At first I wasn’t sure what to write about, but then I realized the thing I’m currently most worrying about is also currently the thing I’m most angry about. And that is shootings in the U.S.
Unfortunately, shootings in the States have become far too common, but last Thursday’s shooting at Seattle Pacific University was so close to home that it affected me in a way the others haven’t. I considered attending SPU. I’ve driven by the campus a handful of times. I know people who live and work nearby. And, perhaps most poignantly, SPU resembles Whitworth in size and Christian affiliation, which makes me think, again and again, this could have happened at Whitworth.
My conversations with Kiwis have led me to believe that their system for acquiring a gun is much more effective in preventing gun violence than it is in the States. To own a gun in New Zealand, you must be interviewed by police, and so must your spouse. It also requires character references and an inspection to ensure your guns are in a gun safe and your ammo is stored separately (so there’s no way burglars or children could access both). For as long as you own a gun, you’re subject to surprise inspections by police to ensure that the firearms are still being stored properly and that your mental capacity is sound.
Are there still shootings in New Zealand? Sure. But there are years between them, not days.
My biggest concern with guns is that it is too easy for those with mental health issues to acquire and use them. (I am also unhappy with how mentally ill people are treated – or not – in America, but that’s another blog post.) By and large, the shooters are not everyday folk who randomly felt like killing that day. Adam Lanza, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the SPU shooter, the Las Vegas shooters – people who knew them all saw signs of mental disturbance in them. Yet nearly everyone in the States can buy a gun on Facebook or Craigslist under the table without background checks.
I shot a gun for the first time in December. The target was a paper sheet of Osama bin Laden’s face. I felt shaky, but my teacher assured me I was a steady shot for a first-timer. And I have to admit: now that I’ve shot a couple of guns, I agree that it’s a good skill to have, should the need to protect myself arise.
That said, the fact is I feel much safer in New Zealand. I was shocked the first time I took a domestic flight here and security felt non-existent. I didn’t even have to take off my shoes. Now it seems normal, whereas even getting on a bus or train in the States without some kind of security worries me. I don’t feel that kind of fear here.