'Americans love their guns': Chinese microbloggers mock US firearms culture
Recent shooting incidents in the United States have inspired a flurry of conversation on the Chinese internet
In the wake of Ferguson and the accidental death of a shooting instructor in Arizona, US gun culture has been a hot topic on the minds of Chinese social media users for the last several weeks.
“Americans love guns” was the common stereotype echoed from a number of commentators on Chinese social network Weibo, where debates on United States domestic affairs have been trending ever since the April 9th police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.
On Monday, the news of the death of 39-year-old Charles Vacca at the hands of a nine-year-old girl only added further fuel to the conversation. Vacca, an instructor at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona, was accidentally shot through the head while teaching the girl how to fire an Uzi sub-machine gun.
WATCH: The moments before a girl accidentally shoots her instructor dead
“If Americans start teaching their children how to use an Uzi at such a young age, it’s no wonder that shootings in the United States occur so frequently,” one Weibo microblogger wrote as news of the incident emerged. “And [owning and using guns] is still considered a ‘normal’ thing in the US, simply because it’s a so-called ‘democratic’ country.”
“I think China is right to prohibit firearms,” another wrote, “It makes things safer, and if this [sort of disaster] was only an accident, just imagine an actual dispute.”
On Thursday, pro-Beijing mouthpiece Global Times published a cartoon depicting their view of the Arizona accident.
— Emily Rauhala (@emilyrauhala) August 28, 2014
America’s complex relationship with firearms has long been a topic of fascination in China, likely because of the relative rarity of guns in the county. Multiple news portals such as Guancha.cn – a site resembling a Chinese-language version of The Huffington Post – have topic pages solely devoted to “US shootings”.
“Obama has spoken at so many ‘sad occasions’ [caused by gun-related deaths] already, and will likely continue to do so in the future,” the topic page’s description reads. “The price of gun freedom is the need to live in the confines of fear. Legal gun ownership may reduce crime rates, but mortality rates continue to escalate. Whether owning guns leads to a reduction in crime or an increase in massacres is a constant topic of controversy amongst the public. Is it guns that are at fault, people, or the political system itself?”
Gun incidents like Ferguson and their resulting outcry have also provided China's state media with ample ammunition for arguing that America must handle its domestic issues before “trying to play the role of an international human rights judge and defender”, as argued in a recent Xinhua editorial.
But despite this rhetoric, not all Chinese observers were critical of the United States’ firearm laws.
“The little girl shouldn’t have been using the gun in the first place,” one Weibo user commented on news of the Arizona shooting. “If you really know how to responsibly use an Uzi, and understand the damage it can cause, you definitely won’t be casually shot… I think that it’s fine for citizens to legally own firearms [if they know what they’re doing].”
A January study by Yale University scientists found that gun-related injuries hospitalise or kill over 7,000 children and adolescents each year in the US.