USA ‘You never know who has a gun’
Certainly areas of the country that are more pro-gun than others, US citizen says
Dubai: “You never know who has a gun.”
My mother on occasion said those words, usually while trying to dissuade me from making a rude gesture to another US motorist who had just cut me off in traffic.
The words had little effect on me at that time. Despite the image, the United States is not a place where everyone owns a gun, although there are certainly areas of the country that are more pro-gun than others. I was 20-years-old before I ever heard a civilian-owned gun discharge near me, and that was because I was a soldier in the middle of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. It was also the last time. I lived in the States for 35 years, and only once saw a privately-owned gun that was not either owned by a member of my family, a police officer, or a member of the US military.
I have had only one friend who was killed by a firearm, and even that was a tragic case of a uniformed police officer shooting an undercover officer.
Despite that, I’ve never been afraid of being shot. However, I’m well aware there are plenty of guns out there. You never know who has a gun.
Death involving a firearm is a serious reality in the United States. In 2010, 8,775 people were murdered by firearms. While that figure dwarfs the homicide rate in other Western countries, it is nowhere near the levels of firearm-related homicides countries such as Mexico, the Philippines or South Africa. That figure also puts in context the often quoted figure that there are 192 million firearms in the United States, of which 65 million are handguns. If that’s accurate — the number of firearms in the US is highly debated, but it is generally viewed as having the highest number of guns per capita than any other country in the world — then there seems to be little correlation between the number of firearms and the number of deaths they cause.
But I also won’t say that America isn’t in love with its guns. It’s part of our heritage. Many people own the guns that their grandfathers left them. Privately owned guns were a symbol of the Minutemen, the militia soldiers who fought the British in the American Revolution, and they are symbols of America’s pioneers days. Guns have fed us, protected us, and helped us win wars.
However, that does not mean every person who owns a gun is a cowboy. There is a contingent in the United States that recognises guns are weapons, and they treat them as such. Guns are kept locked up and they are stored unloaded. They are kept out of the hands of kids. They are not waved around like toys. People who don’t respect them are seen as dangerous.
But unfortunately, there are always people who will take things to an extreme, and in the United States, that is embodied by the National Rifle Association (NRA), who, in general, oppose limits on gun ownership wherever they can. They have even fought against laws that would require a gun to be stored with a lock on the trigger.
It’s the NRA that would have prevented a ban on guns like the AR-15 used in the Aurora, Colorado cinema shooting. It’s the NRA that would have you believe that if everyone was armed, there wouldn’t be any crime. The NRA claims four million members, which only means there are over 307 million Americans who don’t belong to the organisation.
It’s the lobbying that the NRA does that is the real concern, because in their zeal to protect themselves, they let some very disturbed people own guns. And that’s the problem.
Because you never know who has a gun.