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A romanticized gun culture — nothing romantic about it

In the U.S., during the past four years, in four separate mass shootings, 101 people were killed by the hands of somebody with a semiautomatic weapon. In four different places, five separate shooters with different backgrounds, beliefs and motives, fired hundreds of bullets, and, I repeat, killed 101 people.

This doesn’t mean that everybody’s right to own guns should be taken away, but it means we need to take a good look at our current processes and make some changes. It means that we need to look at the gun culture in this country and how it is negatively impacting us.

I don’t understand when or why it became cool to have guns, but it’s not. Really, when you think about it, guns are pretty scary, and it doesn’t make you weak or soft to think that.

Did you know that most of the almost 125 million people in Japan have never seen a gun? Since the late 16th century, guns have been strictly controlled there. As a result, the homicide rate is extremely low, and there are barely any deaths by gun. If somebody wants to own a gun for hunting, they have to obtain a permit, get it registered and pay a tax. It’s a process that people don’t care for; guns are simply not a part of their culture.

I posted something on Facebook yesterday and sort of unintentionally started an argument. I had signed a petition to “ban assault weapons.” While I don’t normally share politically-charged things on Facebook, I was feeling motivated; my heart was hurting, and I was confused about the state of our country. So, I decided I’d write a couple of short sentences about how I think that assault weapons don’t belong on our streets and hope those who felt the same would sign also.

Then, the comments started rolling in. First, a rightwing friend posted that he disagreed, and I asked him a series of questions: well, what do you propose be done? What would you do if you were president? You own an AR-15 (the semiautomatic weapon used in the most recent Orlando shooting) yourself, great; when do you envision the need to use it, and why do you have it?

After he answered said questions, some leftwing and more rightwing friends got involved. I wasn’t looking to start an argument, and I’m usually not. I like to hear all sides of a story and try to understand other people’s opinions before formulating my own. Sometimes, this is exhausting, like when you then proceed to spend hours researching everything you can about automatic weapons, semiautomatic weapons, federal gun laws, state gun laws, different countries’ gun laws — I mean, to the point where I’m worried a government official might come into the coffee shop I’m in right now and take me in for my internet search history.

Still, I don’t even close to consider myself an authority on the topic. There is so much information out there. There are so many laws. What I do know is that I know more than I did yesterday, and I feel much more confident in my opinion that easily obtained semiautomatic guns that take innocent lives need to be harder to get. And, the romanticized gun culture in this country does not help anything.

This country was founded in 1776. The year of the American Revolutionary War, a whole century before electricity was a thing and during a time when people traveled by foot, horse or wagon. The population is estimated to have been 2.5 million then — almost 130 times less than what it is today. It was a very different time.

You know where I’m going with this… The second amendment. The words our Founding Fathers wrote. The words the conservatives fight to protect and the liberals condemn. It’s that simple. Oh, wait, but it’s not.

The real truth is that nobody knows the right answer — not any of our past presidents, not our current one, none of our future ones, not any other countries’ leader, not your parents, not your friend who loves politics, not you.

This is not a science. This is people. People are different. People are filled with emotions, and sometimes, one of those emotions is irrational hate. People have opinions, and sometimes, they can’t see, nor do they want to see, the other side. Sometimes, these people have guns. We’re talking about almost 320 million people.

What happened in Orlando this past weekend was the most tragic mass shooting in our nation’s history. Forty-nine innocent lives were lost. You’ve probably already heard that by now. The Sandy Hook school shooting of 2012, which took place in Newtown, Connecticut, claimed the lives of 20 children, 26 lives total, which at the time — December 14, 2012 — made it the most tragic mass shooting in our history.

Both shooters used semiautomatic guns. Both shooters were American citizens. One was 29 years old, pledged himself to ISIS, worked as a licensed security guard and left behind a collection of selfies of him wearing NYPD garb. The other was a 20-year-old Caucasian male who lived with his mom, had Asperger’s syndrome and played a lot of Call of Duty.

In San Bernadino, a husband-and-wife team shot up a holiday party, killing 14 people. They left their 6-month-old daughter without parents after they were chased down and killed by police. In Aurora, Colorado, a 24-year-old doctorate student, who was described as “clean-cut,” opened fire at the midnight showing of “Batman: the Dark Knight,” with his hair dyed red as if he was the Joker and will be spending his life in prison for killing 12 people.

All five used legally purchased guns to commit their murders.

When is enough enough? After the Sandy Hook shooting, President Barack Obama said, “Shame on us…” — shame on us if we forget the Newtown shooting and don’t do something about it. And, you know what’s happened in regards to gun control laws since then? Nothing of note. Twenty innocent children died, and nothing has happened.

In Australia, in 1996, a man killed 35 people with a semiautomatic weapon. It was the most tragic mass shooting that country had ever seen, and it took them only two weeks to enact the National Agreement on Firearms, which restricted legal possession of automatic and semiautomatic firearms, restricted legal importation of most non-military firearms, tightened the laws regarding gun licensing and ownership and implemented a buyback program to get firearms off the streets.

In the 18 years leading up to the 1996 Australian gun law reform, there had been 13 massacres in Australia, each with four or more deaths, totaling 102 deaths. Since the implementation of the NFA, there have been zero massacres with four or more deaths.

Now, that fact doesn’t make me believe that if the U.S. were to do the same thing, the result would be the same — remember, each country has its own unique gun culture — but it’s certainly a noteworthy fact.

Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association president, said Obama is “like a dictator” who “hates the second amendment” after Obama proposed banning the ammunition for the AR-15 rifle. While this rifle has been used to kill innocent Americans, it is also recognized as America’s most popular sporting rifle; obviously, LaPierre doesn’t want the ammo banned.

On the other hand, Obama has said on multiple occasions that he believes in the second amendment. His proposal for commonsense gun reform is focused on stricter background checks and making the more dangerous guns that have caused these tragedies less accessible. If you’re a responsible gun owner who is using his or her gun for protection, you shouldn’t have any problem with background checks. You should be happy about that. You should feel more secure that your fellow responsible gun owners have been thoroughly checked like you were. Unless you just wanted to hate on your democratic president, then you’d just complain.

Obviously, words have been, and are being, twisted. It doesn’t help that when you search for something online, you get a million articles, and half of them are from non-reputable sources. Educate yourself. Don’t just believe everything you hear; question everything. Respectfully disagree, but learn the facts before you argue.

Our nation is facing some sad and scary problems in regards to guns, and there’s no clear answer. However, if we can all educate ourselves and make an effort to be aware and open-minded, we could put ourselves on the right track to protect this wonderfully diverse country and all of us in it.

About The Author

Melissa Neubek

Melissa, aka Meli, is a second year journalism major. Originally from Boston (Go Pats!), she’s been in Florida for three years now. She graduated from Boston University with her photography degree in 2011 and now owns her own photography business with her husband. If she’s not busy schooling or photographing, she can be found cooking, watching HGTV or Netflix, or traveling. She loves writing simply because it’s fun. She loves National Geographic, the color purple and monkeys. She really doesn’t like math, watermelons, and having to repeat herself.

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