I have been living in Bangkok for nearly half a decade now, but I was raised in America, and I too am watching the extensive back and forth between gun rights supporters and those pushing for strict gun control in the wake of the Florida school shooting.
In my extensive world travels, I have made a number of observations in countries that have gun control that might add something of value to the ongoing debate in the U.S. I will begin with my present home, Bangkok. We have one of the most effective gun control systems on Earth in Thailand — almost nobody can afford them. Most Thai people do not have enough disposable income to afford a handgun or a rifle. So, nowadays, the bad guys use bombs.
On Sunday, February 1, 2015, I was sitting at Bangkok’s luxurious Siam Paragon shopping mall. As my friends were chatting away, I heard a strange loud thud, and felt a slight rotation that I had never felt before. “What was that?” I asked. “Thunder,” my friend replied.
“No,” I said. And then, just as I looked over my right shoulder, I saw the second bomb go off. I had front row seats to a terrorist bombing, and I watched everyone in the plaza run for their lives. It turned out that I had walked within inches of the bombs only minutes before they went off.
And this was not to be my last close call. Six months later, on August 15, 2015, my bus crept past the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok’s downtown rush hour traffic. Once we got a few blocks away, I heard the bus backfire. Well, Bangkok’s buses are nearly fifty years old so I thought nothing of it … until I got home. Suddenly, my telephone rang. One of my translators was on the other end. She asked if I was okay. I said yes.
And that’s when I got the news: Terrorist bombing. Narrowly missed me. Twenty dead. One hundred and twenty-five wounded. The Erawan Shrine and downtown Bangkok devastated. Days later, I was able to determine that my bus was one of the last to clear that shrine before the bomb went off. Had we been just one stop light later, the death toll might have been about 70 people more.
So, that’s been the result of gun control in Thailand. People normally resort to bombs here, but it is also not uncommon to hear of rural citizens building their own basic guns from scratch. So much for gun control in Thailand.
The Middle East is not far from here and I have been through several of those countries. Over there, they also seem to like bombs. Only their bombs are much bigger than those in Thailand. Sometimes they even use cars or, when all of that is in short supply, they might use a good old-fashioned sword, or even throw you off a roof if you’re really unlucky.
England is not all that far from there and I’ve been there, too. They have strict gun control in England. So instead of guns, they use acid. England had a record last year, pushing nearly 450 acid attacks, most of which were in London alone. One unlucky chap had his entire face dissolved away and now struggles to sleep because he has no eyelids to close. They keep falling off again.
Take Japan, another place I’ve traveled, as another example. There, they just fill subways with poison gas or figure out much more labor intensive ways to kill you, often involving a knife. You tend to die really slowly, so you get to feel every blow as you get stabbed over and over. From Japan, my home country of America is not all that far by plane. You can get there in less than a day. Although many people in Asia think that America has no gun control, that’s not true.
There are places with strict gun control in America, at least in major cities with progressive governments. That must work really well, right? Well, maybe not. Chicago has already had more than 249 shooting victims this year, and we’re not even three months in. Boston has been deemed “a shooter’s paradise” by Boston Magazine. Last year, not only were there plenty of shootings in the city, but Boston Magazine reported 96 percent of the perpetrators in non-fatal shootings are never arrested. How about New York? There were 998 shootings in 2016. Fort Lauderdale? Mass shooting at the airport in January, 2017. San Francisco? Plenty of shootings.
In fact, all major American cities have gun-related deaths every year and many of the smaller cities do, too. All kinds of creative gun control efforts have been made in many of these cities. Sometimes it’s a law, sometimes it’s a buy-back, and sometimes it’s just absurd. But, no matter what has ever been tried, gun-related deaths continue.
Despite a few hints of sarcasm and dark humor here, I do hang my head in sadness when it comes to gun control. I wish that I could tell you that my life in Bangkok is better with very few guns in the city, but now I have to watch out for bombs.
I wish that I could tell you that gun control worked in England, but there you have to watch out for acid. I wish that I could tell you that I was safe in the Middle East, but there you have to watch out for, well, pretty much everything. I wish that I could tell you that gun control worked in Japan, but there you might have to watch out for poison gas, knives, or maybe even an errant sword. I wish that I could tell you that gun control worked in China, but there you have to watch out for mass stabbings.
I also wish that I could tell you that gun control brought about more civil governments in most of the countries that we’ve spoken of, but with the notable exception of Japan — a highly insular island nation — I have to say that many of the governments have become more oppressive in countries that have gun control, because they know that the people will struggle to rise up if they are unarmed.
Each of the countries that I’ve ticked off is a unique nation state. Each has a unique culture and unique history. But, no matter which country or region it is, gun control has failed to prevent bad actors from doing horrific things.
At its worst, gun control fails to keep guns out of the hands of the bad guys. At its best, gun control may keep the guns out of the hands of the bad guys, but then they just resort to acid, knives, cars, trucks, roofs, windows or any other number of horrifying means.
So, what can America do to address its mass shooting epidemic? First, America needs to have a frank conversation with Hollywood about the gratuitous violence that routinely sweeps the silver screen. Today’s youth are exposed to a massive number of ever more realistic shooting scenes, and that needs to change.
Second, America’s leaders need to have a frank discussion with video game manufacturers as to the gratuitous level of violence and shootings in ever more realistic video games. Finally, Americans need to understand that mass shootings are a symptom of a cultural problem, not of the freedom to own a gun. If anything, Americans should be discussing prevalence of gratuitous violence in the culture, not how to implement stricter gun control laws. The country needs to stop its moral decay and return to a focus on well-functioning nuclear families.
In conclusion, I really do wish that gun control could work to resolve today’s terrorist bombings and other mass-killings. Sadly though, in this age, directions to create all kinds of deadly low-tech weapons of mass destruction are readily available on the internet. In the end, no matter where in the world I have been, gun control has not only failed to solve the problem of violence, but has also often created a so-called cure that sometimes turns out to be worse than the disease.