I made a bit of a faux pas today. We were talking at lunch about Wal-Mart. I love Wal-Mart: it’s a cross between Spotlight, Briscoes, The Warehouse, Pack ‘n Save, The Shoe Warehouse, Subway, Just-Cuts, Rebel Sport, Mitre 10, Repco… well, you get the picture. It’s a big warehouse that sells everything (except alcohol). They also (to my great astonishment) sell guns. These pictures I am displaying in this post were taken (with permission) from within my local Wal-Mart! Between the golf clubs and the fishing poles.
Anyway, I was marvelling at how incredible it is that guns are sold in what amounts to a supermarket when a man proudly piped up: “my 13-year-old son has a revolver”. My jaw dropped. Let me try to explain my reaction to you: in New Zealand, there essentially are no guns. The police don’t carry guns. If you want a revolver, it takes a year for them to approve of it and the police have to check out your house to make sure you have a secure gun safe. For all intents and purposes, guns are about as non-existent as snakes. That’s right, no snakes in New Zealand either.
So, from a cultural perspective, I find guns obscene and vulgar. To put it in cultural context: the idea of a child having a gun is, to me, equivalent to a child with a glass of whisky in his hand, a cigar in his mouth, watching hard-core pornography while he bets on the horses on his phone. Not only do I find the idea vulgar but it makes me feel kind of queasy.
I mentioned how shocked I was and went on to explain that we don’t have much in the way of guns in New Zealand. He obviously registered the disapproval in my voice because he proudly went on to rattle off the list of other guns his 13-year-old has. Amongst those listed were rifles, hand guns and semi-automatic rifles. I forget the actual specifications.
“What does he use them for?” I blurted incredulously.
“He hunts deer” his father retorted. When queried as to whether they actually eat the deer he said yes and that he had a whole lot in the freezer.
Finally, I made my fatal mistake: “so… a semi-automatic rifle” I mused “you don’t use one of those for hunting deer, surely?”
He immediately became defensive: “It’s called the right to bear arms, see. Here in America, it’s our right to carry guns so that if the government goes crazy, then we should have the right to take over the government and set it right, kind of ironic, I know.”
Of course, he’s talking about the second amendment. His son owns a semi-automatic rifle so that, should his elected officials one day decide to impinge upon his civil liberties, that young 13-year-old child can become a militiaman in the rebellion against his government.
I do find it ironic because some Americans don’t appear to mind in the slightest what their government do to their civil liberties (or to others) as long as they can shoot stuff dead.