What's the first question I'm asked about my recent trip to the US?
I'd have expected something along the lines of "How was the training?"
"Did you have a good time?"
or even "How's the jet lag?"
But nooooooo, so far it's been "So, did you see lots of guns?"
Coming from a relatively well regulated country in regards to gun ownership, where in theory you need to be licensed to own one, it's difficult to relate to the passion surrounding gun ownership in the US. The perception here is that there guns are dropped carelessly into handbags, propped casually on the back seats of cars and generally left lying around ready for the nearest person with an anger issue to use at will. To be followed of course with an honest and wide eyed statement along the lines of "Gosh, how did that mass shooting happen?"
I've been told, "You need to understand, it's related to our rights." Hmm ... don't rights and responsibilities go hand in hand? However, in the spirit of attempting to bridge the gap I brought the subject up at dinner with some locals one night. I was introduced to the concept of hunting for food - not for pleasure. This man had been taught, as a child, to hunt and butcher a deer to supplement the family's food supplies - that I can understand though it's not common in Australia.
However, when we discussed if some restaurant patrons would have guns in their bags, the answer was a long, convoluted "yes". I don't pretend to understand the need for carrying a lethal weapon to dinner, I doubt I ever will. If you want to live dangerously, try the fugu! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugu)
I've often found that Terry Pratchett covers complex social topics in his books, and is able to explore the issue without an emotive overtone. In Men at Arms he introduces the first and only handheld firearm to Ankh-Morpork. The gonne has a strange allure and appears to have a mind of its own, there's the attraction of power. It wants to be used. It wants to kill ... not so dissimilar to what happens to some humans when they get their hands on one as far as I can see. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_at_Arms)
The only store we went in to where I felt distinctly uncomfortable and unwelcome was a small sporting goods store. Our binoculars had broken and this store had been recommended as the spot to replace them. The belligerent, scowling owner was leaning heavily on a cabinet of guns, and displayed prominently on the wall behind were posters advertising assorted fundraising events for the NRA as well as slogans along the lines of "proud to be a gun owner,""my rights, my guns" etc etc etc.
We were clearly unwelcome even before we'd opened our mouths, and his attitude became more negative when we asked to see his meagre range of binoculars. Presumably, something in our looks or dress offended this man, but ... UGH. May Australia forever maintain strict laws regulating gun ownership! Our laws aren't perfect, people still get killed, but in my mind they're great.
|A gift from my training buddies|