This is a long read. Very long, and probably very boring, but it gives a little insight into the mentality of a “general gun-owning American” on how they believe gun-control doesn’t mean banning guns. Oh boy.
Living in a small, rural town in central Scotland has its perks. Most people are polite, for one. Having not long moved from central Fife, this novelty has yet to wear off. I was born in the Lothians but was raised in Fife, attending a high school that was heralded for its Jazz musicianship and occasional misdemeanors. I remember those heady days with fondness, not because of the wafting ease through which I passed, no Sir, but due to the very abrasive, stuttering, frightening bullying that has formed me into the man I am today. Without this soul shaping, I wouldn’t have the empathy I have, or the patience I hold. It was shite at the time, no doubt about it, but through adversity comes strength, right?
The school itself was an aging, brutalist 60s building that housed many an interesting scene, from head-butting to toilet dunking to ice-ball throwing, I saw it, and felt it all. But through this I learned new things; trying to write an essay based upon the rear-cover synopsis of a book doesn’t work. Hiding in music rooms, learning to perfect the 4-bar rock rhythm on the drums was good, so long as you didn’t permeate the neighbouring staff room with enough reverberation to cause a red-faced teacher to smash into the room, shutting down your testosterone fuelled drum solo mid Phil Collins.
Getting home on the bus was a challenge, mostly due to my pals having a different colour of bus-pass to me (a drawback of living “in the new bit” of town) and the roulette of bus driver will-he-won’t-he let me on the Yellow Pass Bus. Thou shall not pass. Which meant getting on the Purple Pass Bus and getting my head kicked in. Usually on account of being the younger sibling to a popular boy.
The guy who nicks all the girlfriends of bullies, you know the type. Sporty. “What are you going to do, eh? Get your...BIG BROTHER ON ME?”
It was a great time. I met my wife at school. Formed friendships that have lasted almost 30 years. Found a passion for design, for Scottish novelists and, after big Andy joined the School, the beauties and of eating lunch in the safe haven of his dad’s Physics hut. Until Andy tried to beat me up too, but he was a big lanky softy and immediately apologised for the huge swing-ball sized arc of his fist as he tried to sucker punch me. I saw his arm for a full minute before it reached the vicinity of my head. We ate lunch 10 minutes later and forgot all about it.
Yeah I was bullied. I was a “sad little music geek” and I had a music tie to boot. Or what became known as the bright burgundy bully flag. I had rocks thrown at me and I had fists crushed into my face, but there wasn’t ever a time that I was concerned about having my head blown off by an automatic rifle. I never concerned myself with how close I was to death when a bully approached with intent in his eyes - just a sore face and a ripped jotter as consequence for existing. He didn’t have anything more than his fist or, at the very most, a wooden object they managed to whittle, all by themselves, in Craft, Design & Technology class. A present for their mammies, when they got home, to chuck on the open fireplace. Save a few quid on the heating bill; we’re not made of money son.
But I am alive. I am here now, typing this. And I am still perplexed, after a quite civil, yet utterly baffling exchange I had this week, with an anonymous YouTube commenter below a video for what was being heralded as “a great solution to America’s gun problem”.
The issue for me, you see, arises when the YouTuber, a prominent and very entertaining chap called Destin, explains with glee that he has been working on a system that will detect, in a video feed, with high-precision, the presence of a gun in any frame. He states categorically that this system has massive potential for good, for it will afford authorities attending a “live shooter scenario” the added ability to localise the threat, through CCTV alone. He says, and I might be paraphrasing here, that instead of being blind to the location of mad gun person X, they can immediately know he’s in the gymnasium, piercing holes in student’s bodies. How excellent!
I watched this video, The Gun Detector - Smarter Every Day, with a high degree of befuddlement, because I couldn’t quite believe the gusto with which Destin and his pal high-five’d and congratulated each other on the stellar job and tremendous potential this system would have for gun control in America, going forward.
Couldn’t get enough of it, those two. Destin’s pal had manually inputted (that’s sat in front of a computer for four days to a layman) over 30,000 images of guns and related objects to “train” the system to detect a gun at most angles and flag it up, then email the administrator of said system that there was a gun detected in a frame of video. Clever shit.
Yet the question, for me at least, remained. Why do American’s need a system to detect guns in video footage anyway? Surely this bypasses one, if not two extremely obvious questions? I guess the first would be, why are you developing a system to detect guns in video frames instead of a system that prevents guns from even being anywhere near a place that requires CCTV? And two, why not just get rid of the guns and then you won’t need to develop any system that finds anything?
