Annie, get your gun

  • Jon Kelly
  • 15 Sep 08, 06:24 AM GMT

Carol Ruh cried the first time that she held a gun. Visiting a shooting range in Arizona while on holiday with her husband, her anti-firearms views made the trip an upsetting experience.

But after she told the staff of her discomfort, she underwent an epiphany.

Carol Ruh"It was one of those life-defining moments," she recalled. "The gentleman behind the counter said: 'It's not the gun that kills, it's the person behind it.' And that made a lot of sense to me.

"If your heart is that set on doing damage, you can use a chair, a baseball bat, a pen..."

Since that day, Carol's attitudes have changed completely. Having moved to Phoenix permanently, she now runs classes teaching other female shooters how to hone their skills and heads a group called the Arizona Women's Shooting Association. Every time she leaves the house she reaches for her handbag, her keys and her gun.

I'm sure you've guessed why I wanted to come to their range. As soon as Sarah Palin's place on the Republican White House ticket was announced, pundits around the world picked over the apparent disparity between the Alaska governor's femininity and her handiness with a rifle.

And here, too, the lady shooters didn't conform to the stereotype of gun enthusiasts as rabid, wild-eyed survivalists. They'd laid on sandwiches and soda for me and chatted away about their children and careers. They were nice people.

But I admit that I'm uneasy around guns. I mentioned in my initial post how I've lived through the import of many American phenomena to my homeland - some of them good, some of them bad. The senseless killing of schoolchildren with firearms fell squarely into the latter category.

Of course, none of the women I met at the range liked violence any more than I did. I could see that they came here for the pleasure of firing at paper targets. All the same, it seemed that guns symbolised something more to them.

"Darling, you're in the west," laughed Carol. "This was the way of life out here. The whole genre of America was built on the west. It's part of out culture."

Andrea BarringerI think she was right about this. Europeans have no second amendment, no folk memory of living in a frontier society.

And the same applies to other parts of the US, too. Carol said she wouldn't vote for Barack Obama because he and running mate Joe Biden, both supporters of gun control, didn't understand why she loved shooting.

I wanted to find out what made this culture appealing to women, though, especially after Carol's husband Pete, also a convert, told me that he believes they are better at hitting a target than men.

"Their hand-eye co-ordination is better," he said. "They're more patient. You don't get any of the macho stuff."

So I got talking to Andrea Barringer, 27, who was sporting a chunky Glock 9mm on her hip. She'd grown up around guns, firing her first shot at the age of five.

"I think it's a fun pastime," she told me. "I go out shooting in the desert.

"Plus, I'm a single woman. If I was ever in that situation..." She left the sentence hanging.

Lorra MooreAndrea hadn't decided to vote yet, but liked the look of Sarah Palin - a "typical American woman" to whom she could relate.

So too could 56-year-old flight attendant Lorra Moore. She'd only been shooting for a year under Carol's instruction, but hoped that the Alaska governor's prominence would encourage more females to take up the sport.

"I think it will really help to deflect the fears of women who don't understand guns," she said. "They don't understand that they can use them as easily as a man."

There was still one thing I wanted to know, though. What did she have to say to those - both American and foreign - who saw massacres like Dunblane and Columbine as a priori arguments for gun control?

"Those incidents were horrific," she said. "But the bad guys are always going to get the guns.

"I want to preserve the right of the good guys to protect themselves."

I nodded. This very American debate would continue long after I'd gone. I got back on the bus with the sound of pistol-fire ringing in my ears.


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  • Comment number 1.

    The second amendment was designed to protect people from their government.

    It exists so that in the event of a tyrranical government, the people will be able to "take up arms" against them to protect themselves.

    If anyone ever actually used a gun against the government (police), they would be thrown in jail ASAP.

    Guns have become a part of the cultural identity of the west for hunting. Which has nothing to do with the second amendment. However, most people, while they think it's just fine to own guns for hunting, would not be ok with someone taking up arms against the gov't. These are the same people who fight so hard for the second amendment. That's irony folks...

    Regarding school shootings:
    No where in the constitution does it protect the right to sell bullets at KMART. It also doesn't prohibit the government from having a national arms database.

    Unfortunately, bringing this up in an election year gets you labeled a "gun stealer".

    Finally, having shot a gun a few times, it is a very relaxing and exhilirating experience. I highly reccommend shooting a piece of paper for stress relief.

  • Comment number 2.

    I have always wondered how many law abiding citizens actually manage to successfully defend themselves each year, compared to the number of accidents , directly related to having this level of gun ownership.
    does anyone know?

  • Comment number 3.

    Jon- I really love yours, and BBC’s, coverage of this election. As an American I feel it is really important that other nations understand the issues plaguing various countries around the world (this is something news networks in the States tend to do poorly). But the one thing that really got me about this article, and something maybe worth pursuing, is how many American’s decide on their candidate based on absolutely no facts, figures or understanding of what that candidate will do for their country, but rather how they feel on one particular issue. You quote a women saying that she “wouldn’t vote for Barack Obama because he and his running mate Joe Biden, both supporters of gun control, didn’t understand why she loved shooting.” It is sad, but very true that many American’s do not care that their economy is spiraling out of control, that their government has waged a senseless and reckless war in the Middle East, or that our healthcare and education systems are below that of even some third world countries- all they care about is a candidates stance on guns. It would be interesting if you probed people further to see if they are aware or even interested in a candidate for any other reason than these simple issues.

  • Comment number 4.

    I live out west, too, in New Mexico, and guns are a way of life just as these women describe. I don't see why guns and gun control can't exist -- gun control just means all good things in moderation and reasonably regulated, not banned entirely. I grew up in a Democrat household and am one myself, but my dad was a hunter, my grandfather taught me to shoot as a girl of 12, and I have also gone out into the desert to plug away at bottles with a .45. It's lots of fun. It's also a big responsibility, as they certainly are deadly weapons and you can't be an idiot around them. I don't own any myself, but I would certainly always want to have that option. The right to keep and bear arms is #2 in the Bill of Rights, so it certainly wasn't an afterthought, and is here to stay. You just need to make sure that right is exercised properly and not abused. I have no problem voting for a candidate who says that! Guns are no litmus test for weeding out the Republicans from the Democrats, as some people seem to believe -- people of both stripes own them, and I think we all see the pros and the cons about them.

  • Comment number 5.


  • Comment number 6.

    I'm a mid-aged American who grew up with rifles and guns; I've used them my entire life and enjoy hunting and fishing in my spare time. So it comes as extremely silly to me how people can choose a Government official - namely a Prez and Viz-Prez - on the basis of such silly unimportant issues. Chosing a Prez or a Party for that matter on the basis of defending your hobby makes me understand my own sense of disillusionment with my country.

  • Comment number 7.

    Until the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights is amended, Americans shall have the right to keep and bear arms. You can't view the First Amendment as sacred and the Second as a fluke.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am an American woman who has lived in Phoenix, Arizona for many years. Please know that not all women who live in the "Amercian West" support the gun culture. I work with the families of young children who have been impacted by community and domestic violence, and I firmly believe that firearms are far too readily available in the US. It is one aspect of my country's history and attitude that I find shameful and sad.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think your singing my song, Jon. I'm an Irishman living in the heart of gun-friendly territory, Texas. Earlier in this decade I was a researcher at universities in Ireland and England (Bristol). Currently I carry out research at a University here in Texas.

    Post Virginia Tech our University instituted an emergency plan (text message to your phone if a shooter was on campus, that sort of thing). I realised that a Uni shooting was never something I thought even remotely possible when I worked in Europe. It doesn't ease my mind that 3 of the people in my research group regularly use guns and 1 carries a concealed weapon permit.

    Many here won't talk about gun control because to do so is seen as questioning the constitution and the wisdom of the founding fathers. I argue that making it a little harder to get guns might be a good thing (cf. how easily the Virginia Tech shooter acquired his gun). In response, one of my co-workers, quite seriously, argues that current laws are too restrictive and that fully automatic machine guns should be legal.

    If a random neighbour in my apartment complex plays loud music late at night and I decide to complain to him, I find myself thinking twice (someone was shot to death early in 2007 at my previous apartment complex). I can't vote in the coming election because I'm a permanent resident, not a citizen. That will likely change before 2012. If I could vote, I would not be in favour of outlawing firearms but I would vote for tighter restrictions on their possession - criminals possessing guns is one thing, but fearing your neighbour is another.

