- Language Tips
Many people living in this part of the world must think the United States is a far away land inhabited by wonderful but hard-to-understand people with mindsets that are a mirror image of theirs.
This notion has been further reinforced by the latest gun control debate, driven to maddening frenzy by the Aurora (Colorado) shooting in which a single gunman shot dead 12 people and wounded 58 in a packed theater. I guess that has all of us wondering what's there to debate. Most of us would expect that this carnage, and those before it, should be enough to tilt public opinion overwhelmingly toward stricter control on the ownership and sale of firearms.
Perplexing it might seem, but that obviously wasn't the case. The political force that has steadfastly resisted any proposed change construed as a constrain on people's constitutional right to bear arms has remained strong. Despite the frantic calls by people on the other side of the fence, including law enforcement agencies, educators and parents, no politician is known to have initiated the legislative process to tighten gun control on a national scale.
The over-used argument often cited by anti-gun control groups that "guns don't kill, people do" is sounding more like a bad clich that defies common logic. Anyone who has ever held a real gun in his hand would know that it is more than just a piece of well-crafted tool that you would leave in the closet until the time you need it to fix something. Guns, especially handguns, are seductive.
Shortly after moving to San Francisco in the early 1990s, I was surprised to find a big gun shop at a stone's throw from the financial district on Sansome Street. I don't know if it's still there today. In those days, it was most conspicuous, with a huge signboard announcing its presence in the unlikely neighborhood of banks, fashion boutiques, art galleries and jewelry stores.
The sight of it whetted my interest to find out what it's like to own a gun, something I had never even dreamt of when I was living in Hong Kong and other Asian cities. A Chinese friend, who grew up in the US and was then working at a Chinese language newspaper in San Francisco's China Town, took me to barn-sized gun bazaar in Emeryville to get what I wanted.
I didn't have a clue to what I wanted. So I just bought a smart looking Beretta .38 in gun-metal blue with a design that was obviously rooted in its Italian heritage. I went back there to pick up the gun a week later. The salesperson asked me what I planned to use it for. I said I didn't plan to use it for anything, and I didn't even buy any bullet to go with it.
That evening at home, I took the gun from the box, cocked it and pulled the trigger, which made a satisfying clicking sound. All of a sudden, I had an inflated feeling of power and the urge to shoot something with it.
I was scared of myself and quickly put the gun back into the box and locked it in the desk drawer. The next morning in the office, I found it hard to concentrate on my work, worrying all the time that someone would break into my home, steal the gun and do something evil with it.
After a few days, I couldn't bear the anxiety of owning a gun anymore. So I surrendered it to the police.
Having read my story on the activities of Asian gangs, the elderly owner of a China Town shop which I frequented advised me to keep a gun at home just in case. He kept a loaded shotgun in his shop all the time.
But I knew better. A study by the authoritative New England Journal of Medicine showed that guns kept in homes supposedly for self defense are 43 times more likely to kill a family member, friend or acquaintance than cutting down an intruder.
I rest my case.
(China Daily 08/06/2012 page8)