Globe & Mail, Canada

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U.S. Weapons Culture: A 'Stupid Fascination' (Excelsior, Mexico)


"One of my most interesting sociological experiences in the United States was a visit to a gun show in San Antonio, Texas. ... It was amazing to watch the children. Yes, to my surprise, children were allowed into the exhibition. They were everywhere, looking at the weapons, even picking them up as if they were pieces of fruit or vegetables, with no intervention from the parents. ... Something is wrong with a society fascinated by guns. It's not normal."


By Leo Zuckermann



Translated By Gemma Bouchereau


February 5, 2013


Mexico – Excelsior – Original Article (Spanish)

Former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during a mass shooting that killed six people, sits with her husband, Mark Kelly, at a Senate hearing on gun violence. Giffords pleaded with the Senate to do something about America's epidemic of shootings and deaths.

AL-JAZEERA NEWS VIDEO: What fuels America's love for guns?, Feb. 1, 00:25:01RealVideo

I recently viewed a memorial service for the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut. A distraught mother was speaking. Her daughter had been one of the victims of Adam Lanza, the young man who, a few days before, had calmly fired a 10mm Glock, as well as a 9mm SIG Sauer and a Bushmaster rifle equivalent to the AR-15, which is used in combat. All the weapons belonged to his mother. I felt a lump in my throat listening to this mother, who had to go to the morgue to identify the cadaver of her seven-year-old daughter, who had been shot 11 times.


The Sandy Hook shooting was yet another massacre in which without rhyme or reason, an unbalanced individual calmly murdered innocent people. This has become commonplace in the United States. Of course, in explaining these massacres, there are many variables to be taken into account. But one of the most important is the access U.S. citizens have to weapons, not the smaller, 22 caliber pistols, but assault rifles like the one Lanza used at the Connecticut school. Recalling the statistics is simply staggering: it is estimated that there are between 280 and 300 million privately owned firearms in U.S. households, and every year, 4 million more are added.


I have no doubt because I've seen it with my own eyes: U.S. citizens love their guns. One of my most interesting sociological experiences in the United States was a visit to a gun show in San Antonio, Texas. It had been organized by a sort of rotary club that sponsors all kind of activities throughout the year: bingo, dances, galas, camps for children, and, why not, a gun show for buyers and sellers of weapons.


Admission to the gun show cost $5 and automatically enrolled you in a lottery in which the first prize was an AR15 rifle. Second prize was a Black Eagle II and third was a 22-calibre revolver. Near the entrance was a table where you could become a member of the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful non-governmental organizations that lobbies to protect the right of U.S. citizens to own guns.


There were about a hundred exhibitors at the site. And without any obstacles, visitors were able to buy or sell weapons, old and new. There were historical guns for collectors, such as an 1871 Colt 45 valued at $12,850. I found a very small pistol with a mother-of-pearl grip - the type of gun that might be used by a coquettish woman from an old Western; it cost $150,000. Under the heading  "bad guy guns" was an enormous Magnum like the one used by famed fictional Vietnam War cartoon character Boogie El Aceitoso [Boogie the Oily]. The Magnum cost $699. For someone like myself, who knows nothing about guns, it was truly astonishing to see such a variety of gun manufacturers like Glock, Springfield, Beretta, Taurus, Browning, SIG Sauer, HK, and of course, Smith & Wesson.


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Rifles were also clearly in evidence: there were new manufacturers like Stoeger with its Stoeger 206 at just $99 all the way to the impressive AR-10T 308 - which is like a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight and laser pointer, valued at $3,600. At this point, what caught my attention was the large variety of Russian rifles on sale.


People attending the gun show were not unlike those one sees at Disneyland. They were typical North Americans: White, Afro-American and Hispanic. It was amazing to watch the children. Yes, to my surprise, children were allowed into the exhibition. They were everywhere, looking at the weapons, even picking them up as if they were pieces of fruit or vegetables, with no intervention from the parents.


Something is wrong with a society fascinated by guns. It's not normal. It's no surprise then, that these massacres are already a feature of everyday U.S. life: Ruby Ridge, Waco, Columbine, Washington DC, Virginia Tech, and now Sandy Hook. How many more people, including children, need to die before the U.S. realizes the impact of this stupid fascination?


Twitter: @leozuckermann


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Posted By Worldmeets.US Feb. 5, 2013, 01:05am