    To quote Eddie Izzard: "The National Rifle Association says that "Guns don't kill people, people do," but I think the gun helps, you know? I think it helps. I just think just standing there going, "Bang!" That's not going to kill too many people, is it?"

  • Comment number 10.

    I have read about gun violence in Australia, Canada, and the UK all of which have gun control laws. There are gun laws in the United States; we need judges to actually hand down the punishments that go with these laws. The penalties are harsh but almost never seem to be imposed.

  • Comment number 11.

    Its all very well interviewing gun toting middle class grandmothers jon but so far after travelling what?at least 2000 miles you have highlighted none of the third world poverty and homelessness out there.Fair and balanced reporting?Homelessness is a real problem in the usa jon and you havent even hinted at its existence,i wonder why?the sole and disturbing memory i have after my trip to the states 10 years ago was the amount of pan handlers roaming the streets and yet the bbc has chosen to ignore this terrible problem which is now beginning to envelope alot of ordinary people.The bbc would rather concentrate on the views of ill informed republicans who are convinced obama is a muslim and their belief that sarah palin is the second coming.

  • Comment number 12.

    Obama is actually a moderate on gun control, and while somewhat inconsistent on the subject is on the record in favor of gun ownership being an individual right, not merely a right of organized militias. In any case, the US Supreme Court has recently upheld the right of individuals to keep firearms, so that aspect of the question is settled.

    This seems like a pretty narrow basis on which to select a president, compared to the economy and international relations, but there are a lot of voters out there with single "hot-button" issues which motivate them.

  • Comment number 13.

    Jon I know the bus was planned for months did you send out an sos for people to interview or are you just happening on them? I know many Americans but you do not seem to be talking to the average, normal ones. Yesterday it was church, today ladies that carry guns as a matter of course. I await your next installment with bated breath, tell the PR people to get working on this aspect of your journey if they are the ones finding the interviewees.......

  • Comment number 14.

    Guns are an enabler, an enhancer for crime.

    The comment "its crazy people that kill, guns don't kill" is infuriating if you understand the implications. This statement is a euphemism for what actually goes on once guns become involved.

    Guess what, normal people go crazy often enough. Some people have tempers worse than others, if they find a gun they have been provided an avenue to vent their fury in very hurtful ways.

    If someone buys a gun... they WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GUARANTEE that it will not end in the hands of children, in the hands of unstable family member (e.g. Columbine, and your average gun toting neighborhood thug)

    Guns are an enhancer of crime and do not belong in the hands of the average citizenry.

  • Comment number 15.

    I personally think guns aren't good for our society. The chances of your gun being used against you are very high, not to mention one of your kids getting a hold of it. Having a gun with you is really a false sense of total security. The NRA is intertwined with special interest groups in our government, that’s why guns (like assault riffles) run rampant in the U.S... The Constitution says we have the right to bear arms but that was in that time, and we live now. There are no more "Red Coats" and "Minutemen". Time to evolve!

  • Comment number 16.

    Sandwiches and soda, smiles and gunpower...
    this is precisely why Amercian gun culture is so terrifying, for the simple reason that it is so accessible and so entwined with the Amercian 'norm'. To be brutally honest it sounds as if you haven't really challenged these people's use of violent weapons as a hobby and you've been fairly content to accept their explanations at face value. I find the phrase 'It's not a gun that kills people, people kill people' revolting, it is immediately obvious to any remotely sane person that a gun is a great deal more efficient at killing someone than a pencil and what might simply be a warning gesture can very quickly turn into a deadly act. This lady's 'revelation' seems extremely doubtful and I think the staff at the shooting range only gave her the reasons she needed to shoulder her guilt and get on with packing serious firepower. I don't even believe that education should be the way forward, teaching people how dangerous such firearms can be in a once-off 3 day seminar (lets face it, this is going to be the best 'education' which will ever happen in this particular field) before handing them a handgun and a paper target simply cannot be a replacement for learning the real consequences of carrying such a weapon in one's handbag. Personal firearms are bad news. The recent figures of escalating knife crime in the UK should have given you some sort of indication about how to approach this subject.. if two people pull guns then things can only go rapidly downhill. Amercia's politicization of gun culture has a great deal more to do with insecurity, isolation and fear than hunting in Alaska, good times, hot dogs and paper targets.

  • Comment number 17.

    I am an Arizonan woman who loves guns. I'm also a minority, an immigrant, a speaker of 3 languages, pro-choice, pro-environment, and a Democrat. I'm voting for Obama, but I can understand the viewpoints of these women.

    It is easy for those who have never been exposed to guns to dismiss the enthusiasm of those who have. There are many, many people in the US who still live on farms or in rural areas where hunting is a way of life. Were I one of those, I, too, would resent the implication that my lifestyle is invalid simply because it differs from yours.

    I myself was not exposed to target shooting until I was an adult. I was surprised by how fun it was. The enthusiasm people express for guns is not rooted in some fanatical desire to kill or to intimidate. Rather, it is a sport, a common hobby. Many lose sight of that fact when they seek to understand why people care.

  • Comment number 18.

    Jon Kelly

    One issue voters really disturb me. I believe in the second amendment as much as these women but I will look at the real ISSUES when I vote.

    Obama and Biden are NOT for national gun control. They both question whether what may be totally acceptable in the West or in other rural areas is also acceptable in gang ridden areas of large cities.

    No one with any sense wants assault weapons sold at swap meets.

  • Comment number 19.

    I heard this interview at 3am this morning and it was one of the most disturbing pieces I've heard lately.

    First, here was woman giddy over the fact that "this is the west" and somehow that gave her the justification for walking around with a pistol strapped on her hip, gunslinger style.

    Having grown up in Texas (you don't get any more west than that) I have never felt the need to strap a gun on my hip and mosey out to the south forty looking for varmints.

    More than the guns what disturbed me most was that these women have the right to vote. One woman when questioned said that she was a Republican because they support the small businessman and that Barack Obama and the Democrats support big corporations and unions.

    When it was pointed out to her that unions and corporations are separate entities and that they have different missions, her response was that the workers inside of the corporations belong to the unions and the Democrats support them, somehow translating to their support of big corporations.


    This woman should spend much less time shooting and more reading or listening to something other than FOX News because I think that she has rattled her brain with all of that shooting.

  • Comment number 20.

    As an American who owns firearms I'm constantly sickened by the stereotype that all gun owners are trigger happy yokels, but truth be told there are a great number that I am aware of personally who own guns who use them in a manner that is most unsafe and perpetuates the sad stereotype. I believe in the Second Amendment but I also believe that when it was created it was drafted to pertain to state militias. I am glad that we as citizens are permitted to keep and own firearms either for our own protection, to hunt with and to just shot for the sport and enjoyment of it. I do not think that we should be permitted to own military assault rifles or large caliber sniper rifles (case in point the military designed Barrett 50 caliber sniper rifle which is commercially available in some states, not mine), but in many states, this is allowed by law. With that said I do believe there needs to be nationalized gun control. Too many states are allowed to create laws that allow so many people to easily obtain weapons. In the state in which I live (New Jersey) it takes almost three months to apply for and receive a permit to purchase a handgun. This is so that there may be a through and reasonable background check on me before I am issued a permit which is only able to apply to the purchase of one handgun. Should I wish to make another purchase I must reapply and repeat the procedure.
    As a member of a private shooting club I am appalled that there is consistently damage to the club property by trigger happy individuals who honestly, frighten me. I wish that there was a more complex process to obtaining a gun in the state and country in which I live which would vet out incompetent people and prevent them from ever owning a weapon.

  • Comment number 21.

    Honey, now THIS is a hot topic for this election that the rest of the world may not recognize:
    -- Gun Control in the USA.

    Personally, my Dad (an ex-cop) collects guns, but my brother-in-law goes Bow Hunting because he believes that guns are dangerous. I was only about 11 yrs old when I first fired one of my dad's automatic hand guns... in an empty field with adult supervision.

    NOW - I am a pacifist opposed to Amerika's excessive Gun Traffic.

    Two weeks ago a kid was shot working a store two blocks from where I live... for $25 from the register. Many shops where I live have bullet-proof glass to protect their employees.
    -- Your south west ladies might like playing cowgirl, but I wonder how they'd like to live in my neighborhood... and worry about the safety of their unarmed children.

