Friday, April 10, 2009

Another Question They Ask

The other thing the hopeful immigrants to the US whom I work with ask me frequently is,

'Will I have to get a gun when we move to America?'

Now after the shooting at this community and immigration center in Binghamton, NY, I expect more questions. 'Will we be safe in our English classes?' 'Can't the US police do anything about these shootings?' Why does this happen so much in America?'

As usual I'll try to be reassuring, but of course, I can't answer these questions.

This morning, a woman told me her children are 9 and 12, and she's worried they won't be safe in American public schools.
Should I tell her that I would be worried about the same thing if we were moving back to the US?

Usually, I point out that the danger in US public schools has been sensationalized and exaggerated. I tell them that they probably won't be in 'bad' neighborhoods too often in the US, and when they are, nothing will happen to them. I tell them, no, do not buy a gun, because you're statistically more likely to shoot someone in your own family with it. All of these things are true.

But when I hear myself saying them, it don't sound so reassuring.

There are too many guns in the US, and they're too easy to get. Everyone knows this. Assault weapons are only good for one thing: killing lots of humans. So why are they still obtainable by madmen with grudges? It's the gun lobby, stoopid. It's about money. Everybody knows.


more cowbell said...

When we moved back to the States, my landlady cried because she was so worried about the kids going to school here.

It amazes me how incapable our country is of looking at the experiences and outcomes of other countries and saying, "hmm, they don't seem to have the rampant shooting rates that we do ... maybe we could apply something to our own system here."

In Hungary there was once an armed bank robbery in Budapest. The news broke in to all the radios/TVs. They threw up roadblocks all around, closed the national borders, the whole country was on alert. The next day all flags were at half mast for the people who had died (I think it was 3). My Hungarian colleagues were just shocked that GUNS were used. That was unthinkable. They were more shocked that things like that are on the news around the clock in the US, and people are mainly desensitized to it.

pat said...

Hi there, Cowbell! As I understand it, school shootings do and have happened in lots of other countries. But those countries all seem to learn from the experience, and whether by passing stricter gun control laws or through other measures, they don't then have repeat incidences like Columbine or Binghamton.
I also read a paraphrase of a travel story (by Bill Bryson, maybe?) wherein an American in Sweden (or was it Norway?) was surprised to learn that the Queen was a regular visitor to the same flower shop he was shopping in. The American asked the florist, 'But when she's in here, who protects her?' And the florist responded, 'Why, we all do.'

Chris Raab said...

It was Bryson. The story can be found in "Neither Here Nor There", the chapter on Copenhagen.

I was thinking about that same story while looking at the news about the recent incident where a man tried to crash his car into a bus carrying Queen Beatrix and members of the Dutch royal family.

I couldn't quite remember who wrote the story, or where I'd read it. I searched and searched on the internet and came across your comment. Then I remembered that I had a copy Bryson's on my bookshelves somewhere (just the one - I am a fan of Theroux and not Bryson when it comes to travel writing), retrieved the book, and found it again. Thanks for helping me jog my memory!

pat said...

My pleasure, Chris. Thanks for fact checking my post!