I have friend here who is new in town and is opening a new restaurant/tourist business. He is a very smart guy actually and a welcome addition to our business community. He, like I and all the gringos who move here, will have to go through the usual cultural learning curve, and I saw one the other day that he will soon learn that made me think about the current events in the US. He ran a similar tourism company in the US and one of the things their company did was laser tag, something he hopes to introduce here. Now most Americans would look at this and just think how fun that might be without thinking about it in its “cultural context”. I guess I have been here long enough that my radar went off as soon as he mentioned it. Especially given what is going on in the US and the issue of guns.
In the US, where guns are very much a part of our history and culture, kids playing with plastic guns and such, even the more modern versions like paint ball and now laser tag, are considered benign and harmless fun. However, it dawned on me that I have never seen a kid with a little toy gun, or seen kids playing as if they were shooting at one another, cops and robbers style, here in Mexico. I looked at the toy isle in the store the other day and there were no toy guns either. So I asked a few of my Mexican friends about this and they all told me that toy guns are never an acceptable way to play for children here. For the most part, we do not have guns in our society here and coincidentally enough, nor do we have the sort of gun violence found in the US. Nobody does for that matter but then again, nobody has as many guns in their populous than the US either. Nobody even close.
But “what about all the Mexican drug violence seen on US televisions” is the typical argument Americans use to convince others, as well as themselves, that the violence is not so bad, or even normal? Our answer to that here is that sort of violence is only in small sections of Mexico and related to only one thing, drugs, or the poison the US demands. The gun violence along the US border, where the overwhelming majority of the violent crime in Mexico exists, is real and probably worse than even reported in the “if it bleeds, it leads” US media. The good thing is that almost all of those killed by guns in Mexico are bad people, killing other bad people. The important thing to remember though is that almost all of the geographical area has virtually no violent crime. We have our problems here of course, theft and alcoholism for example, but violent crime is not one of them. It is tough to jack someone’s car, hold up their business or get your revenge on someone with a stick or machete! You need to be one rough hombre!
Now I can hear some all the way down here with your “oh here we go again with the anti-gun nonsense”. Well, you’re wrong. If I did, it would just start a fight anyway, something my Americans are very good at these days. That is one of the reasons I live here, I got tired of the fighting over these sort of things. This is not an issue Americans need to fight about but to resolve the problem it would require a national conversation, something we are not very good at. Again, it just turns into a fight. But until that happens, the US will continue to be a shooting gallery. I sit on the outside looking into my other country these days and I just shake my head. You guys are shooting kids in schools and movie theaters and your workplaces are not even safe anymore from the guy who just got fired. And don’t get me started about going to clubs or parties. All this, every day, and we still can’t have a national discussion without a fight.
Look, the people who want to do away with guns in the US need to recognize the fact that guns are very much a part of our culture and our history. They are not going away, nor should they, for lots of reasons. Almost all gun owners use, keep and control their guns properly and that needs to be respected. You do not have to like it or own one, but you need to respect that. Any discussion of doing away with gun ownership is unrealistic and counter-productive in any sort of national discussion.
Guns right people need to pull their head out and pay attention .Gun crime is out of control and some sort of reform is needed and that reform is going to be a pain in the ass for gun owners but should not take away any of their constitutional rights. At some point though, we all have rights. We have the right to send our kids to school or the mall and expect that they safely return. We all have the right to go to the work place or even walk down the street, and return safely. And those rights, I think most agree, are greater than anyone’s right to own a dangerous weapon, without reasonable and workable regulation and at the expense of greater public safety. To think otherwise is just as absurd as thinking all guns need to be removed and equally counter-productive to finding a solution.
My guess is the US will never have a national discussion that ignores the two extreme views I am referring too. What is more likely is that the little boxes the Americans are glued to will show the extreme views, keep you fighting with one another and your worthless legislators will pass a bunch of watered down gun laws restricting a few assault rifles and the US will continue to slip into the banality of life in the shooting gallery. Is this the price you have to pay to live in a “free” country???? These violent crimes, not just the mass shootings, will continue and of course, if you look at the direction gun technology is taking us, continue to get worse.
Unfortunately for guns rights owners, the reforms needed to make that product safe, are going to require they make the largest compromises in this debate. This is a large problem and it will require unfortunately, large compromises and even a change in the ideology of gun rights, something most of the pro-gun people I talk with these days are not willing to do. However I think changing that ideology and real compromises in gun ownership are not one in the same. I think most gun owners would be willing to make many regulatory compromises, as long as they get to keep and continue to buy their guns, which as I said, they should be allowed to do. And with the possible exception of military grade weapons, I do think gun owners should be allowed to own any and as many as they choose to be responsible for, period.