    I'm sorry, but the only reason to keep hand guns is if you're a cop, or for the sport of shooting at HUMANS.

    Why does the USA have so much gun crime?
    -- Because hand gun "sport" is so common.

    Cut down on the availability of handguns and trained handgun users. Then, when folks get pissed off at me for being a pacifist... I'd rather they hit me with a chair or try to stab me with their scissors. My chances of survival would be better.

    (It's hard to turn the other cheek when you've already got a bullet hole in your head.)

    This will be a BIG issue this year. In spite of her 'Young Earth' ideas, Palin could muster the NRA troops for the GOP. *shivers*

  • Comment number 22.

    Jon Kelly

    I am an old desert rat. I love my state, all its nooks, crannies and warts, even Phoenix.

    I ask, why are you confining your visit here mostly to 'The Valley of The Sun?' Why not Tucson, with its rich history? What about Nogales (Arizona, not Mexico) so you could see the border issues that plague this state? You have skipped the North and our
    Navajo and Hopi lands. What about Yuma? You missed that also.

    I read that you will also visit Kingman but this and Phoenix are but a small part of who we are here in Arizona. We are more complex than this and your topics of religion and guns are only a small part of our concerns.

  • Comment number 23.

    I live in Arizona on a remote ranch 7 miles North of the Mexican border. I have fired warning shots over the heads of Illegal aliens attempting to steal my horses.

    I have encountered well armed drug runners, and my neighbors found one who was severly injured in a battle between two rival gangs, his companion had been killed.

    I began wearing my .357 magnum pistol at all times before the current turf wars over drug ( and human ) smuggling became so dangerous.

    Once in Tucson a woman ran in front of my truck as I drove down a major road around midnight. She was in distress, and needed a ride. In a moment, the man she was running from also arrived, and started treating her roughly as she tried to enter my vehicle. I told him to stop, and he cursed and told me to leave. I put the truck in " park ", and got out. He then threw her to the ground and came running around the back of the truck to attack me. He was big, and angry. The moment he noticed my hand poised ( in the typical old west movie gunfight position ) above my still holstered pistol, he came to a screeching halt. He cursed once, very quietly under his breath, and immeditaley vanished. I took the woman to her sisters house without further incident.

    I consider straping on a pistol the same as straping on a seat belt.
    You will probably never need it.
    You hope you will never need it.
    if you didn't strap before the first hint of trouble, it will be too late when you need it.

    Note that I also stop and help stranded motorists, even one time when it was two mexican men on a lonely country road.

    Note also that random acts of violence are random, and I am glad to live where people are allowed to protect themselves, rather than relying on someone else.

    Laslty, in response to the first post:
    Yes, if one person took up arms against the government, they'd not last long. If the majority of gun owners in this country took up arms, well, have you heard of Iraq?
    I gaurantee you we have a LOT better shooters than they have.

  • Comment number 24.

    A Well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

    People who keep and bear arms should have to prove they're a part of a "well regulated" militia. And that they can either defeat or inflict significant injury/exert a deterrent effect on the US military (the arm that will most likely be used by a tyrannical dictator)

    A good barometer of your fidelity to the second amendment is whether you believe every individual should be allowed to own a nuclear bomb- It's an arm (it was called an "arms race" for a reason!). They would probably be the best (only?) real deterrent to an overwhelming military attack. So the same argument for guns applies And if used correctly, no one will die ("MAD"). So unabriged gun right fans, nukes for everyone?

    Of course, you might lose a few neighbourhoods, counties, states, ...... :-)

  • Comment number 25.

    I assume this is the kind of people that shouldn't be interviewed, according to the don't-draw-a-lopsided-image crowd.

    As one of the few Europeans of my generation, who actually grew up with guns (father a hunter), I find the comments in the blog above flabbergasting.

    Such simple-minded people are allowed to own, even carry, guns ?

  • Comment number 26.

    Everyone brings up gun control when talking about school shootings. Go to and go to the index and tell me it's only a coincidence that over 25 school violent cases involved antidepressants that have been linked to violent behavior. I personally think there should be antidepressant control. You will find my son among those in this index. How many school shootings happened before Prozac in 1987?

  • Comment number 27.

    One of the problems with having such a large country is that we tend to talk to people who think the same way we do.

    I'd love to share thoughts and feelings with someone who loves guns and hates gun control. I disagree on some issues, but I think we could each understand WHY we feel the way we do. But the opportunity to do so is limited.

    A blog, such as this one, is a poor substitute for face to face conversation. As a facilitator of a drug and alcohol responsibility class, I was taught that a huge amount of nonverbal communication drops out when we talk on the phone. Another large chunk drops out when we write a letter (or an email.)

    A real, face to face, give and take of both deeply held beliefs and the feelings that underlie them would be the best medicine for the chasm between cultures in our country.

  • Comment number 28.

    "If your heart is that set on doing damage, you can use a chair, a baseball bat, a pen..."

    The key word there is "that". If your heart is 'that' set on damage that you would kill with a pen, then yes, gun-control is not going to change anything. But people have varying degrees of passion and it's just too easy for someone not intent on killing to kill given easy access to a gun.

  • Comment number 29.

    The second amendment is the only amendment that explains itself, with its introductory line, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,..."

    I think the authors were afraid that, even though the rest of the constitution uses the word, "people" only to mean the collective citizenry, that someone might mistakenly think they were suggesting an "individual" right to keep and bear arms.

  • Comment number 30.

    Guns are scary.

    I drove into Casa Grande, AZ and drew up to traffic lights beside a biker with a gun strapped to his waist.

    I drove away from the lights very carefully.

  • Comment number 31.

    "Guns are an enhancer of crime and do not belong in the hands of the average citizenry."

    Ah, spoken like a true Eurolitist. Continental parliaments proffer similar reasons for not letting the citizenry vote on whether they want to join a political union of countries.

    Agree with the pro-guns view or not, and I'll not take a stance here, the Bill of Rights and the written constitution is best viewed as a whole. Each piece isn't the singularly most important bit, but rather all of them are synergetic. Citizens have the right to freedom of speech, press, gathering, petition, the right to keep arms that the government cannot take, and the government cannot force the people to house troops or use the army to enforce laws within the US (posse comitatus), etc. These work together to keep the federal government in check as much as possible.

    I think more countries should have written constitutions. Otherwise we end up with 24 nations' parliaments passing "treaties", and only one nation that "lets" its people vote. What the difference? Ireland has a written constitution.


    As for the blog, it's a good one. Interviewing the non-Hollywood/media stereotypes to get different perceptions of Americans is a commendable thing.

  • Comment number 32.

    The usage and attitude to gun control in the US is just a clear indication of America's level of civilisation. What makes me uncomfortable is that so many of the pro gun lobby are so pro life (anti aborition) but they're quite content for hundreds of children to be killed and injured every year because of guns being played with. A civilised country should reserve the use of guns for its military and police forces.

  • Comment number 33.

    Gun control is to the left what abortion is to the right: A wedge issue that's good for several million dollars every election cycle. While earnest advocates shout each other down in hyperbole, the cynical political operatives continue to promise the Moon while delivering nothing.

  • Comment number 34.

    Student: Jon Kelly
    Grade: 3
    2nd Semester Report Card: Satisfactory

    Jonny is doing a great job in class and putting forth a strong effort. His grammar is always improving (although he still overuses the present perfect tense) and he has thinking skills appropriate for his age.

    I'm continuously surprised by Jonny's blog on the USA; his analysis is far more enlightening than that of the rest of the third graders.

    If Jon keeps it up he'll be in the middle of the pack in the 4th grade.

    - Professor Brian

  • Comment number 35.


    I DO agree with you.

    I have lived rural for a large part of my almost eight decades. I have always been a very good shot but have never cared much for hunting. What I best like is the bow and was even better at that than with a gun.

    I do understand what you are saying but I will continue to question those who think that applying some restrictions on what kind of guns can be bought and sold and that letting just anyone own a gun constitutes GUN CONTROL.

    I would like to see that everyone who wants to buy a gun be trained in safety and the proper use before being allowed to own one. When I was young, this was something taught by parents but I do not think it is the same now.

  • Comment number 36.

