International UB community weighs in on U.S. gun culture
Students and staff share their thoughts on recent shootings and gun control
Givary Muhammad was shocked by the stash of guns in his Californian host-family’s home.
“I'd never seen such a number of guns owned by civilians,” Muhammad said. “My instant reaction was, 'Why?'”
Muhammad, a sophomore finance major, came to the U.S. from Indonesia at 15-years-old and knew nothing about the constitution's Second Amendment prior to his visit. Muhammad said he was shocked by what he had learned through his research into gun control laws in the United States.
Debate over gun control in the U.S. was ramped up in the wake of the Feb. 14 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, which left 17 people dead and injured 14 others in Parkland, Florida. Many students and staff who chose to leave their native countries reflect on the differences in gun culture back home. International students shared their views on gun control and their hopes for the future.
Gun culture back home
Many international students said guns are generally considered for the military or law enforcement in their country.
“My country’s perspective toward guns is that only the police or army should have guns. But civilians should not have the right to carry a gun,” said Rathin Sarker, a sophomore electrical engineering major from Bangladesh.
In Greece, many citizens’ first experience with guns is during their mandatory term in the military, said Georgio Tseropoulos, a chemical engineering Ph.D student.
“Civilians are allowed to have guns for hunting, but it’s a foreign concept for civilians, especially in cities, to have a firearm,” Tseropolous said.
Other international students and staff said their daily lives were devoid of firearms in their home countries. The U.S. government’s inaction after a gun-related tragedy seems foreign to them.
David Schmid, an English professor from the U.K who specializes in popular culture and crime, shared the sentiment. He said British citizens never really think about guns, while in the U.S. there’s an “imminent presence.” After the U.K.’s Dunblane massacre, British citizens expected their government to take action, Schmid said.
“The response to [the shooting] was to pass more laws. It made it not only difficult to get guns, but almost impossible,” Schmid said. “It was considered as a logical response.”
Home countries’ perspective on American gun culture
Muhammad said whenever he goes back to Indonesia, his friends and relatives ask him why Americans are obsessed with guns.
“I often times feel overwhelmed by their curiosity, so I tell them because it's their right to bear firearms,” Muhammad said.
Others expressed their lack of understanding about gun culture in the U.S. before coming to the country.
Sifat Zico from Bangladesh, a junior economics and business major, said it is strange that the drinking age is higher than the legal age to own a gun.
The international students were also against the idea of arming educators in the classroom, which is gaining momentum in the U.S. after the Parkland shooting.
“Suppose you have a child who’s 4 or 5 years old and you are taking them to school. Are you going to feel safe when teachers are carrying guns?” Zico said. “Because you never know when he or she is going to take out the gun and start shooting.”
Others said they felt it wasn’t the responsibility of educators to carry firearms.
“Teachers don’t become teachers to put their life on the line,” said Poorvi Thigale, a senior economics major from India. “Training every teacher and professor in the country to shoot a gun correctly, I don’t know, I think that’s just a silly idea and impossible to execute.”
It seems as if the opinion of other countries on the issue of gun control would not sway pro-gun Americans at all, according to Schmid.
“There is a perverse, I would say almost pride [Americans have] in the inability of the rest of the world to understand the U.S. on this issue,” Schmid said.
Gun control, post-Parkland
Most of the international students and staff are skeptical about change happening in the near future.
Schmid cited the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, when a gunmen entered a Connecticut elementary school and fatally shot 20 six and seven-year-olds and six adult staff members, as the moment he realized U.S. gun laws wouldn’t change.
“I am not optimistic, and to me the turning point was Sandy Hook, because that was the last time thinking ‘this time something is going to be different,’” said Schmid. “If [Sandy Hook] doesn’t change the conversation, I don’t think anything will.”
Nosifat Adekunle, an educational studies graduate student from Nigeria, compared the U.S.’s gun issue to a phenomenon in some African countries where an unstable electricity market has created a market for people to profit off selling generators. The profit from generators eliminates an incentive to stabilize electricity, much like gun lobbies in the U.S., Adekunle said.
“If you trace the origin of guns and ammunition in America, we can trace it to some of these people in power,” Adekunle said. “There is a market from guns. People make billions from selling these guns to individuals regardless of their mental ability or mental stability.”
Others were more optimistic and one student cited President Trump as a possible solution.
“All these protests going on, I think [Trump] will do something about it,” Teng said. “I really do hope.”