In Guns We Trust: Guns in US Are Like Religion
December 23, 2012
Patty Culhane / Al Jazeera
Commentary: "There are certain aspects to being an American that I sometimes struggle to explain to my international television audience. The entire issue of guns in this country has been particularly challenging. I do think for much of the world we are defined by the number of weapons we own and the images of violence that so often dominate our local newscasts."
WASHINGTON, DC (December 22, 2012) -- There are certain aspects to being an American that I sometimes struggle to explain to my international television audience. The entire issue of guns in this country has been particularly challenging. I do think for much of the world we are defined by the number of weapons we own and the images of violence that so often dominate our local newscasts.
I have a friend from Algeria who was warned by his mother before moving to this country, "teenagers over there carry guns, be careful." I understand that is how the world sees America, but I don’t think that is how most Americans see this country or themselves.
Don’t get me wrong it is an important issue and guns are prevalent, but here it is a sensitive topic that up until now hasn't really been talked about. I compare it to religion and politics. Many kids grow up in this country being taught it is rude to express your opinions on those delicate subjects with company.
They don't have to be taught that lesson when it comes to gun rights or gun control. If you would have asked people last week if they talk about their views on whom should have what weapons, they probably would have said it isn't a subject for debate.
I am a firm believer that for most, it's all about how you grow up. If you are raised in a home with guns, you don’t see anything wrong with it. If your parents teach you that guns don’t belong in a home, you probably still agree.
It feels very different now. People are talking about their positions, they are debating and arguing. The question now is what will their elected leaders do with this important debate?
We’ve been here before, politicians talk of a tragedy and promise change. So far, it has been just talk. This time might be different. I don’t have any scientific data to tell you why I believe this, but I do have a best friend named Kathy and she is a teacher. She now locks the door to her 2nd grade classroom. She has never done that before. Kathy is not political. She never cared who owned guns or why, but she cares now. She asked me why the politicians won’t act to get rid of assault weapons, “what are they afraid of?” she said.
It's not a simple answer. The cynic would say they are afraid of the powerful National Rifle Association and their 4 million members who vote, some based solely on this issue.
It could be that they truly believe that the 2nd amendment guarantees the right to own guns, all guns without limits. I've heard many politicians say an armed citizenry is the best insurance against government tyranny. Which of course begs the question- what can an AR-15 accomplish when put up against a modern day fighter jet or a tank?
Still, that is their argument and their unflinching belief. Many of these Americans believe to their core that this is their right and any infringement is felt as if it is an assault on their person. I think it is important to explain this is how they feel, it isn't a simple issue. This is modern day America.
Others believe banning any kind of guns won't accomplish anything. There are an estimated 200 million guns in this country. The argument is that it is too late and new laws would only keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens, not the crazy or the criminals.
So my answer to my friend, the politicians who will fight against gun control legislation may truly believe that it shouldn’t change. They might be afraid of government tyranny, over-regulation, trampling the constitution or just losing their jobs. It was my best answer.
I couldn't tell her what our elected leaders will do on this very sensitive, emotional and important issue. I do know what Kathy will do. She is going to continue to lock 8-year-olds into her classroom. It may be irrational. If you look at the statistics, she will likely never face a masked gunman. Still while I sit in Washington uncertain about the future of gun control, there is just one thing I know without a doubt.
If Kathy was put in that terrifying situation, she would do all she could to protect her kids, sacrificing her own life if she had to, in the process leaving her own children motherless. In her words, keeping kids safe, well, it is just what adults are supposed to do.
Patty Culhane joined Al Jazeera in 2009 and is now the White House Correspondent for the Network.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.