    A few thoughts. First, if the level of poverty was decreased, the level of education increased and mental health-care was converted from a demonized religion into a respected science, the vast majority of crimes in which deadly force was needed to defend oneself should logically decline. Rational, sane, knowledgeable, capable people are capable of killing, robbing, etc, but would seem much less likely to do so. If you effectively eliminate the need for violent defenses, why maintain those defenses? What does it add, once you eliminate the major causes?

    Second, is America suppressing any remedy to those major causes because people are too ready to defend themselves? If the problem is masked by intimidation and implied threat, are people less likely to treat it seriously? Or does it actually bring to the forefront those critical issues, so that they can be resolved? I want to hear from both sides on whether self-protection is helping or harming the prevention of the root causes.

    Third, I want actual numbers. Those for and those against both claim their approach reduces violent crime. For any specific culture and context, they can't both be right, although that doesn't necessarily hold for different cultures and different contexts. Specifically, what actual evidence exists to support either case in, say, the mid-west of the United States?

    Lastly, I fully appreciate that guns have been a part of American culture. A lot of things were in American culture that are no longer remotely acceptable, and a lot of things that were not acceptable or not even thought of have now become part of American culture. The culture is alive and changes as times change. Again, I want to hear from both sides. Guns won't always be American. All things have their season and all things pass away, attitudes and amendments included. Given that nothing is forever, what do both sides believe the conditions would need to be for that sort of radical change to occur?

    I doubt I'll get good (or possibly any) answers here, but I will tell you this. If the candidates cannot find those answers, neither of their stances is supportable or defensible. Their beliefs will be based on revealed wisdom, not on solid ground or logical reasoning. Whether you agree or disagree with their conclusions on any given subject on any given day, if their conclusions are merely the whim of the moment, how can you trust them?

  • Comment number 37.

    Lots of guns in Canada, little gun crime.
    More guns in Finland per person than US.

    Ammo for both arguments there!
    But it is an interesting stat!

  • Comment number 38.

    I dislike much of American culture as I suspect does the rest of the world. However they can do what ever they like in their own country and to themselves as long as they keep it in their own country and stop trying to force their culture onto the rest of the world. Maybe the world would be a lot more peaceful place

  • Comment number 39.

    Answering your reader’s question about the use of a gun for self-defense in the USA, versus accidents depends a on the meaning of “use.”
    Most guns used in self-defense are not fired.
    Most guns used in self-defense that are fired do not hit a person.
    Most guns used in self-defense that hit a person do not kill the person.
    So if “use” means kill the criminal, then the number is small.
    But studies by Florida State professor Gary Kleck show that when self-defense includes guns being used to protect property, save lives, and deter crime without killing the criminal, then this happens over two million times a year. Gun accidents are rare by comparison.

  • Comment number 40.

    This is the sort of deluded thinking that scares the daylights out of me. How gun advocates always bring up "hunting" and "self defense" when issues of gun control are raised. Hand guns are not made for hunting. They are designed for one purpose and one purpose only; killing people. They are instruments of homocide. They are instruments of murder. And thanks to America there are MILLIONS of them floating around. If there weren't, you gun lovers would have considerably less to defend yourself against. Guns make killing very easy. And again thanks to America guns are filtering into my country (Canada) and guess who's buying them. Criminals. Gang members. And it's easy for them to do so because America in it's misguided lunacy is producing MILLIONS of them. If there were no guns then not one single person would die by the bullet. Not one. It's not to say there wouldn't be violent crime, as long as you have an economically stratified society masquerading as a free democracy there will be frustration and fear that can explode into acts of violence, but guns do nothing but facilitate this. They don't prevent violence, they are violence incarnate. I love America but your incredibly casual attitude towards guns is terrifying and it's starting to kill people in my country. Guns DO kill people. Everyday. Stop making them.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm a citizen U.S. Marine and can tell the readers of this peice with absolute certainty that weapons do encourage killing as an acceptable scapegoat to dealing with any form of combative confrontation. Whether it's someone cutting you off on the road or a rapist, neither offence is punishible by death. Think about it for a while. One shot one kill.

  • Comment number 42.

    'Obama is actually a moderate on gun control, and while somewhat inconsistent on the subject is on the record in favor of gun ownership being an individual right, not merely a right of organized militias.'

    No, Gary, he isn't, and this assertion is a transparent lie.

    Obama has consistently voted for EVERY gun control measure that has come his way.

  • Comment number 43.

    Just so you know, everyone in Arizona is not some Gunslinger wannabe who seems to be sexually turned on by guns or considers them some sort of religious experience. Most of the folks are pretty normal, but you'll find pockets of strange people, especially out in the wild boonies to the north.

    While, I grew up in the American South and was exposed to firearms early in life, I have tempered that early exposure with rational views that guns are dangerous and should not be idolized or used as part of one's identity.

    I'm always surprised at these people who find modern mass produced guns so wonderful. My uncle was a gun collector (18th and early 19th century weapons) and I have a great appreciation for the artistry of early gunsmiths. The guns these women fawn over are no more interesting nor special than a toaster from Wal-Mart.

  • Comment number 44.

    #14: 'Guns are an enabler, an enhancer for crime.'

    Actually khansha, the opposite is true.

    Where concealed-carry is the law of the state, and there is wide participation, rates of violent crime goes DOWN!

    It's documented, indisputable.
    Yale researcher John Lott addresses the question in detail in: More Guns, Less Crime, published by University of Chicago Press.

    Bad people are hesitant to victimize the innocent if they have any suspicion that the potential victim is armed, and trained in the use of that weapon.

  • Comment number 45.

    You always hear the lame argument that people kill people not guns. Then you are subjected to a list of items that you can use to kill. If the shooter at Virginia Tech had been armed with a baseball bat, knife, ball point pen, ice tea spoon, hammer, could he have killed as many people with such efficiency? Of course not; A gun can be used to hunt, target shoot, etc., but it's primary purpose is as a weapon that you use to kill. I owned a shotgun and hunted quail and dove when I was a teenage and enjoyed it. I sold it because it became to hard to find a place to shoot, and I found I could enjoy the out doors without killing something. As far as hunting as a sport, I think it would be better classified as an out door activity. A sport generally involves 2 people or a group of people who have a relatively good chance to win or lose based on there skill. This doesn't happen with hunting. You have baited fields, etc. that take the sport right out of it . Hunters love to use the term harvest, cull, etc.. Just once I would like to see them say I enjoy killing things, and not try to make it seem like they are picking fruit off a tree. I only wish we could round up all the NRA nutcases and send them to Iraq or Afghanistan where they could hunt to their hearts content, downside of course the hunted can shoot back.

  • Comment number 46.

    It's kind of sad to read that some people in this country say: "This was the way of life out here. It's part of out culture." People from other countries are proud to have opera or food or festivities or rituals as part of their culture; but guns? A very poor view, I must said, that doesn't make justice to the real the American Culture. USA is more than those people living scared of who-knows-what owning guns to feel safe. Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks like that around here.

  • Comment number 47.

    Jon, just in the interests of balance, could you find some people in Nevada who intend to vote Democratic for good reasons instead of voting Republican for bad reasons? Or is your point to just illustrate how many Americans will vote on single issues, i.e. vote badly?

    I don't think you can say that school shootings are an American import. Also I would stand by your original wording of your first post in differentiating Dumfries and Dunblane. In a vast country like the USA they would be counted as next door, but in Scotland they are clearly different places.

    9. mavortium - that Eddie Izzard quote is perfect, funny yet wise.

    11. rainlawrence - a well-made point. Surely poverty is worth mentioning in this election season, even if people in poverty are less likely to vote? Maybe because they are less likely to vote?

    19. pa6786 - very scary. Sounds like a mixture of Fox/CNN biased news ("unions are bad", "big corporations are occasionally bad", "Obama is bad") and ignorance ("what are unions?").

  • Comment number 48.

    khansha: You do realize that a gun isn't going to fire unless someone pulls the trigger. Look a knives/blades, they are very dangerous, knives/blades don't kill people its the people behind those blades who kill people.

    Guns will only kill if they are used to kill.

  • Comment number 49.

    At 15 I could put 10 rounds into a 12" circle at 500 yards with dry sights thanks to the british army and was considered a marksman Do I like guns, heck yes. Would I carry one? No.

