Guns and American Exceptionalism

“17 left dead in 6 short minutes of terror” read the latest headline!

The merchants of death and their cult of gun owners is still marching triumphantly in the aftermath of yet another mass killing spree at an American school.

As usual, there are only a few lone voices crying in the wilderness, demanding the US government take measures to stop the slaughter of innocents.

Do that many Americans really feel that the right to have unrestricted freedom to own and carry military-grade automatic weapons is more important than the safety of the people they love the most? Because, I’m sorry, that’s the way it looks to the rest of the world at the moment.

People from Australia, a country that changed gun ownership laws in response to mass shootings there, are quick to point out that their sensible laws have stopped this sort of mass bloodshed from happening on Australian soil.

Japan is another country that could provide a model for sensible gun ownership laws in the USA. Oh, I can hear the gun nuts crying ‘give me liberty’ now!

Yes, I do realize that many Americans don’t care what anyone outside their own group of friends thinks, much less people who live on the other side of the planet and have a ‘strange’ English accent or speak a different language.

However, if we are really beings who prioritize the safety of our family and friends, then I think it’s time for us to all open our eyes and see how other countries have solved what I believe to be America’s greatest crisis—the continued slaughter of innocent children, teens and adults by individuals using military-style weapons.

Statistics vs Emotions

I could write an entire post filled with valid statistics proving just how gun-crazy many Americans are compared to their peers in other developed countries, but all that information is readily available online and is reprinted in the media after each mass killing in the USA. Plus, it doesn’t seem that seeing the ugly side of America’s love affair with guns spelled out in statistics does much to change the average American’s opinion on changing current gun laws.

It appears that the vast majority of the American public has become desensitized to mass shootings within their own country. After each incident, there are the usual comments such as “pray for America”, “it’s not the weapon, it’s the individual who is responsible for the shooting deaths”, “if guns are taken away from good guys, then only bad guys will have them” , along with lots of finger pointing. And, oh yes, Americans usually rush out to buy even more weapons just in case this is the incident that sways public sentiment against virtually unrestricted gun ownership.

But then no concrete action is taken by a dysfunctional government to change the situation. This merely sets the stage for the next horrific event.

Of course, I understand that the person who pulls the trigger is the ‘killer’, but the gun manufacturers who have created their own brands of weapons of mass destruction that can indiscriminately kill large numbers of innocent people in minutes are to blame as well. So too are government officials who are charged with protecting the public, and this may be a case of protecting the public from themselves.

Times have changed

Growing up on a farm in rural North Carolina in a house where gun ownership was seen as something that was passed down from one generation to another, I would target shoot with other family members on holidays when the relatives came to visit. I had friends who went hunting with their rifles and dogs.

And, yes, I know many people will vow that they are responsible gun owners and keep their weapons safely locked away. While that may be true, there are many others who are irresponsible.

So, I do understand how natural gun ownership feels to many Americans. I ‘get’ how emotional the debate can be regarding the 2nd Amendment to the American Constitution—the right to bear arms.

But here’s my point: I believe that changing American cultural perspectives and sophisticated weapons technology has changed the reality of gun ownership.

Even those gun owners who ‘think’ they’re responsible can become a danger to themselves and society when alcohol, drugs (including prescription medications) and the emotions involved in personal relationships are thrown into the mix. And, I haven’t even touched on mental illness yet!

Killing machines

In Scotland, where I lived and studied, the main weapon used in violent attacks is the knife because the UK has very strict gun laws. Because proximity is important when a person is set on killing others with a knife, the number of victims is limited.

Some will argue that we’ve also witnessed cars and trucks being used as weapons, but again they can only be used as killing machines under a certain set of circumstances where there’s no barrier to the vehicle’s movement.

With a high-powered automatic weapon, an unbalanced person can be far away from their victims. The Las Vegas shootings in 2017 are a good example of the ‘impersonal’ nature of these crimes committed with today’s sophisticated weaponry.

Why is it necessary for a citizen of the USA to own a weapon such as the popular military-style AR-15 which has been used in many of the mass shooting over the last few years from Sandy Hook to Orlando to this latest mass shooting in Parkland, Florida?

Do individuals really need an automatic, military-style weapon to protect them from a vicious deer while hunting or to keep prowlers off their neatly landscaped suburban patios?

