Salvador Ramos turned eighteen on May 16th, the age in America when a teenager can legally buy a gun, though they are not allowed to buy alcohol until twenty-one years of age. The next day he bought a semi-automatic rifle and the following day he bought 300 rounds of ammunition. Two days later he purchased another semiautomatic rifle at the same store. Salvador had a stutter and was bullied as a child, and as he grew into a teenager he fought back and was known for getting into fights. He had been living with his mother, but apparently she had a drug problem, and in March he moved in with his grandmother. Like many teenagers he was prone to mood swings and fits of temper. He was giving into the dark side of his developing personality and was not becoming a nice person.
Since he had difficulty forming relationships he turned to social media and struck up a conversation with a fifteen year-old girl in Germany to whom he proudly displayed his gun purchases. Less than a week after he had bought the guns he got into an argument with his grandmother over having failed to graduate from high school. In the heat of his annoyance he sent a message to the girl saying that he was going to shoot his grandmother. A minute later he texted her back: ‘I just shot my grandma in the head.’ He then said that he was going to shoot up a school.
He took his grandmother’s car and drove it a short distance down the road, and perhaps he was not a very good driver because he crashed it into a large drainage ditch. But the place where he stopped happened to be near a school so he climbed out of the car, jumped over the fence, opened a side door (which should have been locked), went into a classroom and shot 19 children and two teachers dead. The children were ten year olds. Eventually the police arrived and he himself was shot dead. Ramos was not mentally ill; he was simply a disturbed teenager who wanted to lash out, and the gun laws of the USA made it easy for him to wreak destruction. Subsequent to the mass shooting the mainstream media, the President, and members of the Democratic Party called for changes in the gun laws, but politicians on the right steadfastly denied that the availability of guns was the problem, and maintained that such massacres are due to mental illness.
The evidence that if guns are controlled the numbers of people dying from gun related deaths plummets, is overwhelming globally, but there is a different psyche in the USA. When America was a colony under the British, the settlers rose up against colonial rule. Since they did not have a standing army, it was the ordinary people who formed the militias. When they were not fighting they went back to their farms, so the men in the settlements could be called up at a moment’s notice. For this reason it was mandated that men should carry arms and always have their weapons at the ready. The right to bear arms was later enshrined in the constitution.
America is not called the Wild West without reason, since it was the frontiersmen who opened up hostile territory for settlement. American movies used to be about cowboys and Indians, and those were the games we played as children. Thus from the standing militias that birthed America to the frontiersmen who opened it up, the right to bear arms was fundamental in the culture and identity of Americans.
This would be fine as a cultural heritage but the side effect of allowing everyone, including unstable teenagers, to carry guns is more shootings than anywhere else in the world. I doubt that much will change, even though the rest of world is looking on and wondering why Americans don’t get it. And as the divide in American politics widens, a whole section of society will dig in on the gun issue, because many Americans believe they need to defend themselves against the tide of immigrants, and even against the government itself. The rationale for the right to bear arms to defend one’s country has now become the right to bear arms against one’s own government and fellow citizens.
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