Teaching the American Gun Debate in a Foreign Country: No Matter What You Say, They Think We’re Bananas

Officers stand near a memorial of flowers at the scene of the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on 25 MayUS politics is part of my teaching load here in Korea. And part of that is, inevitably, the US gun debate. Foreigners just don’t get the US fascination with guns at all, and that is putting it mildly.

I have lived outside the US for almost 18 years – in East Asia and Western Europe – and I have discussed guns in America with non-Americans countless times given that my area is political science. Non-Americans are genuinely curious why we allow private fire arm ownership, especially when it so obviously correlates with gun violence. I can say that I have never had a non-American ever tell me they wished their country had US gun laws. Not one.

I have written a lot on foreign perceptions of US gun ownership on Twitter in the last two days. Try this, this, this, this, and especially this.

In short, there is no other country in the world which approaches guns with the laxity we do. No other conservative party in a democracy approaches guns as the GOP does. Often my students here often don’t even understand how gun ownership is a ‘conservative’ or partisan issue, which is something Americans should know. Righties in other countries are not gun fetishists. Even other societies with a frontier tradition – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia – don’t have the gun culture we do.

No one else thinks about Mad Max government collapse scenarios which would require you to be armed. (Trying to explain that one to non-Americans is almost impossible.)

No one else talks about an ‘armed citizenry’ resisting tyranny. When you try to explain this one, my students often can’t even figure out why they would battling their own democratic government. Good question! And then they wonder how regular Americans with guns could outshoot the cops or the military. They can’t, of course. Another good question!

And very definitely, no one wants armed teachers, metal detectors in schools, open carry, concealed carry, and so on. Hardening schools and letting regular people walk around packing strikes them as insanely dangerous.

Inevitably then, I get three or four papers a year in my US politics class on guns, and they’re uniformly negative and incredulous. One particular title I remember from years back: ‘The US is a Gun-ocracy.’ That just about sums it up.

7 thoughts on “Teaching the American Gun Debate in a Foreign Country: No Matter What You Say, They Think We’re Bananas

  1. As a Canadian gun owner, I totally agree with you. When I visit gun stores in the States, they think that WE are the crazy ones for NOT wanting to carry. They just don’t get that there are countries where people feel safe enough to NOT be armed and ready to kill at a the slightest provocation.


  2. If we can’t control guns then we can control ammunition.
    No ammunition will be manufactured, nor any products that relates to it will be made for the next three years.
    After three years, ammunition will be regulated as to how many each individual may have, and must be signed for.
    Ammunition must be controlled as if it were opioids.


  3. Pingback: Mike’s Blog Round-Up | Crooks and Liars – Starwide

  4. I have lived in Canada for 18 years. I was born in Indiana and there are two types of people from there. Those who realize it’s a hellscape and do every thing in their power to get out and those who don’t realize it’s a hellscape and consistently vote against their own best interests because some cynical Republicans told them to. The most common bumper sticker people sported on their pick up trucks was: “guns god and guts built this country, let’s keep all three.”
    You just can’t reason with people who think this way.


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