Dear tourists, gun violence in America is just part of the experience
Robert Delaney says the latest controversy in the US over the 3D printing of guns may raise questions about what a visitor to the country might expect – including worry about personal safety – but the intrepid traveller should not be deterred
It’s been weeks since America’s last gun massacre. Perhaps the extreme heat in much of the US recently has the country’s gun-owning psychopaths waiting indoors, plotting their deadly acts in air-conditioned comfort. They probably don’t want to risk missing their targets because of a sweaty grip.
Those wondering about the lull in urgent headlines from the US about gunmen unleashing their rage in public venues and school cafeterias should know there’s likely to be a new wave of firearm violence on the way, thanks to downloadable 3D printing instructions for “ghost guns”.
A Texas-based company called Defense Distributed reached a settlement with the US government in June that allowed them to make available online their blueprints for the untraceable and undetectable firearms.
Defense Distributed suffered a setback last week when a federal judge issued a temporary cease and desist order that forced the company to remove the downloadable instructions from its website.
The issue goes back to court this week to determine whether an injunction is needed. However complicated this case becomes, you can bet on an outcome favouring Defense Distributed, given the love that Americans have for their guns and the National Rifle Association.
Gun rights have always distinguished the US from other countries. After Americans won independence from Great Britain, the right to bear arms has solidified into the nation’s historical narrative as a sacred measure of redress against the tyranny of government.
The symbolic power of the US Constitution’s Second Amendment has grown strong enough to counter the anguish so many Americans must suffer in the wake of the country’s regular outbursts of gun violence, so printed guns, Americans and gun rights fit together as naturally as luggage stores and going-out-of-business sales.
The likelihood that many more Americans are likely to be packing plastic heat in the future might give tourists pause when considering taking a holiday in the country. That would be a mistake.
As a tourist in the US, your chances of taking a bullet might be higher than the national average, mostly because you’re likely to be in populated areas favoured by maniacs looking to inflict carnage. But no doubt the chance of you being shot – whether in Times Square, Venice Beach or Mount Rushmore – is still somewhere below 50 per cent even if every American prints a gun. Even lower if you know what sort of precautions to take!
So think of it this way: printed guns in America will add a new dimension of excitement in a way that won’t necessarily raise the likelihood of you coming home from your holiday in a body bag.
These firearms can’t deliver multiple rounds. At least not until some demented genius makes available downloadable instructions for 3D printed bump stocks.
Until then, you can check out main street in your favourite US city knowing that someone in your immediate vicinity is likely to have a gun and perhaps an itchy trigger finger but limited in the number of shots he can squeeze off. (No need for the female pronoun here; the majority of mass murderers in the US are white men.)
That makes it important that you’re always thinking about where you should run once you hear the first pop. Is there a restroom nearby that’s lockable from the inside? Is there a dumpster you can dive into? Are you wearing a Kevlar vest?
Exciting, right? Kind of like Westworld.
Watch: Donald Trump suggests arming teachings with guns to prevent mass shootings
We need to be realistic, though. Sometimes there’s just no escape from a good ol’ American gunman.
Let’s say you end up getting shot even after you’ve cased your surroundings and identified the best exit. Consider that American emergency rooms are world class when it comes to gunshot wounds. Your chances of staging a full recovery are better in the US than anywhere else.
And who else among your friends can show off a scar proving that they’ve taken part in a quintessentially American experience?
Robert Delaney is the South China Morning Post's US bureau chief, based in New York