The latest mass shooting in the United States, which left at least 26 dead in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas, has provoked waves of despair and outrage, as fresh calls for increased gun control have been predictably met with the requisitely insipid, wearisome retorts about personal safety and the Second Amendment.
While America’s gun fetish continues to blight the idea of American eminence, those halfway around the world, in China, have taken note. State-owned Global Times snorted, “Mass shootings worsen U.S. human rights,” while Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday sent condolences to Donald Trump.
Of course, neither Xi nor the Global Times — insofar as any leader or slavering rag can — speaks for the Chinese people. We went out to ask local Chinese about their reactions to the Sutherland Springs tragedy, and whether they understand why the very mention of gun control legislation will cause, in the average American, a sinking feeling of despondence.
Editor’s note: In a droll bit of coincidence, as I type at this very moment from SupChina’s WeWork office, our entire floor has been called together in the lobby to listen to an NYPD officer explain what to do in case we encounter an active shooter. He instructs us on the “ABC” of response — avoid, barricade, confront. “Bring potential weapons” such as fire extinguishers and aerosol cans, he says. “I see some knives hanging.” (“Hot coffee?” someone asks. The reply is, “Sure.”)
“If the gunshot is coming from below, you may not want to go down,” he says. “Up to you, you make that decision on your own. Do the best you can.”
‘I trust that guns hold a deeply rooted place in the American psyche’
Fan Shuhong 范书红, 29, Chinese instructor and translator
As a Chinese, no matter what, I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand the importance of gun rights to America, especially in light of the recent spate of mass shootings. Of course, you can find lots of reasons for violence: anger, fear, discord are all on the rise; terrorism is indeed spreading…but the scary thing is — (sometimes) there’s no reason to be found, there’s no why, it’s just a murderer’s personal choice.
With each incident, I’m guessing even the most kindhearted people might begin to doubt humanity. If we let human nature go unchecked, and only vainly seek answers after the tragedies have occurred, then is the law and the government really doing what it ought to? If the government can’t provide citizens with a basic sense of safety, what’s the use of government? To tell you the truth, I’m really surprised that after so many mass shootings, the American government still hasn’t been moved to act.
In China, even riding the subway requires going through security checks, and there’s even strict knife-carrying restrictions. But walking Beijing’s streets — even at midnight — doesn’t make me nervous; contrast that with my time working in Washington, D.C., walking home by myself after 11 p.m., when even a 10-minute stretch of road would give me a strong sense of unease, even if I knew that the area I was in was very safe.
I’m sure there are those who want to jump in to say, “You’ve clearly been brainwashed. Freedom and democracy are sacred and inviolable!” But if someone else has a gun and I don’t, then their free will might endanger my safety; this isn’t the type of freedom I want. Because this kind of freedom isn’t at all equal, and might have grave consequences.
As for control, this is the more difficult question. I’m not sure how high the gun ownership rate is in the U.S., but I trust it’s basically impossible to eliminate all guns. And I trust that guns hold a deeply rooted place in the American psyche. A few days ago, I was watching Stranger Things and saw a scene in which the minutia of firearm use were explicated. This is unimaginable in a Chinese show.
If gun use is difficult to control, then maybe firearm sales need to be restricted, or production gradually reduced (though gun dealers surely won’t easily let this happen). The Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, so it’s time we made some tweaks to bring it more in line with modern society. If top-down approaches don’t work, maybe we should try something bottom-up?
‘As for gun control, I don’t think it’s necessary’
Feng Mingyu 冯明玉, 21, law student
(Italics represent response given in English)
First of all, I’m sorry to hear the news. Everyone only lives once, no one should willfully deprive someone else of his life, this is cruel and inhuman. I hope all is well with the deceased in heaven, and also that the injured and their family can pull themselves together. God bless America.
Rather than obsessively studying gun control, I think the government should focus more on the criminals’ motives. If they’re dissatisfied with society, the government needs to work hard to resolve social conflicts. If they have mental problems, the government should consider improving society’s access to psychological consultation. China has a saying, “Treating symptoms requires treating root causes.” It means you can’t just look at the surface of a thing, you have to delve into the cause underneath, that’s how you find an effective solution.
