activist states and with the backing of the immensely wealthy and powerful National Rifle Association and those whose campaigns are bankrolled by them.

Yet guns go on killing people. More and more.

The number of mass shootings has snowballed. There was one approximately every 200 days between 1982 and 2011. Now they are running at more than one a day. The number of those dying or wounded in each incident is also rising, probably because the increased efficiency of weapons.

All those shootings are individual tragedies but school and college shootings are particularly devastating.

It is no exaggeration to say that the United States is literally killing its future. Shooting is now the commonest cause of death for young people and the majority cause if suicide by firearm is included.

There are more guns than people in the US and gun violence disproportionately affects the young, the poor and the marginalised.

But, of course, the damage is done not just by the bullet. Children who survive are traumatised by the experience and a much greater number by the simulated lockdowns that are now part of everyday education.

They are persuaded that the only way to meet violence is with violence, by the idea that you need a good man with a gun to stop a bad man with a gun, a morality that owes more to the frontier in the 1880s than it does to present day Uvalde in Texas.

It is also, as Uvalde demonstrates, palpably untrue.

So death begets death and young people learn to live in a society which accepts as normal a level of gun violence that exists nowhere else on Earth. Moreover, they grow up to be the customers of that store in South Dakota, or those marching pipers with their sidearms in New Hampshire.

Why only in the US is this dreadful carnage experienced, let alone tolerated?

Why only in the US do evasive politicians claim that talking about gun control when 19 children and two teachers lie dead in a classroom, is “politicising their suffering”.

And why only in the US is the next school shooting as utterly predictable as all the 27 that have already taken place this year?

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The reason is that the “right to bear arms” and the constitution have become shibboleths, representing something equally wrong – the right to go on living out a myth about the past, in which individuals carved out for themselves a place in the wilderness of a nation under God solely because they were always willing to defend their freedoms with deadly violence.

Living in the past is costly as we know from Brexit. But in this case it is positively deadly . It is destroying the potential (and sometimes the very lives) of a generation of young people and blighting the prospects for a nation that has much good in it.

It is morally reprehensible that anyone who has the power to change this situation does not strive with urgency to do so.

Trump, Cruz, Texas Governor Abbott and the NRA are meeting in Texas this week. They need to be shown the power of people whose patience is at an end and whose disgust at right-wing myth making for personal gain is now palpable.

Those are universal concerns, not just American ones.

Scotland must speak up loudly about them too.