If you’re going to go out and purchase something to keep the family home secure, how about installing an alarm system instead of buying an assault weapon? At least the lives of small children won’t be endangered when they instinctively decide to play with the buttons on the alarm.

It seems to me that buying the newest, most rapid-firing guns on the market has become the latest form of keeping up with the Jones’s, as individuals show off their latest purchase at the gun range on a Saturday afternoon.

As a gun owner, do you really feel safer when you know that both you and your neighbors are armed to the teeth?

Because I have to tell you I don’t feel safer being in a restaurant in the USA and knowing that many of the diners around me are packing a concealed weapon, as allowed by law in many States.

Identifying a psychopathic killer?

My belief is that there are far too many isolated, neurotic humans on earth who are simply too mentally fragile to be trusted with the great destructive power of a military-grade killing machine.

Since mental illness doesn’t always openly manifest itself and can be easily hidden, I’d like to know how the NRA, its supporters and all those useless legislators in Washington, D. C. are going to go about weeding out the nice, sane, responsible citizen gun owners from those who are capable of so much bloodshed, because the patchwork of State and Federal laws in place at the moment clearly isn’t working.

I understand that many Americans want less government interference in their lives, instead of new regulations that infringe on their behavior and  what they perceive to be their ‘rights’, but in other areas where public safety is concerned, from operating a train to driving a car, government guidelines are clearly set to prevent accidents and deaths from occurring.

Why should machines that are created for only one purpose–to kill–not be subject to strict government regulation? And why do Americans have an extremely different point of view on this topic from citizens of other developed nations?

Guns and American Exceptionalism

The concept of American Exceptionalism—the idea that the USA’s institutions and population are uniquely endowed with both exceptional qualities and the freedom to behave and perform in a superior way to people in other countries—has been part of American mainstream thinking for many decades.

Based on my experience of living, working and interacting with government institutions and individuals in countries on four continents, I feel this is a myth that’s preventing America from correcting some serious imbalances in its culture and government policy.

I’ve read that people in abusive relationships often convince themselves that the abuser will eventually stop the betrayal and violent behavior. This illogical view of human nature often means victims delay developing a plan of action for removing themselves from the situation.

In similar fashion, I think it’s almost impossible for the average American, who doesn’t travel and has never lived outside the USA, to have a completely objective view of the very culture that dictates their daily habits and cultural behavior in the first place.

Admittedly, guns have long been an important part of American culture, from the days of the Wild West when an outlaw (or your neighbor) could gun you down in the streets of your town, to today’s paranoid fear of terrorists, gangs and the over-reach of the federal government.

Aren’t Americans wise and strong enough to admit that the epidemic of gun violence is out of control and it’s time for sensible action to stop the slaughter?

Why can’t many Americans accept that exceptional levels of gun violence are a cancer eating at the very heart of their culture?

Time to pull our heads out of the sand

I know personally of situations in the USA where families fear what kind of violence their neighbors may perpetrate on them and those around them. Gosh, I wonder how many guns so and so has in their house!

What does the future hold for America’s neighborhoods when a gun feels like the best way to settle a dispute? Has the number of guns a person owns become the yardstick by which Americans judge strength and character?

In my humble opinion, it’s WAY past time to look beyond America’s shores for solutions that can help us all live more safely and without fear of being gunned down while going about our daily lives.

So, to all the gun-show devotees who believe that having more weapons in circulation makes America a safer place to be, I say bullshit! The truth can’t be hidden any longer. We all must accept that this continued pattern of killing is a detriment to American society.


10 thoughts on “Guns and American Exceptionalism

  1. Thought provoking reasoning but many a time such sober thoughts fall into deaf ears; sigh!

    It goes on like a routine now and the hue and cry last hardly a week. The discussion goes on when another mass killing happens.

    Is there no end to it? How come many young people who have no clue what a meaningful life is get hold of weapons of mass destruction? (Yes, they are weapons of mass destruction; not for personal safety. )


    1. Gireesh…Your thoughts on this very important topic are greatly appreciated. The vast divide between world views in the USA is truly alarming. One group arms themselves for some sort of civil conflict, while the other group begs for sensible gun controls. My fear is that the ones who are heavily arming themselves are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy–they will create the very conditions they are seeking to defend themselves from. I worry for my friends and family living in such a violent country. Thanks for your support of My Quest Blog!