    I lived and worked in Virginia for 10 years in the nineties. With twin newborns I got conerned for my wife at night while I was away on work.

    We had a visit from a local police officer to discuss firearms. I will remember his comments to the day I die.

    1. Always keep a gun loaded. It's pointless to keep the ammo separate from the gun.

    2. Leave the safety off (you waste time trying to find it, and the bad guys won't have the safety on) What if my children got the gun?

    3. Shoot to kill.

    4. If the assailant falls outside of you propery after you've shot them, drag them back inside.(you won't go to jail, Self defence)

    5. Make sure they're dead as dead people can't file law suits.

    Needless to say I didn't buy a gun. And more's to the point, in 10 years we never had need to have one. I absolutely loved my time in the US, but the gun issue, wasn't an issue.

  • Comment number 50.

    Firstly, nice article, I noticed most comments are not on the article but on what the article reports. I have a few comments:

    -I am also surprised how folks decide voting on incomplete or wrong information and this means we don't really bother to really learn and study on what we base our opinions and votes. This is very serious and basically means we will keep electing people who are best at making adds and not at governing.

    -An example of misunderstanding is what gun control means. Gun control has little to do with forbidding weapons, BUT mostly to do with not allowing people to buy a gun as we buy chewing gum and to restrain arms that are of little value for sports or hunting, such as automatic war weapons. I am often surprised that many people don't realize they need to pass a test and get a license to drive a car (also potentially deadly) but expect to get a deadly weapon at the grocery store.

    -I do agree that is people who do the killing, not only the weapons, but it is a simplistic argument. It is well established (check your statistics) that most gun deaths are due to accidents at home and to enraged parties who happen to have not a rock, but a gun handy.

    -Finally, I find it amazing that someone leaves home and reaches for the keys, purse and gun. One thing is to use a gun in the range or for sport, but taking it out on the street daily is, in my mind, asking for trouble. For example, a criminal needing a weapon may target a person to steal their gun (a common mode of death, by the way) and this would be a case where the gun does not defend you but converts you in a victim.

  • Comment number 51.

    Robert Heinlein wrote, “An armed society is a polite society”. People with concealed carry permits are among the most polite accommodating people you will ever meet, unless you intend to harm them or their families.

  • Comment number 52.

    Crazy people!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    For those looking for some statistics, you could check out the NRA website (pro-gun) or Washington Ceasefire, a gun control site: The last statistic I heard on this issue was that a hand-gun (not for hunting) is more likely to be used on its owner or a resident of the owner's home (aka family) than on an intruder - whether by accident or not. As and American, I have to tread carefully with this subject, but I do believe that personal hand-gun ownership is not feasible for anyone because of the above factoid.

  • Comment number 54.


    Please check your facts.

    Obama has voted for measures that involved assault weapons or limiting access to guns by gangs and people who would use weapons for crime. He has not tried to restrict your right to shoot an intruder in your home or kill something to eat.

  • Comment number 55.

    Owning a gun and using it in ways that do not initiate harm to other humans is a responsible way of behaving. However in the US, those who initiate harm with guns - or any other tool, including their own bodies directly - are not held responsible to restitute the victims of the harm they create. Instead if they are caught, tried and found guilty, they are housed in prisons paid for by taxpayers often for many years. Restitution for the victims is what is missing - and directly from the violator not taxpayers. And while at it, those in the US (of which I am one) - and elsewhere - would be far better off if removal of "crime" status took place for those actions that are voluntary interactions between individuals. BTW I have a handgun, shoot it occasionally and am actually quite a good shot. I've never had a reason to fire it at anyone, but would not hesitate to do so if I, my husband or my property were under threat of immediate physical harm. Kitty Antonik Wakfer [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 56.

    The great majority of gun-owners are decent people. The trouble is, guns give such terrible power into the hands of those few who aren't, e.g. the deranged killers at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

    If both the bad and the good guys have guns in a situation, the guns favor the bad, because 1) the one who has the draw is in total command, no matter how well-armed others are; and 2) the good guys have to take into account the possibility of harm to innocent bystanders.

    Statistics show that the number of assaults and attacks in the U.S. are about at a par with other Western nations. But the assaults are far more likely to result in someone dead, because of guns.

  • Comment number 57.

    I've met Americans who genuinely believe that their ownership of a gun IS their guarantee that they live in a free country.

    I think it is sad some feel the need to own a gun in order to feel like they live in a free country. Personally, I feel like I live in a free country when I don't need to own a gun.

  • Comment number 58.

    I am an American living in a rural area. I was taught to use a rifle as a teen after taking a hunter safety course because there are times when one needs to shoot an injured or rabid animal to protect other animals and people. I do not currently own a gun, and I am very against civilians owning and using assault weapons. I do appreciate having someone in the home knowing how to safely use a rifle or shotgun to deal with the occasional animal emergencies which arise.

    When my children were very small, their grandfather was babysitting them when a rabid raccoon came right up to the house. Since there was no gun in the house at that time, he had to use a shovel to kill the animal. In our rural areas, there are no police, or animal control officers, or anyone that could take care of such a problem. We have had other incidents of rabid wild animals being in the yard (which were shot by a trained adult), as well as such unfortunate incidents as a family cat being inside the car engine when it started and being horribly mutilated and in pain, or other animals hit by a car and in great pain. It was a blessing to be able to quickly shoot them and put them out of their misery, rather than suffer for a long period of time being transported to the nearest veterinary service to be euthanized.

  • Comment number 59.

    To Jon Kelly

    You may regret that you ever opened this can of worms! Now you may have some idea why our politicians have such huge troubles with this issue.

    At heart, I think a lot of Americans do not trust their government so they want to keep those guns just 'in case.'

  • Comment number 60.

    Your are disgrace to the U.S. Marines with that attitude. That certainly is not one of there Ethos.

    You lament of U.S. gun laws, want citizenship, and chose not to return to GB where sharia law is now practiced. Interesting what that says of you.

    Very well articulated.

  • Comment number 61.

    pease will these women that identify with Sarah Palin WAKE UP ... this is NOT a REALITY show ... she will be one heart beat away from becoming the President of the most powerful nation on earth ... she knows NOTHING about world realities !!!
    okay she can shoot a gun ... i'm all for that .. and i want more ladies to pick up the pistol ... but for GOD'S sake Sarah Palin is NOT qualified to be Vice President and heaven help us President !!!!

  • Comment number 62.

    11. At 8:23pm on 15 Sep 2008, rainlawrence wrote:

    Its all very well interviewing gun toting middle class grandmothers jon but so far after travelling what?at least 2000 miles you have highlighted none of the third world poverty and homelessness out there.Fair and balanced reporting?Homelessness is a real problem in the usa jon and you havent even hinted at its existence,i wonder why?the sole and disturbing memory i have after my trip to the states 10 years ago was the amount of pan handlers roaming the streets and yet the bbc has chosen to ignore this terrible problem which is now beginning to envelope alot of ordinary people.The bbc would rather concentrate on the views of ill informed republicans who are convinced obama is a muslim and their belief that sarah palin is the second coming.

    This comment is so relevant to your travel. To get to Phoenix you went past the Gila River Indian reservation. Your travels seem to avoid all the areas of America that are examples of our lack of a health care system, the incredible poverty and hopelessness which afflict so much of our population.

    As a Public Health physician, I've seen the parts of America you don't visit. They are not pretty.

  • Comment number 63.

    as i saw on a bumper sticker here in canada "if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns"
    as i have noticed the UK STILL HAS ITS FAIR SHARE OF GUN CRIME!

  • Comment number 64.

    I am not for guns being illegal, but there is a big difference between the effort of killing someone with a gun and killing someone with a chair. As someone trained to use a variety of weapons, killing with a gun takes using a bit of pressure from your index finger. Killing with a chair requires hitting someone again and again and watching them suffer with each strike.

  • Comment number 65.

    When I initially read about this trip, Jon, I thought "I really hope this isn't going to be YET ANOTHER one of those 'look at these kooky and stupid Americans!' pieces". Unfortunately, it so far has been.

    ANNOUNCEMENT TO THE REST OF THE WORLD: Hard as it is to believe, not all Americans are like the ones interviewed in this travelogue. I know you like to think so, but that makes you just as close-minded and ignorant as you claim us to be.

