What Gun America Feels Like

From Texas shooting ranges to visiting crime scenes for college credit

Another gun story.

The majority of the gun discussion continues to revolve around America’s, and consequently Americans’, control on guns; what needs to change and what won’t.  While dim in the eyes of many Australians, and tired Americans, the conversation has had substantial updates in recent times.

Despite the top Google news results for Walmart currently reading the latest on their new ‘meal kits’, just weeks ago Walmart were in the spotlight for upping their buy age for guns. Championed and trolled by many online, Walmart altered their policy in the aftermath of the February Florida school shooting, drastically changing the buy age from seven to twenty. Alongside Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods changed their buy age to twenty-one as well as put an end to the sale of assault rifles in their stores.

It comes as no surprise that the latest news item to emerge from these changes is a high-school senior suing both retail giants. While it is questionable whether the protests or the revised policies of two megastores will make much difference to the existing gun horizon in America, it is nice to have the discussion change if just a little while.

My time in America  

From the comfortable, sun-lined streets of Adelaide for the first twenty years of my life I was content thinking I knew all I needed to know in regards to gun culture and America’s ‘problem’. I knew the problem and I knew the answer: no guns, no problem. I was not completely naïve. I had done my research on the National Rifle Association as part of a Uni assignment and had provided a nice little slideshow with my facts and findings. While there is a lot to be said for the statistics, I had not experienced firsthand how embedded guns were in everyday life for Americans, even the really nice and rational ones. A lot of gun owners are really lovely. I won’t go into how and why Americans use guns and why they are so adamant on keeping (all) of them, you can find that in many other corners of the internet.

Between July 2017 and February of this year, I took on America, exploring 17 states, including Colorado for five of those months on a study exchange. I loved it. ‘Guns’ was the crux of many interesting conversations I had there and, like all of America and its hot topics, there is no one belief or identity. This is one of the things I appreciate most about America, its cohesive in-cohesiveness.

So, guns when I was in America. I loaned them, I shot them, I joked about them with a lovely retired cop by the name of Kevin at a cute little shooting range in San Antonio, Texas. I was also in the country when America’s daily mass shootings occurred. I was there for Vegas (their largest shooting yet), that tragic Texas church massacre and multiple ones in Colorado while I was there, including a shoot-up at a Denver Walmart and an apartment just west of my college campus that one night. One of the three victims were a fellow CSU student in her senior year. Savannah, and her boyfriend, died of multiple gunshot wounds while out celebrating her birthday.  

That same morning, I had a TV News class, the news was out but the victims unnamed. The latest was that there were two victims from the shooting and there was a news report going live at midday.

We were encouraged to leave the classroom, head to the crime scene and observe the live shots (reporters do their thing for live TV). For extra credit we could go crowd the crime scene, take a photo of us being there as proof and submit it to our teacher. Stuff the credit, I was not going. Many of my classmates got up eagerly and started planning their short bus route across campus to the nearby student apartments. I wonder if it was not until they arrived at the scene and the live report went out that they discovered one of the victims was Savannah Nealy, another CSU arts student who worked in the same media department as many of us TV students.

I was one of two who turned down the homicide field trip. I won’t go into details, but the shooting involved a birthday celebration and an ex-boyfriend. When it comes down to it, the finer details don’t seem to matter, impatient people shoot other people over traffic after all. It all comes back to guns; an all too easy end to often easy problems. I’ll be the first to say that guns are a bit of fun; I had my turn firing rounds with an AK-47 in Texas. I’ll also be the first to say that if I had to pass up recreational gun handling for the sake of tighter gun control I wouldn’t think twice. There’s always paintball and nerf wars.

Safe and content from my suburban Adelaide existence, I’ll keep watching the gun space and hope for the best.  

 

Words by Bec Whetham

Illustration by Sash Corowa

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