  2. Excellent post. I totally agree with your sentiments. And today 45 mentioned arming teachers. As a teacher there is no way I’d pick up a gun and try to kill someone. I don’t recognize my country any more.


    1. Ditto! I don’t recognize the USA anymore either. I thought living abroad and studying other cultures for 15 years would grant me keener insights into my own, but that hasn’t been the case. I’ve somehow lost touch with what I knew as the essence of American culture, although I do recognize there are still many friendly, helpful Americans around. Still, I wonder if extreme social isolation brought about by car culture and social media alienation (in addition to being saturated by violence in video games and Hollywood films) has created these young white male killers! Despite the cultural influences, we must have sensible gun legislation to stop the slaughter immediately while we work on solving the underlying issues! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it’s a combination of all that, but it is also about bigotry. This current administration has likened itself in many ways to Hitler and his minions. I feel that everything I studied in history is repeating itself. The bigotry, anti-semitism, misogyny that takes place in Washington and around the country is intolerable. Hopefully,this new generation of young people will get lawmakers to change gun policies. I truly hope that happens soon. I fear for my grandchildren every day.


  3. It’s true Lesley. Even though I only spend a few months at most in the USA each year, I fear for the safety of my friends and family who are spread all around the country. During the 9 years I spend living in the Middle East, some of my relatives would plead with me to return to the USA where I would ‘be safer’. In these situations, I usually let out a good-natured laugh before letting them know that I felt much safer in that part of the world than in the USA (except when driving). And, I absolutely agree that 45 has done nothing but stir the pot in an effort to divide and conquer, I do hope having new voices organizing and speaking out will make a difference, but I fear the only people in Washington that are heard are the lobbyist who can help fund political campaigns. Maybe some of these younger people taking up this cause now will form PACs and raise funds in order to put candidates in office who will vote sensibly on new weapons regulations. Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts!


  4. This is your most brilliant piece so far. There are so many truths you have hit upon. I flashed on a standup routine that Chris Rock recently did in which he was powerfully criticizing the gun laws. He said that the argument in support of gun owners that states it is not the gun that kills, it is the person holding the gun, simply doesn’t hold water. His point was that if you had a knife, there is no way you would be able to kill 100 people in one killing spree….but if you were able to do it somehow, then 97 of those people deserved to die if they just stood around and watched someone with a knife stabbing people all over the place doing nothing until it became their turn to be stabbed. He put it much better in his comic routine,…..but it is such a no-brainer that a person with heavy-duty guns is capable of killing FAR more people than a person with a knife. The Las Vegas shooting spree killed 58 people and injured 851. How in sam hill can you possibly argue that the military grade weapons used in that massacre were not important to the outcome, that it was just the man pulling the trigger that was responsible?! Honestly, for the life of me, I cannot understand how demand for gun ownership rights could possibly be understood to include guns capable of killing many innocent people within seconds. By the way, I read that the person who sold the ammunition used in the Las Vegas massacre has been charged with not having a license for manufacturing armor-piercing bullets. Hopefully, this will lead to more actions against those who provide the means by which mentally ill people can accrue an arsenal of highly deadly weapons. (Frankly, I believe that ANYONE who wants to own a semi-automatic gun has got to be mentally ill.) It is necessary to widen the web of responsibility for these mass shootings. If legislators won’t instigate immediate measures to control this out-of-control situation, at least in the case of the bullet manufacturer, the criminal complaint was filed in Phoenix (the home of the weapons manufacturer) in a federal district court by an FBI Special Agenta assigned to the Las Vegas, Nevada division. I say BRAVO to him, and I sincerely hope that many others come forward to press charges against those who have facilitated (and are facilitating) the manufacture and sale of heinously deadly weaponry that could never be used for hunting animals for sport. I could go on forever on this topic, but I will bring this to a close by saying that I am so very grateful that you wrote this piece, and I will share it on my FB page. I hope everyone who reads it does the same.


    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ellen. The myth of American exceptionalism seems to be very ingrained in the minds of many Americans and even more so in the country’s institutions. Teaching abroad, I was often shocked by the fact teachers were often forced to follow an Americentric curriculum when it was clearly irrelevant to the needs of the local student population. The American program managers would defend the decision by saying the USA has the world’s best universities, therefore blah blah blah. One of my main aims for writing this blog is to motivate others (especially Americans) to learn about the world outside their country’s borders. There is so much we can learn from those in other parts of the world. Thanks again for your support!


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