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How many countries have gun rights enshrined in their constitutions?

American gun culture is exceptional -- that much we know. The United States has more guns than any other country (300 million) and more guns per person (9 guns for every 10 people). It also has the highest firearm homicide rate in the developed world (and the highest rate of unintentional firearm deaths.) But what of the constitutional apparatus that sustains American gun culture? How exceptional is the Second Amendment, which protects the right of Americans to "keep and bear Arms"?

The 2A, it turns out, is also pretty anomalous. As Zachary Elkins explains in today's New York Times:

It is actually quite unusual for gun rights to be included in a constitution. In our historical study of constitutions, my colleagues and I identified only 15 constitutions (in nine countries) that had ever included an explicit right to bear arms. Almost all of these constitutions have been in Latin America, and most were from the 19th century. Only three countries - Guatemala, Mexico and the United States - have a constitutional right to arms. Of the 15, ours is the only one that does not explicitly include a restrictive condition. Of course, many Americans, and a minority of the Supreme Court, believe that our "militia clause" amounts to one such a restriction - an interpretation the court rejected in 2008 when it ruled that the Second Amendment protected the individual right to bear arms.

So what are the other countries that have offered constitutional protections for gun ownership? Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Liberia have also, at various times, enshrined the rights of gun owners in their constitutions. (Bloomberg has a handy chart with date ranges.) Interestingly, almost all of these constitutions -- including those of Guatemala and Mexico, the only two that still guarantee a right to bear arms -- were modeled off the U.S. example.

Of course, the right to bear arms dates back before the 1st United States Congress, when the first 10 amendments were ratifed, to the English Bill of Rights from 1689, which guaranteed, among other things, that Protestants could bear arms "as allowed by the law." Indeed, in striking down a Washington, D.C. handgun ban in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to bear arms derives from a "pre-existing" right to self-defense established after England's Glorious Revolution. From Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller:

Between the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution, the Stuart Kings Charles II and James II succeeded in using select militias loyal to them to suppress political dissidents, in part by disarming their opponents...Under the auspices of the 1671 Game Act, for example, the Catholic James II had ordered general disarmaments of regions home to his Protestant enemies...These experiences caused Englishmen to be extremely wary of concentrated military forces run by the state and to be jealous of their arms. They accordingly obtained an assurance from William and Mary, in the Declaration of Right (which was codified as the English Bill of Rights), that Protestants would never be disarmed: "That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law."...This right has long been understood to be the predecessor to our Second Amendment.

So, exceptional? Yes. Original? No.

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How to turn six tweets and a blog post into an opera

When, in 2012, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman chose to title a blog post about Estonia's less-than-stellar economic recovery "Estonian Rhapsody," we should have known that this was no run-of-the-mill fiscal commentary -- but rather an omen of far more dramatic things to come. The slew of angry tweets that the post elicited from Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves included the phrase "Nostra culpa" and provoked mixed responses in the international press, with some glorifying the president and others lambasting his rashness.

Conflict, rhapsodies, Latin -- in retrospect, it's easy to understand why Estonia-based writer Scott Diel and U.K.-based composer Eugene Birman thought this bizarre online feud had the makings of an opera. Their much-anticipated 16-minute production, Nostra Culpa, is set to premier on Sunday at the Estonian Music Days festival.

So how exactly does one go about turning six tweets and a blog post into opera? Foreign Policy caught up with Birman to find out what we can expect.

The opera will be divided into two acts, according to Birman, with the first detailing Krugman's philosophy and the second Ilves's tweets. "I thought the most powerful thing would be to take those things verbatim and oppose them -- not to put them into conversation because there was no conversation," Birman told FP. The two acts are fairly different in style, with Krugman's movement set to loud and fast music and the Estonian president's sung against a more varied and slower score.

For Birman, the decision to separate the exchange into two acts using a single female soloist, Iris Oja, underscores the problems with communication in today's world. "The nature of Twitter for example, or writing an article is that there's no real discussion," he said. "You can respond to something but it's not really a discussion format. They're speaking at each other instead of to each other." In the digital age, where everything is mediated through our computer screens, having one voice speaking directly to the audience does seem fitting.

Diel and Birman hope the opera will stimulate deeper discussion in Estonia about the political and economic issues behind the spat. "Estonia became independent through music," Birman tells FP, referencing the mass singing demonstrations, known as the Singing Revolution, that helped the country peacefully overthrow the Soviet government. "There is something Estonian about this -- that we're using music to have a discussion about what the political policy of Estonia should be," he says.

But more than anything, the opera's purpose is to highlight the absurdity of all the squabbling over economic recovery -- and in particular the terms so often thrown about by pundits. Librettist Scott Diel achieves this by transforming Krugman's 70-word blog post into a series of almost tweet-like phrases imploring the Estonians to follow his advice. "There's this line in the libretto that says stimulate over and over again and it becomes almost sexual," Birman says. "The words when you take them out of their context become really strange."

One of the stranger moments comes in the second movement, when in adapting Ilves' sarcastic tweet "Let's sh*t on East Europeans," the singer will make a high-pitched whistling sound with her voice in place of the asterisk.

While Birman concedes the content is amusing, he cautions "in the end there's nothing really funny about what they're discussing. If you think about it, if you look at the words and you look at the argument, then it's pretty ridiculous. But that makes good theater." We won't argue with that.

Here's the libretto in full, as written by Scott Diel:

Nostra Culpa

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