It is these compromises though that takes you to the “slippery slope” theory and the main deterrent to any meaningful debate on the regulation of guns. As I said, I respect the right of any American to own a gun, but I also favor heavy regulation, to make the product safer. Let’s face it, guns are dangerous and just like cars, pharmaceuticals, recreational toys, alcohol and endless other things we use that are considered dangerous, we have laws regulating their use. We have more laws regulating the safety of children’s toys than we do guns. We don’t give driver’s licenses to blind people or allow drunks to drive, do we? Of course not, because they will kill someone in such a dangerous thing as a car. And a car is not meant for killing, a gun is! Of course, we do not have the National Automobile Association or Toy Manufacturers claiming that ANY regulation of their dangerous product is just the first step down some imaginary “slippery slope” that will ultimately lead to the taking away your constitutional right. If legislators ever try to remove that from the constitution, something I have never heard discussed, THEN you need to be concerned. The constitution and the Supreme Court have clearly stated, that right still exists, so there is no slippery slope, short of a constitutional amendment. Anti-gun people, don’t hold your breath for that.
If we can get past that ridiculous argument, perhaps we can begin to look at how guns can be made safer, put together a real regulatory process and begin to reduce the level of violent crime in the US. A good place to start would be to recognize that along with rights, come responsibilities. Making gun owners responsible for any crime committed with their gun would go a long way toward forcing gun owners to keep guns safely locked away. Perhaps gunsafe ownership should be required before you can purchase a gun. The recent shooting in Connecticut is just one example of where someone left guns available for a sick person to use in a deadly shooting. If that man’s mother, a victim as well as the owner of the guns, had thought she would go to jail if those guns were used in a crime, she would have been many times more likely to have had those guns out of the reach of her sick son. It is about personal responsibility and I think most agree on that. Make people responsible, don’t ask them to be, period.
The only way to do that is with a heavy regulatory process and one controlled by the state. Buying a gun and the registration of that gun should be from the same agency. This is for many reasons, efficiency and cost being at the top of the list. Many states require alcohol to be purchased from state stores, so too should the purchase of weapons and ammunition. Allowing guns to be sold at gun shows and discount stores, where the guy on the other side of the counter is getting a commission or hates gun regulation in general, is how we got to the point we are in now. Perhaps all gun manufacturers should be required to make available their products via order from the states, where a properly trained person will do a real check to assure you are eligible and trained to own your gun when it arrives. That gun’s registration and identification mechanisms are recorded so that should the gun be used in a crime, it could easily be identified and traced back to the owner where they could be held accountable or possibly help resolve a crime and who knows how many future crimes in the process. Gun owners would likely get a larger pool of weapons to choose from since they are buying direct from all the manufacturers, probably dropping the cost by leaving out the middle man and his profit, but more importantly, not limiting their gun ownership ability, but increasing it. Own as many as you want to be responsible for, just help make sure the product is safe for others.
Finally, for those out there who will argue that because they do not trust the government enough to allow them to oversee the regulatory process, and I do know that number is very small, I would just say you should not live in a country you do not trust to keep you safe. Move and please, not to Mexico! You might find it hard to find a place that will welcome you with your guns since almost all civilized countries in the world have much more restrictive gun laws than the US but I’m sure you will find a place where you can be “free”. That or allow your paranoia to overcome your good sense and just shoot it out with the untrustworthy government. Just do one or the other and get out of the way of sensible gun ownership.
Having said all that, a national discussion on this issue is needed and needed very quick. That discussion should include respect for the tradition and history of guns in our culture and directed toward keeping them accessible, but not the threat to public safety that they have become. This discussion needs to be resolved to the fact that ONLY regulatory action is the solution and that all new laws not stop in any way, our constitutional right to own guns.
In the interim, I think I’ll stay away from the shooting gallery and watch kids play with soccer balls and bicycles. My guess is my friend will soon figure out his laser tag is not welcome in Mexico and I am not sure if that is really a good or a bad thing. I do know that I enjoy living in a country where I can walk to my car in a dark mall parking lot or use an ATM at night, without looking over my shoulder or even thinking to do so. Violent crime is not anything I worry about here, at least not until I get on a plane to go back to the US. And I think one of the reasons I don’t have to worry, is also one of the reasons my friends laser tag business will never get started here. Viva Mexico!