An Outsider’s Take on Guns in America


The liberty to own a gun takes away the liberty of so many others. So far in 2018 there have been 7 firearm attacks during school hours across the United States (CNN). Americans own 48 percent of civilian-owned guns worldwide (CNN). There is an average of 89 firearms per 100 people in the United States (CNN).

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, I am thinking about Denver, Orlando and Sandy Hook, among others  —: all incidents after which nothing happened to prevent the next. While these shootings do reignite the ongoing debate about gun control, they also seem to increase demand for guns. Since the Sandy Hook shooting, 25 states have passed or introduced legislation to allow a handgun to be carried in public without a permit (The Atlantic). Congress has continually failed to pass universal background checks. When the Center for Disease Control and Prevention attempted to declare gun violence a public health issue, Congress prohibited the organization from using federal money to research gun violence (Washington Post).

America is a global outlier in the sense that no other nation has widespread gun violence. In 1996, a firearm massacre occurred in Australia. This tragic event was followed by massive gun law reform, which resulted in a decade free of mass shootings and a decline in both homicides and suicides involving firearms (Vox). Australia shows that the issue of gun violence is clearly correlated with a constitutional right to bear arms and the resulting gun culture.

I grew up in Toronto, Canada. The topic of guns was non-existent  —  I don’t even know a single person who owns a gun. On a fundamental level, I do not understand why Americans insist on owning guns; whether it be for recreation or protection, I think it is absurd.

After living in Vermont for three years I have come to learn that guns are part of American culture. My new friends grew up with guns, they claim that “guns are fun”;” some say their families enjoy hunting. Guns hold significant sentimental meaning to many Americans; those who served in the military might own a gun that they used and want to keep. I understand that the majority of gun holders in the U.S. are not violent  —  they own guns for hunting and sporting activities. It follows, then, that they are the ones who feel that they are unjustly punished for someone abusing the second amendment and will speak up to protect their constitutional right.

My friends insist that while they support the second amendment, they still think there should be tighter regulations and background checks. The way I see it, this would not solve anything. In 2016, 79 percent% of gun crimes were perpetrated using a firearm owned by someone else (Washington Post).  Whether it be through taking a gun from someone else or buying a gun privately or at a gun show, guns would likely come into unregistered hands regardless of tighter regulations.

The argument of owning guns for protection baffles me: you do not need a gun for protection if no one else has a gun. I feel safest at home in Canada, where I do not have a gun and I know that no one else around me does either. Despite popular belief, increased gun ownership is actually correlated with increases in gun deaths: gun prevalence causes more violence than it prevents. Moreover, the law that a gun must be stored in a safe defeats the entire purpose of owning a gun for protection: if someone is attacking you, you don’t have time to fiddle with a lock and get your gun out of the safe.

“Guns are fun” and Americans do not want to give up their right to own them. Having not grown up with guns, it is hard for me to see them as anything but terrifying. Americans are fascinated by guns  —  something I will never understand. With this obsession in mind, it seems like the pro-gun argument is an excuse that hinges on the selfish desire to continue owning guns.

In Canada, to obtain a firearm there is a mandatory in-person class to get a hunting license, which allows one to purchase a hunting rifle. While many Canadians do in fact own guns for hunting, we lack the culture associated with American guns. Under no circumstances could a civilian purchase a semi-automatic or automatic weapon, because under no circumstances would a civilian need these weapons. The reasoning behind why someone in the U.S. would want a gun is very complex, but given that nobody needs a gun, the only reason I can think of as to why Americans want a semi-automatic or automatic gun is because they like them.

Given that the model of not bearing arms is clearly very effective, as proven by every other developed nation, why then can America not seem to move towards a safer society? 7 firearm attacks at schools so far in 2018 say it is time to do away with the second amendment  —  enough talk about tighter regulations and background checks. I am taking a very strong stance here; I recognize that. But outside of America, this opinion is pretty standard. I understand there is a greater cultural significance here, but it is time to give up guns for the greater good of society.

America’s underlying foundation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has given many a sense of entitlement with regards to the liberty to own a gun. Many gun owners see gun reform as a threat to their liberty. But where is the liberty to feel safe? Children should have the liberty to feel safe in their classrooms. Friends should have the liberty to feel safe at the mall and the movie theatre.

This piece originally appeared in the online publication Blurring Boundaries.

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