Painful Truth: Gun debate driven by bravado

Too many Americans imagine themselves as gunfighting heroes, damaging hopes for gun control.

I’m seriously reconsidering any plans to visit the United States ever again.

It’s not the recent school shooting in Florida. I know that although mass shootings in the U.S. are much, much more common than in every other industrialized country, they’re still fairly rare. I’d still have a better chance of dying in a random car crash on the drive from the airport.

It’s the way they respond that frightens me.

A lot of Americans seem to respond with the desire to control guns. This seems sensible. Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom have all gone through this process in the wake of massacres. Most countries seem to agree that letting anyone have semi-automatic weapons with large magazines is not necessary for sport shooters or hunters.

Another sizable chunk of Americans respond that what everyone needs is more guns.

Guns in high schools, elementary schools, university campuses, churches, movie theatres, shopping malls. The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, they say.

The bravado behind that statement is almost laughable. Usually they don’t say “If I’d been there with a gun, of course I’d have stopped him.”

Well, President Trump said it. Because he’s incapable of not saying every self-aggrandizing thought that passes through his head.

But even when it’s not said, it’s implied.

If you dropped me in that kind of high stakes, high intensity situation, I have no earthly idea what I’d do.

I don’t think I’d try to attack the shooter. I don’t believe I have that in me.

I hope I’d keep my head and try to get others to safety.

There’s a distinct possibility that I’d just run in panicked circles, wet myself, and pass out.

I just don’t know. I hope I never have to find out.

The sickness in the U.S. discourse about guns is that it isn’t about guns. It’s about propping up the self-image of the people who have them.

They have to see themselves as action heroes. Larger than life figures. The good guys in white hats who will ride in and gun down the bad guys.

In some sense, they aren’t scared of mass shootings, of gangsters, of home invasions.

They’re hoping for them. A part of them wants that, needs that possibility to validate their good-guy, gun toting self image.

Which is why I don’t want to go back to the U.S. any time soon.

It’s not the mass shootings. It’s the fact that I won’t know, especially in an open-carry state, which people around me are just itching for an excuse to get into a gunfight.

If I want to play pretend-hero, I’ll get a video game. I don’t need to turn the world into a shooting gallery to get myself through the day.

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