Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gunning for it

Guns are worldwide and universal.  Their meaning is not.  When people see a person with a gun, its impact often depends on its national context.
For example, guns of all kinds are quietly omnipresent in Israel.  Armed soldiers, male and female, are highly visible in all public areas generally because they are on their way to somewhere else.  To Israelis, this is banal while to foreigners, this is exotic.  People of all ages involved in security services freely circulate at all times, including at celebrations.  My father was rather shocked to see my father-in-law’s colleagues walking around with pistols at my wedding.  I did not even notice it.  Since guns are linked with military service and security duty, gun safety is taken seriously.  There are relatively few shooting accidents in Israel.  The truth is that after having to carrying around an M-16, even shortened, or a local made assault rifle for 3 or more years, very few people actually want to walk around armed and loaded.  
In France, gun control is strict.  Gun possession is mainly limited to police officers, soldiers, and hunters.  Therefore, seeing a gun makes an impression.  In the Jewish quarter of Paris near the synagogues, elite soldiers patrol the area.  Aside from wearing black uniforms and looking very serious (like they know how to actually aim the weapon), they carry submachine guns or machine pistols.  Their purpose is to intimidate potential terrorists. In the context of France, it works.
By contrast, in the United States, owning a gun is a protected, historical tradition.  The love of guns has been around for at least 400 years in the United States.  Many people in the United States in both urban and rural areas love to collect, shoot, and talk about guns.  It is a popular hobby.  Hunting is the main reason for existence for millions of Americans.  That means being around guns from a young age.  So, unlike Israel, guns are more entrenched part of everyday American life, for better or worse.  Therefore, the reaction of many people to guns is not shock, but curious as to what kind it is and how far it can shoot.
In summary, while guns are the same everywhere, people’s reactions differ from country to country.  I would be interested in hearing what reaction the sight of gun causes in your country.

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