As for gun control, I don’t think it’s necessary. The United States Constitution, any clause, can be amended according to future conditions, but the people’s right to bear arms absolutely cannot be changed, hence why it’s been written into the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This law not only gives people the right to bear arms, but on a deeper level, it acts as a check on power. My father is a lawyer, and he’s always advocated America’s system of (legislative, executive, and judicial) checks and balances — it’s the perfect form for organizing state political power. If, in a country, only police and military have guns, and the people are unarmed, then if they’re oppressed, how are they supposed to fight back against violence?
The constitution is a country’s fundamental law, and the stability of the constitution is conducive to the stability of the country. It’s my understanding that the law is paramount in American society, and the people’s esteem for the law is no less than their faith in God. If a right granted to you by law is then stripped away, is that not robbery? Therefore, I don’t support gun control in the United States.
‘Oh, another one’
Bruce Ho 賀紫城, 26, attorney
When I first saw news of the Texas shooting, my reaction was, “Oh, another one.” I didn’t even bother looking into the details and knew this would happen all over again: people praying, sending condolences, and saying not to politicize the tragedy.
On gun control, I think Americans — not just politicians, but also gun-owning civilians — are the most stubborn people in the world. Whenever there’s a shooting, they never think of how to change the laws and regulations so that these shootings don’t happen again. Instead, they focus on politicizing gun control, yelling that any form of change or reform would infringe on their right to own guns. I personally think this is complete nonsense. I am an aviation fan. Whenever we have a plane crash or accident, the aviation industry will find the cause, then change the laws and regulations to make sure the same things don’t happen again, because people have lost lives and loved ones. That’s why flying airplanes today is becoming safer. Somehow, on the issue of gun control, Americans don’t want any change, and even want looser laws and regulations, as if the lost lives don’t matter at all.
I just feel America is not getting safer with each shooting incident. America should learn from all countries — not just China — where mass shootings don’t happen. The problem now isn’t whether gun control is political or infringing on people’s gun ownership rights. The problem is how to make society better and safer for every individual. Many gun-owning Americans do not have the logic and mindset to build a safer society. They only think of themselves — that because they love guns, everyone should have guns. That is an incredibly selfish mindset. When people only look out for their own self-interests, society will never become safer.
Ou Shuoyi 欧硕一, middle school student
I feel panic-stricken just thinking about it. I can’t imagine people around me suddenly getting gunned down. How unsafe must this environment be if the victims even included children who are my age?
I think America has a gun problem. I heard on the internet that you don’t even need to use your real name to purchase guns. I can’t believe this. If people around me, who might have issues with classmates, suddenly got the idea to get a gun, that’d cause us great distress. Everyone deserves to live in a safe environment and shouldn’t have to worry about these things. They shouldn’t have to worry about the possibility of getting hurt at school, at work, or during a trip to the supermarket. It’s not a pleasant feeling.
Cao Yali 曹亚丽, director of feasibility and development in a leading global hospitality company
I understand that the right to bear arms has its origins in history and that it embodies the values of freedom. But what seems to be a more critical point is that the NRA’s political clout is incredibly big. It is also particularly savvy at manipulating popular opinion through clever tactics. Whenever there is a mass shooting, the stocks of firearm suppliers will rise sharply because they know that people will actually want to buy more guns for a sense of safety. I feel like this has become a vicious cycle, and that the only winners are the firearm distributors.
Li Xianyi 李先一, Ph.D. candidate in philosophy
Americans can possess guns, it’s a freedom provided by law, for many reasons — most importantly, as a function to protect their estate.
But the America of today has police and other armed forces to protect its citizens’ estate, it’s no longer the early days of the republic when weapons were necessary for self-protection. They ought to have strict gun control.
Jin Aowen 金翱文, British-Chinese artist
Heartbroken. Yes, yes [in response to whether America has a gun problem]. Study China’s ability to block information: Don’t let the assailant get media attention, which might inspire copycats.