    An intelligent, liberal, atheist, feminist, childfree, gun-hatin', pro-choice treehugger in SE Virginia
    (see that? not all people who live in 'conservative areas' are conservative! Did I just blow your mind?? Please select more diverse interviewees.)

  • Comment number 66.

    Laura Moore hit it right on the head.

    The bad guys will always get guns by any means, with no respect to the law. This is what makes them "bad guys."
    Any law passed for gun control purposes ONLY affect law abiding citizens.
    There are towns in Florida and Texas that require citizens to carry-conceal hand guns and their crime rates are the lowest in the nation.
    People of the nations of Europe and in University or High School instituions where free people are forbidden to carry guns, they will always be at the mercy of the lunatic.
    Nations that do not trust their law abiding citizens with this responsbility, well.........

  • Comment number 67.

    Gee, may be right---Obama did vote once to prohibit Homeland Security from confiscating guns in disaster zones.

    Otherwise, he's a shameful weasal who proposes 'five mile corridors' that effectively outlaw the sale of guns throughout the country, and hasn't met a gun control bill he doesn't love.

    He was for the DC gun ban until the Supreme Court struck it down, then he assured us he had been against it all along. Now, there's a constitutional law authority! And he wants us to allow him to nominate federal judges?

    He's for the Second Amendment, he's against it--but under the Constitution, the Second Amendment is not UP for debate! It's part of the Constitution. It's plain English.

    If the Second Amendment is optional, then perhaps the First is as well, or the Fourth, or the Seventh, or the Thirteenth(I don't think he ever agree to that one, in particular).

    The debate, in reality, is not about guns--it's about the Constitution, and whether we plan to live under it, or some 'living document' fabrication forged by He Whose Middle Name Cannot Be Spoken In Public.

  • Comment number 68.

    As usual most Europeans do not understand freedom. Your socialist nations are a direct result of relying on your kings and nobleman for protection, not on yourselves. I am a retired law enforcement officer. I worked in Newark, New Jersey. The bad guys always had guns. The good guys sometimes did and the criminals were certainly surprised when confronted by them. I carry a licensed, concealed weapon wherever I go. I'm not out hunting for criminals or anyone else. Nobody else knows I'm armed. If the need arises I'm prepared.


  • Comment number 69.

    The death toll in the California train crash is 26. Text messaging? Lets get cell-phones banned!

  • Comment number 70.

    How are you supposed to protect yourself??

    I agree that people should be trained to use their weapon properly but a question I would like to ask the people who say that citizens should not have guns is HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOURSELF? I and my wife work in an EXTREMELY high crime area and honestly I think it would be negligent to not protect yourself in some manner.
    Some people that are not familiar with the American legal system may not understand that criminals do not stay in prison but are released in a very short time for serious violent crimes (even when they are repeat offenders). I have convicted rapists, drug dealers, thieves and second degree murders as my daily customers. What am I supposed to do? Police are not able to be everywhere fast enough. Last week I had to dial 911 because a customer had a siezure in my place of business. It was 37 minutes before a Police or ambulance arrived. That is a long time if you needed help immediately.

    Again Just curious what the people (that are against gun ownership) think we should do to protect ourselves???

  • Comment number 71.

    I live in California where guns are moderately regulated. I grew up in the deep South where guns are common. My brother in law always carries a 9mm pistol, always. I choose not to own guns as an adult. I do not target practice or use guns at all. However, the 2nd amendment isn't going to disappear. People can complain, argue, bicker all day long but it won't help. Gun rights have been around in the US for over 200 years and is supported by the vast majority of US citizens. It's not going to disappear now or anytime in the near future. This is a pointless debate in my opinion.

  • Comment number 72.

    As a life-long Republican, I wish I could support what the Republican Party has become. Instead, for the 3rd time I will vote for the Democrat and for the second time I will vote a straight Democratic ticket.

    I hope for two things in November: 1) the Republicans don't get ANOTHER four-years in the White House and 2) the Democrats will leave the issue of gun control alone. Lest they forget that the pro-gun block voters started voting straight Republican after Bill Clinton's statistically undefendable Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 forced them away from the Democrats.

    Maybe the Dems will figure that out... I'll give them my vote and hope that they do. By the way, sarcastically I say, has anyone noticed that the British haven't invaded the US since we adopted the 2nd amendment? Who says it doesn't work!

    Before anyone dismisses me as a backwards hillbilly, please know that I am actually an urban family man, working on his graduate degree while working for the federal government. I am neither bitter nor am I disenfranchised… too bad the Democrats what to stereotype me as this simple because I am pro-gun and see this as an individual right.

    And before the pro-gun people dismiss me for voting “against guns,” please bear in mind that I am a life-member of the National Rifle Association and I tend towards a constitutional political belief… I am one of you, I’m just not a right-wing religious zealot and that’s why I cannot vote, in good conscious, for the Republican party

  • Comment number 73.

    This debate will go on forever. Bravo to the women on the firing range. Guns have their rightful place in our society.

  • Comment number 74.

    People seem to think that guns are mainly for personal security. Which they are, thats great. But what we must look at is the fact that the purpose of guns is to feel empowered in rough neighborhoods. The purpose of a well armed populace is to prevent a hostile take over of the government. The second amendment is meant to keep the government in check. Our government system is meant to be based on checks and balances. But, what about he government as a whole, what checks it? Sort of like"quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" or Who watches the Watchmen? The second amendment is meant as the ultimate check for the ultimate balance.
    People spoke earlier of the need to evolve, that the second amendment is unnecessary. We cannot hold the first amendment and the second amendment in different regards. Freedom of the press is no longer important, we can evolve away from that. We don't need to speak freely, we don't need to freely assemble, and religion is not important. We can evolve are away from all that. None of those statements correct and should be accepted. People hold the first and second amendment in different respects. But, truly they both require sanctity. The second may even be more important than the first. For the second secures the first.
    In Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, safety comes well before , self actualization, where liberty falls. To have liberty, we must have security.


  • Comment number 75.

    The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED". In the days of the American Revolution, the militia was an army of the people. Ordinary people called in from the general labor force (like you and me) to act as soldiers in support of the continental army. Hence the phrase "The right of the people...”
    The phrase “the security of a free state” not only alludes to security from foreign powers, but security from domestic powers that may become tyrannical and oppressive such as the system of government that the colonists were fighting to liberate themselves from. The intent is to simply provide another method by which to keep the power in the hands of the people.

    If you don’t like guns, simply don’t own one, that is your choice, but don’t try to give ANY of my constitutional rights away, not one. The US constitution has been assaulted enough over the course of the past few years. I think the most profound statement I’ve read on here so far was: “If there were no guns then not one single person would die by the bullet.” Wow, really? If only we’d have thought of that sooner. OK, let’s magic all the guns away, and then we’ll all get along and there will be no more evil in the world. Then we can go back to the good old days when crime and armed conflict did not exist prior to the invention of the firearm.

    I do not hunt, but I do support responsible hunters and fishermen. Heaven forbid an individual wants to go out and put some meat on the table the old fashioned way. Perhaps enjoy a meal that is not pumped full of steroids and antibiotics. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean that no one else should to.

  • Comment number 76.

    I am shocked by the arrogance and elitist posts regarding this article.

    First off, what gives anyone the right to decide if other, non-criminal adults should have the right to vote? Someone here actually commented that these people should have that right revoked.

    Then we have others calling these people stupid. Everyone has their specialties and knowledge bases. Just because someone disagrees with your opinion, doesn't make them stupid.

    Third, to all the non-American's commenting, frankly who cares what you think per laws applying only to US citizens? You cannot vote in our country and are not citizens. Your comments have no bearing or weight on our laws. Most of the comments here show total ignorance for rural America.

    When was the last time you were riding horseback through Wyoming alone and come across a mountain lion that's aggressive? Last time you picking berries by a river in Colorado and came across a sleeping grizzly bear that was not too happy to be discovered? Had someone breaking into your home that is 45 minutes from the nearest town of 300 people (in other words, the police cannot make it to you in less than 40 or so minutes)?

    The Europeans remind me of the NY and LA elitists who haven't been to the real "west" of America, who think nobody needs an SUV because they don't need on on their roads.
    They don't live on roads that remain unplowed all winter. They don't deal with spring thaws and 10" of mud. They don't need to carry firewood to their home for heat.

