With the dozens of headlines that we see every month about police shootings in the United States, it has inevitably sparked the debate of what place guns have in society. Australia answered this question twenty years ago when a man walked into a popular tourist site in Port Arthur and shot 58 people, injuring 23 and killing 35. After the Port Arthur Massacre, our country decided that military level guns were not a necessity for the average citizen. It was one of the few laws that received large bipartisan support from our government.
Last year in the US, there were over 370 mass shootings and 13, 286 people were killed by firearms, yet the United States is hesitant to enact legislation to restrict gun access. From the outside, it’s easy to criticize this decision as the American government not caring about the welfare of its citizens, but that’s quite a shallow look at the matter. Many American citizens also share the belief of keeping guns within the hands of citizens. Now this number has decreased in recent years, but those who wish to keep their guns still have the majority. At the same time, there has been a surge in Americans who want the government to be tough on crime, especially in regards to those who use guns irresponsibly. The question then becomes: Why are Americans so unwilling to enact gun legislation while also wanting less gun crime?
A semblance of the answer, as in many cases like this, comes from American history. The United States and guns have been with each other since the very beginning of the country’s inception. The country itself was born on the precipice of war, which, I might add, about a third of the country had no idea took place. Americans take pride in the fact that they fought hard to break away from what they perceived as tyrannical dictatorship through the might of an armed population. Historical figures like George Washington and Paul Revere were admired not only on their charisma, but also because they believed in the undying power of the masses to resist through their arms. As such, when the writing of the constitution took place, the founders of America saw the necessity for Americans to hold on to their weapons. The founders themselves didn’t believe their constitution would last more than 10 years and that the population would have to lead another revolt against the government. One of Thomas Jefferson’s most famous quotes was “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” showing his deep seated belief in the people having the right to fight back. This strong belief has carried down the generations of Americans to the point that some take the words of the founders as akin to gospel. If you’ve ever heard an American say “The Founding Fathers would be ashamed, blah, blah, blah” then you’ll understand what I mean when I say that their word is considered holy. Because of the deep reverence for their Founders’ words, many Americans are unwilling to let the government change the system created by them. It’s seen as betraying the “true America” that was envisioned in 1776. As well, since the Watergate Scandal involving President Richard Nixon in the 1970s, the government of the States has been on a constant decline in the trust of their people. This has raised the emotional stakes of many gun owners, who feel that it may come to a point where they will need to fight off a new oppressor. So they argue that the government trying to raise legislation to restrict guns, also restricts the ability of the people to depose of a corrupt government, should one arise. There is more to say on this subject, but American history is too long and eventful to surmise in one article
As I’ve said, it is easy for us to look at the Americans and laugh at how silly they are for allowing gun crime to run rampant. But like every culture, including our own, the American’s have deep held beliefs that make it hard to enact strong change in certain areas. Many politicians in the States who even suggest the idea of gun control have lost their careers due to severe public backlash. Regardless, this article is not to sway you one way or the other in terms of gun control, but to help you understand the mindset of many Americans. Time will tell if that mindset will change, but for the next few years, if you wind up having a talk with some from the good ol’ USA about their gun laws, take this information with you and try to keep an open mind.