Packing heat

If there is one thing a left-leaning Christian pacifist will never fully comprehend about Americans, it’s their attitude to guns. (Ok, slight generalisation there – not all Americans feel the same way about guns…) Not just the whole ‘right to bear arms’ thing – the general obsession with needing guns in order to protect oneself and one’s family.

Combine a load of Texans with a load of liberal Londoners and one key area of opinion difference (aside from politics – which I will NEVER bring up unless I know the political leanings of the Americans I’m with) will be on guns. Most of us Londoners have never held a gun, let alone shot one – something several good Texan friends of ours simply could not comprehend. When we were talking through the changes that moving to London might involve with one such Texan, he was shocked to discover that living in London would mean leaving his gun collection behind. We were shocked that he even had a gun collection.

Not only am I a pacifist, I’m also a pseudo-vegetarian who gets squirmish around the details of animal killing. [I’m the one who protested that our Thanksgiving turkey was named during the cooking process.] Hearing tales of hunting adventures over dinner was almost enough to put me off my food – though they were great stories. Can you imagine a 9 month pregnant woman shooting a deer from her front porch and ensuring the carcass was chopped up and in the freezer before her husband and father returned from church? Or a 14 year old girl whose response to this story was “I love going quail hunting – I really like breaking their necks!”

What I’ve realised is that there’s a massive difference between hunting for pleasure (i.e. fox hunting, which I categorically oppose) and hunting because you need meat to feed your family and the animals you’re killing are pests – as is the case with many of the deer that roam the Hill Country.

I also love explaining to Americans just how rare guns are in the UK – including the fact that our police don’t have them unless they’re an arms specialist. At the same meal at which hunting stories were shared, the mother got very excited at the discovery that a member of our London community was a female cop…
“Oooooh! She gets to pack heat!”
“No. Our cops don’t carry guns.”
“Really??”
“Yes – they have a stick they can use instead.”

Cue laughter from three teenage girls imagining just how ineffective a stick is in combat.

Anyway, all this is simply a way of justifying/explaining what occurred on our last night in Kerrville – when not only did we hold an antique musket, we shot a BB gun in the front yard…

The lovely Eric simply could not believe this was a first for all three of us and bemoaned the fact that our imminent departure meant we couldn’t visit the shooting range. We had mixed feelings – Cathers was super-keen to have a go; I was rather apprehensive; and Andy was terrified that he’d enjoy shooting and would end up on a slippery slope towards a lifetime of violence. Turns out Cathers gets very competitive (she would not leave until she’d hit the mailbox) and I’m a surprisingly good shot. Andy didn’t let on how he felt about the whole thing, but he did make a fantastically awesome song choice [go on, click that link!] in the car immediately afterwards. (You can’t go wrong with songs about guns…)

I was tempted to make the below photo a profile picture, but I feel that would be rather unwise – I really don’t intend to make this a common sight!

Photo: Andy M

Things I’ve learnt this week about Germany:

  • You can only wash your car in dedicated car-washing areas. Sounds odd, but actually quite sensible – it’s so the toxins from the outside of the car don’t go into the ground water system.
  • You’re not supposed to wash out yoghurt pots before you put them in the recycling because it wastes water. (This means that the pots might sit around becoming increasingly fragrant as recycling’s only collected once a fortnight.)
  • It’s illegal to mow your lawn on Saturday afternoons or at all on Sunday, or during the “quiet time” during the week. This is to keep things nice and quiet when people are trying to rest! Nice.
  • People have locks on their bins. This is because rubbish is weighed when it’s collected and people are billed according to how much they chuck out – so you don’t want someone off loading their rubbish in your bin.

But the best thing I discovered:

  • Dogs may only bark for 10 mins in any 3 hour period. I’m not sure what you’re meant to do to stop a dog barking. In my experience, if a dog decides to bark there’s not usually a lot you can do to stop it – except give in to their demands! And if you start doing that, who knows where it might end!

"Law abiding citizens"

I can feel a bit of a rant coming on about the sheer stupidity of American gun laws, but I don’t really want to go into it here. Most British people agree with my sentiments, but it seems unlikely anything will change in the US because of the 2nd ammendment (and don’t even get me started on the ways that’s been misinterpreted).

Just wanted to mention one thing which caught my attention on Tuesday morning. BBC Breakfast interviewed the editor of Gun Week about the massacre at Virginia Tech. Clearly a fan of guns, he was defending the current laws, yet said something that to me, seems like stating the bloody obvious. He asserted that the gunman (whose identity at that point was unknown) had been a “law abiding citizen” when the guns were bought. Fair point, but if asked no one’s likely to admit to intending to carry out a crime using the gun they’re purchasing! Everyone is a law abiding citizen – until they commit their first crime.