As an American, I’m often asked to explained weird American things to Scottish people. If Americans call biscuits cookies, what is an American biscuit? (A scone.) How do Americans make tea if they don’t have electric kettles? (They don’t, normally. Or they use the microwave. Yes, really.) Why do Americans love baseball so much? (No idea. Baseball sucks. But, you know, so does cricket.)
But sometimes I get called on to field more difficult questions about America – ones that I really struggle to answer. Why did so many Americans vote for Trump? Why are many Americans against healthcare reform when their healthcare is so insanely expensive? And lately:
Why doesn’t America pass stricter gun laws?
I’m not a great person to ask about American attitudes towards guns. I’ve never held a gun. I have no desire to hold a gun. I don’t know many people who own guns. There was no gun culture in the middle-class Long Island suburb where I grew up – or at the liberal arts college where I got my degree – so I find this whole gun-nut thing as weird as most Scottish people do.
And when it comes to guns, the contrast between my adopted country and my home country couldn’t be starker.
Scotland – A gunman entered a school in 1996 and shot 16 children. The following year, all handguns were banned.
America – Has had 164 school shootings in the past 10 years alone. Trump suggests training teachers to use guns.
“At least we know our daughter will never get shot in school here.”
My husband said this while we were debating the relative merits of staying in Scotland versus returning to America. Our decision to stay here after having a child hasn’t been an easy one. Despite the deep, stupid love that we have for this country – the kind of love that only an immigrant can have – most of our family lives in America. Raising a child without any support, and knowing that she might only get to see her relatives once a year, is hard.
It’s also hard to imagine raising my daughter in a country that considers an adult’s right to have a gun more important than a child’s right to not get shot at school. America’s gun problem isn’t what’s keeping us in Scotland, but it’s hardly helping America’s case.
Most of America is with me on the whole gun control issue. A recent poll showed that 70% of Americans support stricter gun laws. This issue isn’t as controversial as the media – and America’s unhinged president – would have you believe. America has too many guns. They’re too easy to get. We need to fix that.
But here’s the problem.
Those of us who support gun control are fighting something more challenging than an inefficient, incompetent government.
We’re fighting culture.
A college professor once explained the power of culture like this: “Culture is the most powerful force there is. It’s more powerful than science. Think about it. Science can create self-driving vehicles, but it’s not going to change our car-driving culture. How are you going to get people to stop driving cars?”
This was in an English literature class, and her lecture on culture had nothing to do with what we were reading. Still, it’s one of the few college lessons that’s stuck with me, and I still think about her words 15 years later. Congress can pass all the gun laws it wants, but those laws won’t change America’s love affair with guns.
That’s going to take something bigger.
March for Our Lives might very well be what finally forces America to make that cultural shift. This movement, which was started by young people in America, has spread across generations, across boundaries, across cultures. On March 24th, 738 protests will take place across the globe, from Texas to Tel Aviv.
I’ll be at the march in Edinburgh, standing up for sensible gun laws. For for my daughter. For all of the school shooting victims who could have been my daughter. For all the people who want to be able to leave their house without worrying that they’re going to get shot by a nutter.
So basically everyone, then.