American gun culture: International perspectives

Gallon of milk, loaf of bread, high powered rifle

by Yoshiki Kasai – News and Features Editor

Yoshiki Kasai is a sophomore from Japan.

It’s been nearly seven weeks since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings occurred in Newtown, Connecticut.  We watched the news about the massacre on TV over and over. We soon learned that 27 people including the shooter were killed.

The massacre has brought up many questions and debates about gun control laws in the United States. Gun control and gun culture are big issues for international students as well. After all, shootings can occur anywhere in the United States, including the colleges and universities we call home.

In the United States, people are required to have permission to buy guns, but it is unbelievable to me that guns are actually sold in Wal-Mart, where you can buy everyday items such as food, clothes and video games. In my opinion, it is very scary that people can buy milk and guns at the same place. It has become very clear to me that guns are one big part of American life, but when guns are used in the wrong way, bad things like the Newtown massacre happen.

The question I’ve been thinking about is, is gun control a big issue only in the United

Time Magazine reported in their Jan. 11 issue that Walmart sells guns at between 1,700 and 1,800 of the 4,000 of their stores across the U.S., according to Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg. One of those stores is the Newton Walmart.

States? What about other countries?  I interviewed some international students at Hesston College to find out gun control laws in their countries.

In Bolivia and Ecuador, people are able to buy guns if they get permission from the government. Generally, few people have guns on a daily basis and even being in proximity of a gun is somewhat rare. Maria Cristina López Maldonado, an international student from Ecuador, said, “I have never seen a gun firsthand, but my neighbor has guns.”

In these countries policemen are allowed to have guns for their work. Unfortunately, there are also those who use guns illegally. Thieves also have guns and threaten people in streets to get money. Gun control laws are also a big issue in those South American countries.

On the other hand, gun culture is very different in Asian countries, for instance, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea. As a citizen of Japan, have experienced this firsthand. People hardly ever see guns, and basically only policemen and armies have guns.  However, some gang groups have guns. They get guns illegally because in those three countries, people are not allowed to buy guns for any reason. Still, few of us live in fear of guns because no one is  allowed to have guns for self-defense, so they’re just not readily available.

“I don’t feel danger of guns in my home town,” said Christine So Hui Bak, an international student from South Korea. “Even gang groups mainly use knives.”

Gun control laws are a big issue in the world, and I wonder if the possession of guns for self-defense should be justified. Finally, in my opinion, people should not be allowed to have guns for any reason because the possession of guns has caused shootings such as Newtown Massacre over the year in the United States. We have to deal with the issue so we can protect people from terrible massacre in the future.

Where peace and personal safety prevail

By Alex Nguyen – Horizon Opinion Editor

Alex Nguyen is a second-year student from Vietnam.

It is January 2012 and I am in my third floor apartment in Hanoi. At this time of the year the weather here is always rainy, cloudy and cold. It is a perfect time for Vietnamese poets to write their sad poems.

But I don’t care. I am jumping up and down in my bed because just in the next few days I will make my first trip overseas. I will be attending college in the US. I receive wishes and congratulations from friends and family, including Colin, my Aussie friend, a social worker, who emailed me a very strange letter.

“Hope you can manage the crazy gun toting, consumer culture madness that you must surely have noticed by now?” he wrote.

I was confused. What is he talking about? Gun problem? Is the US really like Hollywood action movies? I mean, what is the big deal?

I did not have to wait very long to see what Colin was talking about. One day my last  college writing professor, Dave Osborne, gave us an assignment to summarize an article from the news. The article said that a 17-year- old African American boy, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed while he was walking through a gated neighborhood, where he was visiting family on Feb. 26. C0lin’s words of warning suddenly hit home.

I understand that I am not American, so my point of view may be different in this debate. But in the end, a person carrying a gun makes violence all too easy, I am afraid. Sometimes when one feels weak and scared or in a threatening situation, we do the wrong thing. That possibility is magnified with guns.

My view is certainly shaped by my country’s history with guns. After the war ended in Vietnam, guns or any kind of weapons were officially and completely banned for the civilians. The government collected guns all over the country. Any form of possession or trade of weapons became illegal. As a result, the number of crimes which involve guns is very small.  People are encouraged to give their guns to the police and are educated how dangerous it can be to keep the guns. So, I personally have no interest in guns.

It’s true that hunting and gun sports are acceptable pastimes in American culture. Some Americans think they need to have their own gun to be safe and more secure. So there may be some justification to people’s concerns about government control of civilian access to guns. I really do not know the right answer for this debate, nor what essential changes should be made. I only know that we all want to build a better world for the next generation where peace and personal safety prevail.

Note from the Editor: How does your background shape your views on this topic? Share by adding a comment below.

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