In Germany, being murdered with a gun is as uncommon as being killed by a falling object in the United States. About two people out of every million are killed in a gun homicide in Germany every year, compared with 31 per million in the U.S. (the equivalent of 27 people shot dead every day of the year). If you’ve been keeping up on the news since the recent Orlando shootings, or any mass shootings before that, no significant gun control laws have been approved in America. After ghastly school shootings in 2002 and 2009, Germany imposed regulations that helped cut the number of firearm killings in half to about 50 a year.
Keep all this in mind when you read the following from a sensitive Orange County native who we will not identify because of his position:
I recently returned to the United States from Germany. I lived in southern Germany for three years. One of the starkest contrasts between German and American society is the attitude toward firearms. This contract is especially apparent in light of the fact that before living in Germany I lived in Dallas, Texas, for four years.
In Germany, firearms are heavily restricted. Politics do not revolve around whether one can or cannot possess an assault-style weapon, or even a handgun. This isn’t to say Germans don’t like firearms, they simply aren’t an overt part of the culture. After spending three years in Germany, coming back to Southern California was a culture shock. After all, three years is one-tenth of my life. One of the more poignant episodes of culture shock involved a Wal-Mart and firearms, or more specifically, firearm accessories.
As a gun owner myself, I wanted to transport my firearm from California to a different state. To do this, I needed to buy a lock, or better, a lockable gun case. Where else would a red-blooded American go to buy his gun accessories than Wal-Mart?
Walking into Wal-Mart, my wife and I knew we were no longer in Baden-Wuerttemberg. Entering Wal-Mart was like entering a dystopian consumer future. People walked around like zombies, eyeing, and if interested, prodding value-pack goods made in overseas sweatshops and bulk-size, highly processed junk food. The in-store McDonalds was a particularly strong draw.
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As we made our way through the Wal-Mart labyrinth we found the sporting goods section. However, instead of finding locks or hard cases, we found ammunition. In fact, about half of the firearm section was ammunition.
We asked a Wal-Mart employee if we were missing something.
“No,” he responded. “This is it,” pointing meekly to two empty areas on the shelves where hard cases may or may not have once been stocked.
My wife and I looked at each other, frustrated and not a little disturbed. It was sad commentary and an uncomfortable welcoming back to one of the most gun-restrictive states in the union to find that ammunition was far easier to come by than basic firearm safety accessories.