    America has many states larger than Central Europe with less people than live in Monaco and the surrounding area.

    You can drive 400KM between gas stations in the west. Not a building, not a gas station, nothing.

    But everyone has an opinion, which is fair, but some are more educated than others and therefore more valid.

    In the end, anyone who thinks we can eliminate guns doesn't realize that the large majority of the crimes in the US are committed by criminals who aren't allowed to own them (just like in Germany, England, Italy, Spain, etc).

    Banning guns will simply cause the average, honest person to turn in their guns while the criminal who wasn't allowed to have them in the first place isn't going to run off to turn in their illegally owned guns.

    Our culture is different than Europe. We are independent, anti-government, live-free types. The majority of Americans don't want the government involving itself in our lives any more than required by the law, and the less laws, the better.

    Just as we cannot understand many European laws or practices, Europeans often do not understand ours.

    Lastly, as per the person who claims America has third world medical care, it is commonly know that America has the best health care in the world. Free? Hell, no. Cheap, not a chance. But top quality? Absolutely. Perhaps that's why Beckham, Owen, Matheus, as well as most of the English Premiership come to the US to get their knees, hips, etc fixed. There are more MRI machines in a five mile radius in Chicago than their are in ALL of Norway, the country with the highest standard of living in the world. There is rarely a wait for any medical care in the US, as there is with socialized medicine in England, Germany, etc. And just like in the US, the wealthy get the fastest and best care in Europe, but it's with their supplemental insurance.

    The US has the best health care, it's just not able to be purchased or utilized by everyone due to the extreme costs. You can slam our country for not having a socialized medical system, but our not having one has caused a competitive medical environment that has created the best medical services in the world, period.

    If anyone doubts this, a simple look at where the majority of Olympians have had their surgery and major health care will prove my point (and yes, I do work in this field).

    Mike S

  • Comment number 77.

    Guns don't kill people people with guns kill people, unlike the other implements guns have only one use - to KILL

  • Comment number 78.

    I'm as American as anyone else defending the issue and I grew up in Virginia.

    The lax gun laws in the United States have made it possible for criminals to arm themselves easily and anonymously. The people who say "guns don't kill people...." are the same type of morons who won't directly say that they aren't comfortable with the idea of black president. They instead pick some pointless issue, as many of you have pointed out, to use as their rationale for voting against Obama. The second amendment was never intended for anything like this. It's unfortunate that it never seems to be the gun-control opponents who have to deal with the consequences.

  • Comment number 79.

    It is a myth that the gun has always been a part of Western culture. The reality is, very few pioneers even owned guns and gunfights were rare. Hollywood created the myth of the Wild West.
    It's true that if someone wants to do you harm, they will find something to use, but I would sure rather take my chances with someone armed with a pen (Jason Bourne excluded) than someone armed with a gun.
    The U.S. leads the world in gun deaths because more people who purchase guns, even if they had good intentions, wind up using them offensively rather than defensively.

  • Comment number 80.

    All of this discussion about gun's the bottom line. Gun control laws keep guns out of the hands of the law-abiding citizens, who respect the law as set forth. That leaves the guns in the hands of the criminals, and only the criminals. Do you think that someone who has murder or assault charges against him is worried about the weapons charges he will face?

    Gun control leaves the citizens unarmed, and the criminals armed.

    Want to ban guns? Ban assault weapons. No one should have them except military and law enforcement.

  • Comment number 81.

    Thanks for visiting AZ on your trip. I'd like to point out the first part of the 2nd Amendment describes a well regulated milita being entwined with the right to bear arms. A sensible compromise is needed. Since gun ownership is a right, it would follow the civic responsibility to regularly drill using a standard firearm with a state or local militia is a related duty. The Swiss follow such a model which seems to satisfy the gunners and the controllers for the most part.

    Then allow people all the guns they want, but severely restrict and penalize the unauthorized possession, manufacture, sale or distribution of ammunition for non-drillers via ATF. Rights preserved, gunners trained in safety and accuracy for a milita, criminals deprived of convenient reloads.

  • Comment number 82.

    Personally I find this sort of discussion fascinating for it's exposure of the truly ignorant. lol If it were not for the fact that handguns find their way up into my country I wouldn't care less whether or not people down south carried bazookas. Just leave them at home if you expect to travel to Canada. We have a relatively peaceful nation.... no handguns allowed to be carried by the general population, and that also goes for visitors. I especially loved it a few years ago when a probation officer from the States tried to bring his pistola into Victoria, had it taken away, and then whined because 'we' didn't have the right to take it away because he had a permit.... lol Not in Canada he didn't..... It was probably a good thing it WAS taken away though..... He had it hidden in a duffel bag that was being carried by his pre-teen child..... Shows some pretty good responsible gun handling by a 'trained' professional, eh? lol Anyways, you folks have fun putting holes into each other and pretending it's alright because it's your 'right to bear arms'...... By the way.... I'm kinda curious as to which "regulated militia' the ladies in the article belonged to? After all, if they DON'T belong to one then are they not breaking the law by carrying said firearms? lol Twist it however you want..... Oh, one last thing...... We actually DO have guns up here and know very well how to use them...... they just happen to be rifles used for hunting...... Not hand guns or assault rifles meant for killing humans..... ;)

  • Comment number 83.

    The debate, in reality, is not about guns--it's about the Constitution, and whether we plan to live under it, or some 'living document' fabrication forged by He Whose Middle Name Cannot Be Spoken In Public.,

    Well said OldSouth.

    Guns don't kill people people with guns kill people, unlike the other implements guns have only one use - to KILL


    You seem to imply that’s a bad thing. There are people who need killing. If you want to be one of the sheeple, that’s your prerogative. Keep on bleating. Many of us choose otherwise.

  • Comment number 84.

    I wish we had gang and criminal control.

  • Comment number 85.

    Why draw the line at guns? Why not let people carry grenades and flame throwers and drive tanks? Grenades and flame throwers and tanks don't kill people after all, people do.

    Wait til one of them loses a loved one to some pointless random shooting. Then they'll be singing a different tune.

  • Comment number 86.

    It's ridiculous that you have to pass a test before you can drive a car but not before you can own a gun.

    A basic safety test and training course for those who need it - including demonstrating that you have a secure place to keep your firearm out of the reach of children and thieves - is perfectly reasonable and all those gun owners who describe themselves as well-trained and sensible should be able to pass easily.

  • Comment number 87.

    The Constitution should be malleable. The people that wrote it could not possibly imagine what the world would look like 230 years in the future. Can you try to imagine the state of the globe 200 to 300 years from now with continual fluid changes in social culture, politics, religion, and science ?

  • Comment number 88.

    Let's start with the second amendment: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed"

    Now, the idea of a broad-based militia as envisioned by the 2nd amendment was required before a standing army and law enforcement forces came into being.

    Holding the second amendment as sacrosanct is in effect a refusal to modernise a society. At all points in time, any free society should be open to questioning its rules based on broad guiding principles of its times. The second amendment came into being at a time when the west was wild and law enforcement non-existent.

    There are a few arguments that are often presented in favour of gun ownership:

    1. What if the government turns against the citizens: this is why a democracy has multiple checks and balances and built in independence of various forms of the government. Coordination between the various gun totting arms of the government for something as catastrophic as attacking its citizens is impossible!

    2. What if I am attacked: Chances of you being shot because you have a gun are higher than if you did not have a gun. Guns are not as much of a deterrent crime as they escalate the situation. You would rather have a robber walk away with your jewellery than walk away with your jewellery and leave a bullet in your head.

    3. It is a relaxing pastime: I have shot a gun a couple of times. It was scary how much I enjoyed it! It gave me a sense of power that few other things have given me. As much as it is a relaxing pastime, it is giving into the temptation of firing for the sake of it.

    I am not American, but have thoroughly enjoyed lived there for several years. I have also have the pleasure of living in 3 other continents with far stricter gun control laws.


  • Comment number 89.

    Jon, you write: This very American debate would continue long after I'd gone.

    Yes, until some non-gun owner pries the gun from the last paleface's cold, cold hand, because he thought his neighbor was coming to steal his set of Wal-Mart coasters.

