Friday, April 20, 2007

The culture of the gun

The horrendous massacre at Virginia Tech came to remind us that we live in an unforgiving and violent world, even in our classrooms and living rooms.

Almost immediately, pro-gun commentators lashed out at the notion that the problem had anything to do with gun laws or gun control.
Arguments flared that had there been stricter gun control laws, Cho Seung Hui, who had a history of mental problems, would not have been able to obtain the guns legally, or would have been deterred or raised some red flags in his attempts to obtain them.
But look at the society we live in today. It is a very violent society; Americans are fed a daily fat diet of blood, gore and violence and we have become desensitized to it.
Cho Seung Hui may have had mental problems and issues of adjusting to his new society as a child since immigrating with his parents form South Korea.
That of course does not justify massacring 32 innocent young people, but it ought to make us stop and think of what the media and the society at large are telling young children.

Take for example pro wrestling, it is perhaps one of the stupidest “ sports” out there, where older men, puffed on steroid put out an act of gymnastic mayhem and violence and verbal threats to the delight of the deafening barbaric cheer of the crowd.

And what about video games; not only doest it teach children and adults alike the “ art” of shooting someone, and killing someone, but it also plants the seeds of violent behavior in one’s mind as a way to deal with his or her problems.
Violence, mafia, gangsterism, guns, shooing and killing is ever glamorized and glorified by the media and thus poison the well for everyone.
So, for a psychologically unstable Cho, traumatized by early racism,alienated and without friends and who grew up on a steady diet of violence everywhere, murdering 32 people was his way of venting and getting back at the society and a murderous punch.

The issue is not about more or stricter gun control or even abolishing gun ownership period with legitimate exceptions, which I am all for, but it is the broader issue of culture of violence that we seem to be oblivious about until we have massacres like Virginia Tech and Columbine High.
In these southern parts of the US, guns and gun ownership is a way of life, and part of everyday culture.
Many times I heard people or even friends saying something along the lines of “ if so and so come on my property, I’ll shoot’m” or something like “ if you pull a gun on me, you better shoot first, because you’ll be killed”. Threats of shooting and killing are almost everyday phrases and said with complete sense of normalcy. But perhaps there is a lot of machismo and jockeying around in these statements, nonetheless however, they illustrate the culture of the gun as a way to settle scores or disputes.
I was astonished; a few years back to find out that people, in the south can carry guns in their cars, and on their persons, giving certain requirements, are otherwise perfectly legal.
Many friends here are proud to show me their gun collections, which I normally refuse for I have a natural aversion to them and I am proud to say that I have never ever fired one.
One family I know is proud of its gun collection. The father owns over 12 guns, and some are used for deer hunting, while the wife owns a rifle, two pistols, and a small gun to carry around in the car. Their seventeen years old owns a rifle that he uses for target practice.
Pro gun arguments usually cite protection and deterrence as well as self-defense. But those arguments fail to understand that what their pro gun arguments are doing is spreading more guns and thus more potential for violence and murder.

Paul Hyde Greenville News columnist cited statistics, in his April 18 column, of murder incidents between the US and other developed European and Japanese societies where in 2001, “ firearms were used to murder six people in New Zealand, 56 in Japan, 96 in Great Britain, and 168 in Canada. In that same year, guns were used to murder 11, 348 people in the United States.

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