The sun is going down, setting the sky alight in a brilliant dance of purples and pinks. The fallen leaves on the floor seem to catch fire as the sun’s deep orange light hits them. In the distance, I hear gunshots. Seventeen just in the last hour, and I have kept count. Why, you may ask? It’s the first weekend of open season here in Vermont, and I am wearing a bright orange vest, just praying I don’t get mistaken for a deer.
Until this weekend, I had never even heard a real gunshot before. I have seen a real rifle perhaps five or six times in my life. Each time, they were carried by elite Commando forces of the Singaporean army. They carry their large military weapons, wear their signature red berets and guard our embassies. Now, with terrorism fears at their peak, they are sometimes on our trains too. Smaller handguns are also carried by police officers, but that’s about it.
But, for the first time in my life, I saw regular men, walking around with rifles in one hand and beers in the other, daring each other to shoot the next thing that moves. That was frightening. Heck, it was downright scarring. I would be so peeved if you drove drunk. Imagine my absolute fury and disapproval when I realized there are people out here with loaded guns and buzzed brains — because, you know, the loaded guns alone were not enough.
I am perfectly fine, by the way. I made it out alive, and I had a really amazing hike. Vermont’s forests did not disappoint. But it was a stressful few hours when I stopped for pictures and could hear the distinct pops in the distance. In fact, the first few times, I did not even know what those sounds were. One of my German friends had to point out to me that those were gunshots.
Now that I am sitting here in Boston, looking at the Charles River, I am trying my best to come to terms with the culture here when it comes to guns.
I am fully aware of what a controversial topic it is within the United States, and that there are very polarized views on the situation, but I would like to add my two cents.
I would like to say first and foremost that I do understand both sides of the argument but am definitely biased toward the anti-gun side because of where I am from. I have only known city life, and I have only known crowds of people. The idea of owning a gun in an urban environment like that is absurd unless you are law enforcement.
But I have visited the “countryside” of America too, parts of this country where there are more livestock and trees than there are people. I can understand why people may want to pull out a gun and go hunting, even if I strongly disapprove of recreational hunting. I mean really, unless you are doing it for subsistence, why kill Bambi? But, as I was told by the nice lady at the diner where I stopped for lunch in Vermont, it really is a cultural thing. It is a bonding experience, apparently, to go out and kill things. Who am I to judge when most of us in the city get really flipping drunk to bond? Granted, generally nothing dies because of it, but still.
I guess what I am trying to say is that the entire situation is crazy complicated and very dependent on how each individual lives and is raised. To me, as a native Singaporean, the whole let’s-go-out-and-shoot-things-for-fun idea seems barbaric. But this is because of how I was raised, and because of the way I have lived my whole life. A lot of my American friends at BU who were born and raised in city settings concur with me. But others, like those I encountered in Vermont, see the whole experience as a part of their lives. It’s something they look forward to for the whole year. How do you take something so integral to a community’s way of life and tell them it’s bad or wrong? Especially when, in their eyes, it’s just good old fun?
America is not the only nation in the world that allows civilians to carry weapons. It does, however, have the largest amount of gun violence among developed nations. In fact, from 2001 to 2014 with the Sept. 11 attacks included, gun violence in America killed more people than terrorism. I think it is time people take a minute to think about the fact that you’re killing one another more than outside forces are killing you.
I have reached a point where I do not believe that guns are the real issue, but rather the people in whose hands those guns are in. From an outside perspective, I don’t ever expect America to be like Singapore, where there are practically no guns at all. It is too deeply entrenched in your culture. But you need to find a middle ground to stop mentally unstable people from getting their hands on weapons and to limit the number of firearms allowed in the country. Other countries have done it and, not to be harsh, but America needs to get with the program. Compromise needs to be found, before the next innocent person pays the price.