Do I have an opinion about the recent news? About a young man who opens fire and kills 32 other people, and wounds 17? I am asked by Norwegians what it means when Americans go amuck with firearms. What’s with Americans and guns?
I cannot answer them. I don’t know myself. I was not raised in a gun culture. Quite the contrary: My biological maternal grandfather was shot dead before my mother was born, and my grandma became strongly anti-guns.
I have fired a weapon. I had a friend and a paternal relative who let me try a pistol or two. It left me with a lot of respect for the things – and a huge gratitude that I normally was nowhere near any.
I have no clue what to say about America’s gun laws. California is restrictive but has problems with illegal weapons; neighboring Nevada allows carrying concealed weapons and has experienced a drop in the crime rate. I don’t like the idea of concealed weapons, but I do like the idea of a lower crime rate. I’m torn. What really bothers me is that handguns really have only one function: To threaten harm or do harm to another human being. It’s hard to like something so negative.
I don’t know any crazy people, American or Norwegian. I am one of the few people (apparantly) who does not have an alcoholic friend or relative (that I know of, at least). I don’t do drugs and nobody I know does them, either. No mental illness or even clinical depression in the family. No jailbirds. And no beliefs about how we need to protect ourselves from some enemy. The people I know don’t have any enemies..
I cannot tell you why such shootings happen or how to prevent them. I don’t think the insanity behind them is uniquely American. What is uniquely American, is the access to firearms. But I cannot tell you that a tragedy would never have happened if the laws were different: Without firearms, the killer could have built a bomb instead or set a fire. And knowing that fellow students and teachers can be carrying concealed weapons might have been a good deterrent.
But there is another issue, and one that isn’t uniquely American: Apparantly nobody noticed the young man, and therefore didn’t notice he wasn’t functioning well mentally and socially.