April 20, 2018

An Arab in the ‘Wild West’ – It is time to accept America’s gun problem

In the month of January this year, there were 27 homicides reported in the St. Louis metro area, according to a report by the Post-Dispatch. Eighty-nine percent of the homicides were carried out by a gun.

We live in the “Wild West” there is no doubt about that.

As an Arab American, I too, happen to see things in a black and white manner. For instance, St. Louis has been competing for first place in the ‘Murder Capital of the U.S.’ for over a decade now. But, that only applies to the underserved areas of black communities which apparently, no one else seems to care about. How about that?

Just last week, a five-year-old boy found his parent’s gun and shot his seven-year-old brother in the head, killing him. In June of last year, there were 39 people killed in St. Louis, according to the Post-Dispatch. That is more than one person a day, yet I didn’t hear anyone demanding tougher gun regulations.

The Black Lives Matter movement began due to the repetitive killings of our black brothers and sisters by the hands of the police, usually with guns.

More recently, schools have been shot up around the nation and now, everyone is marching, demanding for tougher gun restrictions. We have always had a gun problem. But just like the use of War Drones against innocent civilians overseas, if it doesn’t look, dress and speak like you, who cares?

Perhaps, we should look toward our neighbours on the East Side of St. Louis to explore how they have dealt with their gun problem.

Both schools and nightclubs have metal detectors at their entrances. Why? Because they are fully aware of the probability of a gun being carried into the building. On February 22, the Belleville News Democrat reported on a teenager arrested after using Facebook to threaten a school shooting, which then prompted a lockdown at East St. Louis, Cahokia schools.

According to the Spokeswoman of East St. Louis School Districts, “[The School] have security staff at every campus, and they have their protocols for heightened security.” They also have full cooperation from the police.

Having a metal detector at the entrances may cause people to feel uncomfortable, but it would definitely catch more weapons than just the naked eye. Institutions might imply they cannot afford metal detectors, which reminds me of a thought I had many years ago when I found out California was running out of drinking water.

I was told it was “too expensive” to have a desalination plant, and it was more practical to clean sewer water and use it. You can only imagine my reaction. I believe the same applies here. Metal detectors are too expensive at what cost?

Another point I’d like to bring is that guns are our friends. Hypothetically, if we ban guns, then only criminals will be carrying. So guns will still exist in our reality. With that in mind, what is the likelihood of a potential shooter agreeing to bring a gun to an institution when he or she is fully aware that there are armed police? I don’t think this tiny percentage of extremely violent citizens ever really expect a good ol’ Wild West showdown.

One weekend in early February, six people were killed and 22 injured from shootings across Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune report. We all know Chicago has stricter gun laws than Missouri, but let’s imagine if everyone is privileged to an “open carry” gun, which means they can walk around with their guns at their hips. What if criminals knew anyone in the vicinity could fire back when they decided to be reckless?

I had breakfast at a local “mom and pops” restaurant where I was meeting someone. While waiting, I noticed a few police officers placing their breakfast order with their guns hanging on the side. Of course, I was extremely uncomfortable and thought, they shouldn’t be allowed in public like this. Then after studying their behavior briefly, I realized that I somehow trusted them to do well with their guns and to not harm me. I realized that we were all here to have breakfast, and the likelyhood of me being shot was zero.

Trust. It’s extremely important and always has been. I am fully aware that perhaps if my skin color was a little darker then I probably wouldn’t feel the same in the presence of an officer, and that needs to change too.

We need more good citizens of every color, race and creed armed and ready to defend our fellow brothers and sisters in a time of need. There are estimates on how many firearms exist in the U.S., somewhere between 270 million to 310 million guns. And trust me, there are always more good people in the world, even when it comes to gun ownership.

The Second Amendment is a right that many other sovereign countries refuse to give its citizens. I do not belong to the National Rifle Association nor do I own a gun, but I do have my concealed carry weapon license (from when it was needed) because I decided it was important to know how to use one. As the saying goes, “It’s better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.”

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