I’ve been an expat for six years now and by far the question I get asked most often from Europeans when they learn that I am American is “What is it with Americans and guns?”.
I usually reply that it isn’t all Americans and that, in fact, a majority of Americans support stricter gun laws but the NRA is rich and powerful and has a stranglehold on too many politicians so nothing ever changes. Again, sigh.
Not long after I moved to Dublin the mass shooting in Sandyhook, Connecticut took place. Twenty-eight people, most of them children, were massacred. I thought (it turns out stupidly) that a bunch of first graders being gunned down would finally lead to sensible gun control in the US.
The mass shootings have continued – in schools, movie theaters, churches, nightclubs, concerts. Truly, nowhere is safe. Just a couple days ago a dozen people were killed in a mass shooting in a bar in a Los Angeles suburb. This shooting came less than two weeks after eleven people were gunned down in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
It’s gotten so bad that it seems like more than 10 people need to be killed in order for it to get any sort of broad media coverage. By definition, a mass shooting is an incident where at least four people, not including the gunman, are killed or injured in a single event at the same general time and location. There were between the Pittsburgh shooting and the Los Angeles shooting ELEVEN other mass shootings in the US. There have been 307 mass shootings in America this year alone. This has become normal in the US. But this is not normal. That’s why I get asked to explain it so often.
I know that even in places with stricter laws bad guys still get their hands on guns and terrible things still happen. Tuesday is the anniversary of the terror attacks in Paris. Those bad guys had guns, dozens of people were killed. But there’s no denying that the US takes gun violence to an entirely new level and the main thing that sets us apart is our government’s refusal to enact common sense gun laws. I really, really don’t think this is what our founding fathers meant when they included the right to bear arms in the constitution.
The gun situation in the US is definitely a reason I’m thankful to be an expat. I don’t think I could live in a country were there is a mass shooting nearly every day. I try to be hopeful that things will change, eventually. But I’m fairly certain they won’t. There will be another mass shooting with substantial casualties and I’ll be asked to explain the unexplainable again.