Guns and America: An outsider's perspective
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There have been four mass shootings in the seven months that I have been living in the USA. This country has a complicated relationship with guns. Whilst my views on gun ownership haven’t changed, my understanding of the system in which guns exist in America has. I came here with the opinion that guns should be banned, I couldn’t understand why there weren’t laws implemented the moment there was the first mass shooting. Now, I would still prefer a complete ban on guns - but I understand why it isn't necessarily possible for the US. Last week, 17 people were killed in the Parkland mass shooting in Florida. The students involved shared their expeirences on social media and the entire world watched and listened in horror. People rose up to demand stricter gun control or a complete ban. Others defended their own gun ownership, blaming it on the mentally ill. Whilst everyone feels horror and disgust everytime there's a mass shooting here, the ownership of guns creates divisions. Over the course of the last seven months I’ve had several conversations with my friends about gun ownership. It begins with shock on both sides, they’re incredulous that I have never seen in a gun in my life, and sometimes even more so that I don’t understand the appeal in owning one. In return I am shocked that they don’t see the problem with gun ownership, and even aspire to potentially own a gun in the future. Their reason for gun ownership is always the same: they need a gun for defence. They need a weapon to protect themselves, to protect their family, and to protect their property. I can’t help but think how this sort of thinking doesn’t belong in 2018. Is America that dangerous that everyone needs a gun to feel safe? Americans don’t need guns for protection against the government anymore, but they do think they need them to protect themselves from each other. This doesn’t mean they don’t want stricter gun control. My friends have all expressed a desire to have military weapons taken off the streets. AR-15’s were designed for mass killing, and not for protection. Guns are ingrained in the culture of the USA. My friend’s family all own guns so they have been a part of her life for 21 years. Another friend said she’d own one for the fear factor, she wouldn’t consider using it but would have it to use as a threat if she was ever attacked. I’m not sure how they’d feel if laws were made that restricted their access to guns if they wanted one. I’ve been taught guns are dangerous, but my American friends have been taught they are needed for defence and safety. It’s literally written into their constitution. It’s ideological so it’s natural that everyone would have the same perspective. This effects both sides of the argument regarding gun control. Gun culture is the biggest culture shock I’ve experienced whilst living in the US. When guns come into conversation it’s sometimes uncomfortable and tense, with completely different views depending on who I’m talking to. It’s easy to laugh about how a zucchini is called a courgette in the UK, but it’s harder to use comedy when your friends tell you their entire family owns guns and that they will too someday. It’s makes me nauseous to hear them say this, I can't quite understand why they would need a gun, but I'm also concerned for their future safety. On Sunday 18th February, a gun control rally was held in downtown Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. Organised by Action Together North Eastern PA, it was held to remember the victims of the Parkland shooting, but also rally for stricter gun controls and to encourage more people to vote in elections. People came with signs. Several people held placards with the names of the recent victims of the Parkland shooting, others had signs that read “Thoughts and Prayers don’t stop the killing”, “Kids have the right to feel safe”, and “When will it end? Let’s make a better America.” Roger Lerner, a Rabbi from Temple B’nai B’rith of Kingston, PA, encouraged children to be the change America needs. “I don’t think we adults can do it. I don’t think our politicians can do it at this point. I don’t think they have the moral courage to stand up and talk about the violence of the guns that are in our midst and do something about it. I’m pleading to the children, I think you have to.” A key message that many of the speakers emphasised was the fact that people need to go to the polls to see a change; there was even a table where people could register to vote.
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