Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Facing the Fire: One Yorkshire Lass’ Take on the US Gun Culture

Since moving to the US, one aspect of the culture (especially here in the South!) that I’m still having to work to adjust to, is the use of and apparent comfort most people have with, guns. Even my own husband wouldn’t dare to spend a night in a room that didn’t have a personal-use handgun close by “just in case”. Coming from a country that doesn’t permit or rely on personal weaponry outside of farming and organized hunting (even in Yorkshire where the pheasants should, quite frankly, be running for their lives), learning to accept and even to rely on, this new symbol of security and defense has been challenging to say the least.

While I’m still at the stage where I don’t really want to know which drawer our household weapon is in (for fear that I will accidentally sleepwalk and faff with it to my husbands detriment - yes, seriously), I’ve found that the ultimate fighting force against this discomfort is knowledge. The more I’ve committed to undergoing structured, sensible teaching sessions from the hubby and from gun range professionals, the less I’m seeing them as a familial danger. Slowly, my point of view is shifting towards the way guns were intended to be used here (despite how that may differ in reality); as a method of protection, for use only in the most dire of circumstances. Whether it be home invasion or personal defense against a sudden attacker, I can comprehend why people look to guns for comfort. 

Yet, the other side of that coin is the constant presence of guns in everyday life wherever you might be, and the subtle threat that that can pose. From the grocery store to the bank, and even at the dog park, I’ve noticed holsters are quietly present. You don’t need me to leap into the details of recent gun centered events in the US, and I would hope that we’re all capable of gathering the facts and making up our own minds about where we stand on these issues. But from the perspective of someone who is essentially alien to guns and their everyday presence, the sight of them hanging out on the hips of the general public whilst they go about their ordinary lives, is both frightening and, admittedly, on occasion reassuring. I suppose in my firearm novice mind, it all depends on who can be trusted. And since this factor isn’t something that I’ve (we’ve) really worked out how to discern yet, discomfort mostly rules my perception.

There’s an element of personal security and responsibility that I strongly appreciate and in many ways can relate to here in the US, despite my being new to it’s mindsets. Coming from an island where even pepper spray was illegal to carry, the sense of easier access to individual defense here does ease my mind some. 

Perhaps it all boils down to my lack of understanding on the subject of gun ownership, and how this plays into the American way of life as a whole. I certainly won’t be turning my back on this aspect of the culture - after all, with something so prevalent I can’t see the point in rejecting the opportunity to at least understand what all the fuss is about!


  1. I am from Lancashire and live in Texas now. I have gone from being terrified of guns to owning one, and actually have my concealed handgun license now. Going to the gun range and learning the correct way to handle and own guns has been tremendously helpful to me. Gun ownership is a big responsibility and must be taken seriously. I actually enjoy going to the gun range now for practice purposes.

    1. I really appreciate your insight Linda. It's amazing how proper training and understanding can help calm those fears isn't it? I'm not sure we'd sleep as soundly without one tucked away safely in our home to be honest!