Only in the US

The American life seen through the eyes of an expat

Son of a Gun

Recently, there was an article floating around the web about a young mother who shot dead a home intruder in order to protect herself and her new-born baby. The story was particularly touching not only because the attempted burglary took place on New Year’s Eve, but also because her husband had just died of cancer a week earlier. In addition, a recording of the lady’s conversation with the police dispatcher was published, in which she asked for permission to shoot the offender. The reactions from the public about her heroic deed were quite predictable: she received praise and admiration for her bravery. I agree. Who, after all, could deny a single mother the right to defend herself and her family in her own house? The thing is that this event sparked yet a new wave of triumph for the supporters of the NRA, the National Rifle Association, which is especially popular with right-winged Republicans in this country.

In the United States, the right to own a gun is anchored in the constitution. The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Personally, I find it questionable how the need of a  “Militia” back then translates to private gun ownership in our time, but that is another matter.

Hence, compared to other countries around the world, traditionally a relatively large part of the population owns guns–officially for recreational purposes, such as hunting, but also for self defense. Firearms are therefore widely and easily available. During the holiday season, we got flyers to our house advertising for great Christmas deals on shotguns and semi-automatics.  Wouldn’t you appreciate a Benelli R1 under the tree? Boxes of ammunition are available at Walmart. I wonder if you actually have to show your I.D. to buy them as is the case for the purchase of a bottle of beer.

But if firearms are really carried for the above mentioned reasons, why would one require to have a whole bunch of them? And why is it necessary to have “elephant killers”? Who shoots deer with a machine gun? And wouldn’t a small pistol to the job if ever needed in self defense?

What happens if the weapons land in the wrong hands, as it does ever so often? There are so many acts of violence including firearms, like in nearby Oakland from which shootings are reported almost on a daily basis in the evening news. This does not only result in the obvious dangers, such as the risk of getting hurt, but it also has a very disturbing effect on the police.

American cops have quite a reputation of being rough and even brutal. It is not surprising, though, is it? Who would not get jittery and have a nervous finger on the trigger if they suspected every driver they pull over to point a gun at them? Not that I defend that kind of behavior, but look at police officers in other parts of the world, such as our famous British friends. Many of them do not even carry a gun, simply because they do not have to fear so much to be shot at.

I would like to compare the American gun culture to the nuclear arms race during the cold war. The motto back then was: “If the others have a powerful weapon, we need a bigger one to protect us from them.” Let us see, if people will ever come to their senses and begin disarmament.

What is your opinion about private gun ownership?

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