I want to pistol-whip my country…

I have intentionally refrained from writing much about U.S. issues while here, but I feel compelled to do so based on recent events. The last time I was abroad — this past July — the infamous ‘Batman shooter’ went on his rampage in Colorado, and it amazed me how Americans, such as myself at the time, can associate the Middle East with so much violence and extremism without looking in our own backyard. Judging alone from the graphic below, Israel doesn’t hold a candle to the United States.

stop handguns

I have now been in Turkey for almost three months, and being away from the United States for so long has taught me to see it as foreigners might see it. What is wrong with this picture? I don’t even want to read the commentary that is undoubtedly filling the airwaves and the pages of major newspapers. I don’t want to hear about the ludicrous non-solutions that are likely being proposed — “we need more guns to protect ourselves from all these crazy men with guns!” or the pro-gun apologist spittle that “we can’t blame guns for what crazy people do with them.” When will we acknowledge that we are shooting ourselves into an early grave as a nation? And forget about all this nonsense about the positive uses of firearms: Take a look at these studies, which reveal — among other things — that firearms are seldom used for defense. How popular is gun control? How effective is it? Here is an interesting look at those topics.

What is perhaps most striking to me — other than the fact that 11 of the 20 worst shootings in recent world history occurred in the United States —  is that mass shootings tend not to change views on gun control very much. My only explanation for this is that people still believe that guns will make them safer from shooting rampages. I think it’s this childish fantasy that they will heroically pull out their gun (conveniently located at their hip when they need it most) and “save the day.” I hope we can remember that life is not a video game; the best way for us all to be safe is for most, if not all of us, to be unarmed.

I don’t have an easy answer to this problem because gun control is only the beginning, and we’re unlikely to get much progress even on that given the cowardice of our leaders. I just hope we can reflect on what it is about us that allows this to happen again (and again) and what we can do as individuals to make a difference. We should, at a minimum, stop advising our friends and family not to travel to other countries because of potential danger when the United States is arguable the most violent country on earth domestically and, if foreign policy is included, indisputably so.

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