It was this second question that kept burning as I watched the video and, soon after it had ended, I found myself scrolling down the comment feed to see if anyone else shared my surprise at this quite ridiculous invention. Yet, not one opinion aligned with mine. Instead there was more congratulations and more suggestions of where this type of system would be of great benefit, such as a school or a shopping mall. A school.
I just can’t get my head around the general acceptance, the inevitability some might say, of having “active shooters” in schools. So much so that someone would create a system that, as a fundamental basis, uses this commonplace scenario to build an innovative product upon. Commonplace in America, it seems, is people getting shot in schools. How absolutely absurd a concept, right?
So I carry on scrolling until I read a comment so abjectly ludicrous that I cannot help myself but reply to it. The comment that forced me to commence bashing my keyboard at 8am on a Saturday morning, is as thus:
There’s a lot to admire about this comment, especially when it comes to mental health. But the point that stood out to me was the shooting of someone who is shooting. “The ONLY effective measure” is to have someone on hand, lurking in the shadows, to pop a cap in the active shooter’s ass ASAP. I ventured into a territory I should have stayed clear of, but with no small measure of trepidation, I typed a response.
Oh boy. What have I done? The funny thing about being bullied as a child, it gives you a life-long concern that any vocalisation of your opinion, any head above a parapet, will result in head being knocked off, or someone tracking down your IP address and, through picking a lock or chain-sawing through your door, will murder you and your family for daring to take them to task over the internet. Yet the response lived up to all my hopes and dreams of what an internet commenter can muster:
He didn’t like that:
At this point I knew it was getting a bit hot, for he is clearly a pro-gun man and the statement of “how would you get rid of all the guns in the US if we don’t even want to” made it clear that he might not ever be able to see from a non-gun standpoint. I persisted, for I knew that I had the chance to change one person’s mind here, and get them to realise the error of their ways.
Not sure why he starts with point number 3, considering he’s already on point 6 from his last lengthy retort:
Yet more confusing number system here, as he continues in another comment with point number 10:
In a deflated, quite disappointed state of mind, I realise that I have lost the room. How can someone hold such an alien opinion versus one of simple common sense? Maybe I’m not understanding the whole gun problem after all? I offer one last parting shot...parting shot. Poor choice of phrases there:
He replies one last time with something that allows me to part with this journey. The explanation that, because guns are used in almost 2.2 million defensive shootings each year, guns are actually saving more lives than taking them:
This is one man’s opinion on a thread below a video on YouTube. It was settled, or not, in a way that was friendly, and despite the opposing opinions, wasn’t aggressive. This has given me a lot of positive hope for what could be called online discussion. I just assumed everyone goes into meltdown after one or two replies, yet this chap managed a good whack more and remained very amicable. But what his opinion on guns and gun control proved to me, once and for all, is that despite the outsider’s indignation of the weekly mass-murder of innocent people in America through gun violence, it pales into insignificance when compared alongside the insider’s celebration of firearms and their rightful place in American culture. It has been one of the single most eye-opening things to have partaken in, even if it is some random joe, bashing his keyboard at opposite ends of the globe to my keyboard bashing, but what a way to finally realise that American’s really want this and will protect their right to it.
They want the guns and the child deaths and the schools with metal detectors and transparent backpacks. They want the nightly news to show more bereaved families grieving for their teenage child who, just this morning, ran off to school with a spring in their step and an air of promise, not knowing they’d be
dead shortly after they arrived. And they accept it, and they live with it, and they still support guns and gun ownership. I say they - I doubt any family that has lost a loved one to gun violence still thinks guns are great. No way could they, as functioning human beings. But their extended family might. And their friends might.
So what is the solution?
Clearly getting rid of the things that are causing all this issue in America isn’t the solution, because some, if not most Americans believe it is their fundamental human right to have a killing machine strapped to their side at all times. How can anyone even begin to convince them otherwise. I tried and comically failed, easily, without a chance of succeeding. And that was just on some daft comments section on YouTube. If I can’t even make some other fellow see my points of view, despite some utterly compelling reasons to see them, then the problem isn’t just one of laws and control. It is indeed a matter of mental health and education; of why guns are not good, and are not required to prosper, profit and live a life long and happy.
Fuck me, what a time to be alive.