March 24, 2018

Gun control works in Austria: Why can’t we make it work in America?

In my high school in Austria we never had anything like a lockdown drill. I only ever heard about that when I first went to the United States to do a High School Year Abroad.

On my first day of school my government teacher started going over the detailed procedures that should guarantee our safety in case of a shooting happening. Huddling behind the wall, crawling out of windows and barricading the door included; as if it was a normal topic to teach. Everyone seemed to be bored by the hundredth lockdown talk that they received in their school career and I was sitting in the corner shocked and baffled that this is even a thing. Back then I thought that my school was just overly protective but in recent years I realized how relevant those drills were.

“Parkland” was the first topic trending on my Twitter feed on the morning of February 15 when I opened up my app. My immediate thought was “shooting” and sadly enough I should be right about my suspicion. And I wish I could say I was particularly shocked to hear these news from the United States of America, but to be completely fair, as an Austrian, I kind of expect it from this country.

I come from a country where the general idea is that “if nobody owns a weapon, why do I need one?”, not the other way around. In fact, to even obtain a weapon it takes a series of tough background checks, you need to get a weapon’s license and need to show sufficient security in storing the registered weapon. Even when you are able to get a license, the regulations under which you are allowed to own a weapon are extremely harsh. I, myself, know no one from my country who owns a weapon, except professional hunters and police.

It is crazy to think that anyone could just simply walk into a store to buy a gun, or even an automatic machine gun. Because absolutely nobody has to own a semi-automatic rifle not even for hunting, (and if you need one, then you are a lousy hunter anyway) and not even for self-defense.

With always the same procedure, as the following: politicians in America step out of their offices to send their “prayers and condolences” and then back to business as always without changing a thing. Because nothing seems to be more sacred than the second amendment, not even the lives of millions of people that are at stake every day due to maniacs being able to carry guns. I’m getting tired of hearing the same phrase repeated over and over again: “It’s not guns that kill people. People kill people.” But what enables these persons to literally slaughter others?

I can assure you that it is not violent video games, social media or mental illnesses that are solely to blame on the recent trend of mass shootings that are emerging within the US. Because the last time I checked, the rest of the world had these factors too, but you never hear about hundreds of mass shootings within a year from countries such as Austria, Japan or Sweden.

It may be due to the fact that some countries have caught up to the trend called “gun control” and no one can buy weapons like candies over the counter. During my year abroad in the United States, I’ve even encountered a store called “Chocolate and Guns” and even though that might sound like a promising business concept in the states, other countries just shake their heads and mumble “‘Murica”.

The United States has to realize that sometimes giving up some of their freedom isn’t a particularly bad thing if it means that their own children will gain the freedom of knowing that they can go to school in the morning and make it out of it alive.

Congress has to act now. Because now is the time to talk about gun laws and regulations. Not when people start forgetting what happened and the whole cycle starts over again. Otherwise, the Twitter trends will continue showing names of cities and towns in the U.S. and you never know when your own will be amongst it.

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