Thursday, August 26, 2010

Americans and Their Guns

One thing Japanese cannot understand about Americans is their fascination with guns. Why do Americans feel everyone needs a gun, they ask, what purpose does it serve? If they are hunters, like the hunters of black bears here, they would understand, but only criminals have handguns in Japan. Gotta admit, I wonder about that myself, sometimes.

Why is a 7-day cooling-off period such a big deal to some people? Do most people who have a pistol really need it (or even know how to use it correctly)? Do you really need that Uzi, AK-47 or M-16? Would requiring gun-safety licenses of new owners really be so hard?

Now, before you go all Charlton Heston and NRA my ass, I grew up with guns. We had BB and pellet guns, several 22s, a 20-gauge, my father’s 38. We practiced with them, played with them, killed porcupines with them, took them camping in case the coyotes came into camp after our dogs. We had them in case that baby-black-bear-on-my-deck-at-2am‘s mama bear decided to come inside for a snack. My friend and I used to carry his father’s Colts when riding on his ranch, in case we ever got tossed and dragged by our horses. We had them on hand should we ever actually need them (and to play Billy the Kid meets Jesse James - our history was a little fuzzy when we were 11).

So I’m not against guns in and of themselves: when in experienced, trained hands, they are a tool like any other. But I also had a friend kill himself rather spectacularly with a rifle, had another friend with no experience with guns kill his little brother by mistake with a pistol he thought was empty. A friend’s father was killed in a bar fight. A police SWAT officer friend of mine told me that half of people killed in home invasions are killed by their own weapons. The criminal finds it in their bedside table, for example, the homeowner wakes up and startles said criminal, and BANG, BANG, bye-bye! Not to mention the morons who have an argument, and decide to win the argument permanently…

Then there are the truly dumb:
*Some idiot in Lakewood, Colorado ‘inadvertently’ left their handgun in their kindergarten child’s backpack this past Wednesday, which the child then took to school. -- ‘Inadvertently’? Why the hell would you put a gun in your 5-yr-old kid’s backpack in the first place?
*Same day, a 10-yr-old boy in Seattle tried to rob a 17-yr-old on the bus, of all things, and was shot by his own gun when the older boy grabbed him -- OK, OK, poetic justice. But still… On the bus? And how did a 10-yr-old walk out the door with a 22-pistol in the first place?
*A 72-yr-old Melbourne, Florida woman was shot by her husband during a “robbery drill” the couple was staging. They had “little experience with guns”. -- No, really?

Early in my life here, I had to try to explain to my students why “Rodney, get your gun!” Peairs could kill Japanese student Yoshihiro Hattori, dressed up like John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever” in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and be acquitted of even manslaughter. A 44 with laser sights? What, does he think the zombies will be coming soon?

It’s no wonder the Japanese are convinced the US is dangerous.

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