Home of the free and the land of the gun-crazed

Despite my exposure to dozens of action movies with a heavy emphasis on guns I have never fired a gun, and I am doubtful about whether I will handle one in my lifetime.  Ironic since I hail from a country with a surplus of gun fanatics.  All in all, I can’t say I’m a big proponent of gun distribution.  Much of this stems from my upbringing.  During my childhood, my parents filled my head with stories of senseless gun deaths and projected their opinions about the asinine laws that allow Americans to purchase automatic weaponry and put lethal weapons in the hands of crazed killers.

This satirical clip shows sitcom character Homer Simpson attempting to purchase a firearm.

A recent New York Times article entitled “The Rich, the Famous, the Armed” caught my attention.  According to this article, “Among the more than 37,000 people licensed to have a handgun in the city are dozens of boldface names and public figures…The 41,164 handguns registered with the Police Department as of Jan. 14 include those owned by more than 2,400 people who live outside the city.”

I find Americans’ widespread gun fanaticism intriguing.  Why our country can boast that 1 in 3 households have a gun is beyond me.  Of the dozens of countries in the developed world, few can boast the ubiquitous gun ownership present in the United States.

Even more amazing to me is the method in which Americans dispel gun regulation.  Gun fanatics as a collective cling to the 2nd amendment, yet I doubt the founding fathers had automatic weapons that can shoot 20 bullets a second in mind when the Bill of Rights was resolved.  Furthermore, I fail to understand how the NRA can hide behind this amendment since not only did it establish the right to bear arms in order to form militias, but it also clearly states that such a process should be “well-regulated”.  Since this is the only mention of regulation in the constitution and the bill of rights, I think once can assume that its inclusion is significant.

Unfortunately for those who would rather not see automatic weaponry in the hands of untrained civilians, not only is the NRA stronger than ever with hundreds of powerful lobbyists, millions of members, and hundreds of millions of dollars in financial backing, but an Economist article from several years ago asserted that the new supreme court will almost certainly interpret the 2nd amendment in favor of gun owners.

“At issue is the District of Columbia’s ban on the private ownership of handguns, one of the nation’s strictest. A federal court struck it down for breaching the second amendment: “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.” In their appeal, DC lawyers will argue that the right to bear arms does not apply to individuals, but only to members of a state militia. This is an old argument, but the Supreme Court has never ruled on it. It will find that the constitution does indeed include an individual right to bear arms, but will craft the ruling so that, although it makes gun control harder, it will not make it impossible.” – The Economist, 2007

Guns are so ubiquitous in America, it seems, that they even find their way into neighboring countries.  According to an Economist article this year, “90% of the guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico and traced led back to American dealers.”

Given how ingrained gun ownership is in American society and culture, it is unrealistic to think that there will be any lessening of its influence or serious regulation imposed against gun owners.  However, I think the U.S. should attempt to follow in the U.K.’s footsteps.

This article from the latest issue of the Economist, presents the minimal role firearms play in U.K.’s law enforcement and criminal actions.  “LESS than 5% of police officers in England and Wales carry a gun on duty. Infinitely fewer fire one, and fatal shootings by police are vanishingly rare (there were two in 2009-10). Every incident in which bullets are discharged is investigated by an independent commission. To a degree that many Americans find incredible, this fairly violent country is policed by men and women who might, on a difficult day, pack a baton and a can of tear gas…gun crime in England and Wales is low, and falling: it made up less than 1% of all reported offences last year.”

The fact that a developed nation such as the U.K. can exist without distributing weapons to their law enforcement officers is remarkable, even admirable, especially in light of the recent rise of international terrorist attacks.  While highly unrealistic, a lessening of gun ownership and a more stringent regulation on firearm distribution is something that the U.S. should strive for in the future.

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