    I love the pro-gun lobby. They rant and rave about the constitution and American rights, but they go and vote for Mr. Bush and his ilk, who then go and tear up the other 9 Amendments of the Bill of Rights. Now, let me ask, where are the brave souls up in arms against tyranny. What a bunch of hypocrites. Apparently, all that shooting and cordite smoke also hacks away at the neurons.

  • Comment number 90.

    sag297: I would like to see evidence for your second point that guns don't act as much as a deterrant to crimes as they escalate the situation.

    Considering the vast majority of evidence shows that guns do act as a significant deterrant. D.C. has some of the highest crime rates in the nation and they basically have been banning guns in that city. The vast majority of towns that have high rates of gun ownership have lower crime rates then those who have less gun ownership rate.

    You are correct that bringing a gun or any object/weapon for that matter increases your chances of being injured. But at the same time if that person is going to shoot you anyways its always best to have something to defend yourself. The vast majority of gun shot wounds are not to the head anyways.

  • Comment number 91.

    Is this woman stupid? Firstly, how strong were her anti-firearms views? So strong that she still visited the place!

    Suddenly, after feeling discomfort, she underwent an epiphany. I assume her other brain cell kicked in here. A life-defining moment, something that made a lot of sense to her, being told 'It's not the gun that kills, it's the person behind it.' Super, her life was changed by a cliche, and a ridiculous one at that. How long ago was it that a young child/baby was killed in the UK when its siblings accidentally shot it in the head with an air rifle/pistol? An accident, but the same result as if it had been deliberate. Take the gun out of the equation and a deliberate act might still occur, but that accident wouldn't have - please trawl the BBC pages to see many other such accidents. Yes, it might be the person that kills, but it takes two to tango, people are likely to be around for a long while, so why don't we start being sensible and wise up to the fact that guns kill, after all, that is what they're designed for.

    Thank goodness Britain has gun laws in place, and in light of such air rifle accidents, perhaps they should be even tighter.

    An interesting blog, and on the basis of its contents, that's one up for Obama in my opinion. Perhaps he should even consider himself lucky not to be having such idiots voting for him?

  • Comment number 92.

    war_of_1812: You do realize that legal gun owners make up a very tiny fraction of fire arm related violence. You also do realize that basically all evidence shows that the vast majority, and I mean vast, don't ever use their fire arms offensively.

    I'm curious as to what your sources are that legal gun owners are trigger happy and have a tendency to use them offensively rather then defensively.

  • Comment number 93.

    To conform to the US's "right to bear arms" (Which really gave the right to raise a 'militia' force, not for every citizen to walk around with armaments of WMD proportions) I suggest all citizens of voting age be issued with a 6 shot,38 calibre pistol ! All other types of weapons would be illegal and destroyed,unless used for, and appropriate to, hunting; and these would only be obtainable following the passing of a course which contained written, psychological and practical components. The small weapon so issued would afford the 'protection and the ridiculous accumulation of 'overkill' weapons could be controlled. PS "Knives don't kill people only people do",however you can't kill people, in multiples, from 50' away either. PPS Since 9/11/01 on average - 16000 US citizens have been shot to death each year 7 x 16m = 112000 deaths versus 3m by terrorist!..

  • Comment number 94.

    seanc_UK: You do realize that argueing that something should be banned because of an accident is very weak, considering a ton more people die each year in the US and UK from motor vehicle accidents then from firearms.

    Take all those motor vehicles out of the equations and none of those accidents wouldn't have happend.

    I never understand people like this, ya lets ban something that only has a few thousand deatha accidents vs something like motor vehicle accidents who accidental deaths number in the dozens of thousand.

  • Comment number 95.

    I find it difficult to choose between your interesting article and the rich tapestry of opinions it has spawned. It sure is a desert hot topic. I live in Phoenix Arizona, I am from the UK and have been living in the States for a several years. I am a gun owner, I love both countries for very different reasons. It seems to my biased eye that when it comes to gun control and basic respect for country ways of doing things, that the US is about twenty or so years behind the UK. This, in my humble opinion is not only a good thing, its a great thing. I love England, I grew up in rural Herefordshire and knew how to shoot and hunt by my early teens. Over my short life however, I have seen my country slowly erode the common sense attitude to both country hunting and personal defense.

    I have a very good friend who serves in the UKs premier special forces. Last year he was advised along with others by his CO, that they should not have any guns, swords or knives handy in their respective homes in case of burglary or forced entry. They were advised instead to place heavy ashtrays in the corners of each room in case of an emergency of this sort. They were informed that when the case came up for trial they could very legitimately claim that fearing for their life they used the first thing to hand as an improvised weapon. I think that this small tale exemplifies the level of respect that the UK government has for its citizenry, let alone one who is presumably the best trained and the first to be sent into harms way for the greater good.

    The sad fact is that an Englishmans home is no longer his castle. The truth is that if you defended yourself today successfully in your own home in the UK, you are more than likely to be the one facing charges. Accordingly, the criminal community are now wise to this. Since the UK banned legally owned handguns the rates of home invasions and burglary have shot through the roof. Violent crime with the use of handguns has increased, not deceased. Now the big threat outside of gun toting gangs is to be confronted with an assailant carrying a knife, it would therefore make sense to ban knives, not just the sale to minors mind you, but all knives, what then, ashtrays? Wise words and carefully thought-out arguments are never going to stop a determined attacker.

    I wish that England had a constitution, no you can not really count the Magna Carta. Who today honestly trusts their government to do the right thing for you or for me? Under the US constitution this point is hammered home in the second amendment. It is a system of checks and balances, ultimately controlled by those who have the means of self-determination, the armed people.

    Since most violent crime seems to stem from desperation, poverty, drugs, ignorance or rage, I personally choose to rely on no outside authority for my own well being. If you choose to put your family and your safety in the hands of a distant and busy government and police, you must expect the obvious outcome should your peace be shattered. Dont get mad at the police for their late arrival, they were busy with others like you.

    I was brought up as a boy scout to be prepared, it is better to have a tool and find no use for it, than need the tool and not to have it. My better half is a US citizen and she will vote for Obama, not because of guns, in her opinion because Bush has done such a terrible job. I am English so have no say. If I did, I would say, GO BAMA GO, crossing my fingers that he leaves the constitution alone. When the world stops killing and being violent I promise to lay down my sword, until then, better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.


  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    Noliving: Thanks for asking the question - it forced me to go around looking for some hard data.

    Here are some statistics that will hopefully make my point:

    Some notes about this set of statistics:
    1. Off the industrialised countries, the US is head and shoulders above the rest. The closest (Finland) probably has a higher level of gun ownership than the US (~50% of households)

    2. Off the Developing countries that have a higher firearm-related death rate than the US probably have significantly worse law enforcement records.

    When gun ownership is broad based, the chances of a robber of carrying a weapon to a crime scene will increase. Also, (and this will sound very obvious!) in a standoff with guns involved the chances of them getting used is higher than when there aren't any guns!

  • Comment number 98.

    #95. Your statements are a load of garbage, not least that SAS need to use ashtrays to kill burglars! The law is quite clear- you CAN keep a weapon and you can kill 'honestly and instinctively' without fear of prosecution.

    The UK, not England, has several constitutions. Magna Carta only applies of you're the King. We have the bill of rights, the reform act and several tons of english common law that all protect the rights of the regular citizen.

  • Comment number 99.

    67shbb says

    "as i saw on a bumper sticker here in canada "if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns"
    as i have noticed the UK STILL HAS ITS FAIR SHARE OF GUN CRIME!"

    Have you noticed this ? I haven't and I've lived here for 30 years ! How's about rather than misinformed conjecture we rely on statistics- In 2005-06 10,654 people were killed in the states by guns, in the UK this figure was 50. Personally I wouldn't call 0.46% a "fair share"

  • Comment number 100.

    Somebody described constitutional amendments as "sacred". Isn't that the problem? Folks, constitutions and their amendments are bits of paper written by human beings. Human beings get things wrong; the world changes; priorities change. One of the great evils of constitutions is that they turn what should be a debate about the issues (is widespread gun ownership good or bad?) into a legalistic debate where people debate the positioning of commas in a two-hundred-year-old text. Even more absurd is the abortion debate, where people argue about whether the right to privacy might imply the right to terminate a pregnancy. This reminds me of the scene in the Name of the Rose where they bicker about whether Christ carried a purse.

    If constitutions are wrong, they should be amended. We need to debate the issues, not old bits of paper.


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