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Essay

Gun control

By David Yenches

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I grew up with guns. There were a few in the gun rack in our summer house in Vermont. We seldom used them and no one was ever hurt by them. Occasionally, my father would fire one in the air to scare off people who tried to pick our blueberries.

But that was decades ago. Now, our neighbor in Missouri tells us he has "enough firepower to hold off a good-sized group for a couple weeks, even a month." My wife joked, "Do you expect a zombie apocalypse?"

My brother-in-law here once had 17 guns. He was afraid our last president, Barack Obama, would pass gun control laws. "Whoever wants to take away my gun will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands," he said. That feeling is so common, it's on T-shirts and bumper stickers. People think all Americans love guns, but that's not really true. Most of us don't, but a small minority are mad about them. The 3 percent of the population that is like our neighbor owns half of all the guns.

Despite that, there is a long history of gun control in the States. Many people want to see stricter background checks to stop high-risk people getting a gun license. For example, mass shooters are overwhelmingly male and often have a history of domestic violence. But since a quarter of domestic violence cases are never reported, many people can still buy a gun.

Also, some mass shooters have no criminal record at all. The Las Vegas shooter who killed more than 50 and wounded 500 in September was not convicted of a previous crime.

Background checks aren't the only form of possible gun control. The gun maker Colt once teamed with the federal government and another gun maker to produce "smart guns" that — like smartphones — could only be unlocked and used by their registered owners. But then America's powerful gun lobby — led by the National Rifle Association — got involved. They started a grass-roots boycott, and Colt gave up on the project.

Meanwhile, there's an average of one mass shooting a day, with 33,000 gun deaths a year.

I remember in Japan, you could only own a shotgun for hunting, not a handgun, and it took up to six months to get a license. The process included a psychological evaluation. Evidently, in South Korea, you can also only get a shotgun for hunting, but you have to turn the gun in to the local police station at the end of the day!

This all makes me feel very guilty as an American, but as a non-gun owner I feel powerless to change the laws here or people's behavior. While I was writing this essay, another American probably died of gun violence.

銃規制

銃乱射事件が多発しているアメリカ。筆者も銃と共に育ち、身近に多くの銃を持っている人もいる。アメリカ人は銃が好きだと思われがちだが、それは一部の熱狂的な人たちだけだという。

The Japan Times ST: December 1, 2017

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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2017年12月22日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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