Inasmuch as one would want to avoid the issue of gun control, the pervasiveness of the subject seems to keep building. This can be directly attributed to the increasing number of cases in the United States wherein guns have been utilized to inflict pain and suffering on a major scale. The “massacres” at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, and Columbine High School in Colorado have catapulted the issue of gun control into worldwide consciousness.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, 364,483 people were killed by gun violence in the US between 1999 and 2010. Consequently, pro-gun individuals and institutions such as the National Rifle Organization are facing greater scrutiny, while debaters and pundits on the right to bear arms (Second Amendment of the United States Constitution) have become as ubiquitous as the news stories.
United Nations World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb Rifai during the first-ever World Travel & Tourism Council’s Regional Summit, held last year in Cancun, Mexico, said that “an eye-for-an-eye approach would make the world go blind.” A quote that was made famous by Nelson Mandela. While I agree with both Mr. Rifai and Mr. Mandela, I can’t help but wonder: what if your enemy is already blind? Blind in the sense that there is no sound logic to their violent behavior other than pure hatred or even more unfortunate, their actions are merely to quench their thirst for violence? At which point is it acceptable to say enough is enough?
Framing these questions from a travel and tourism perspective, it came down to one glaring and yet simple question: If you were allowed to carry a gun on a flight, would you? Beyond the obvious (such as a bullet going off and puncturing a hole or holes on an aircraft causing depressurization), I have set out to find how travelers feel about this question. The amalgamation of responses is quite expansive. But, that was to be expected given that the issue of “gun control” is one that is immensely polarizing, even though both sides are arguing for the very same thing–safety.
For Hawaii-resident Jeff Sumitani, he would carry his gun on a flight not for the reason that one would think. He said: “As with anything, if it’s rare or expensive, I would rather have it with me. [The] same thing with a gun. I [would] rather take care of it on the plane instead of letting the airline handle it without my supervision.”
Sara Horton, a housewife from Utah, said she would carry a gun on a flight for protection. “If guns were allowed on aircraft, I would be for carrying onto the aircraft. I would hope that very strict screening and background checks would be done to allow this to happen. I want to keep my family safe wherever I go, and unfortunately, this world is only becoming less safe.”
Mrs. Horton was born in Wyoming, which is known as a major hunting destination in the United States and is married to Matt Horton, a former Navy. She said: “I do not own a personal gun, but Matt does. So, we take it on roadtrips all the time and he carries when possible for safety.”
According to her, they always have the gun during camping trips “to protect ourselves from any unexpected wildlife such as bears.” She added, “We have never had to use it, but it does decrease the anxiety of the unexpected.” Her pro-guns on a flight stance is a reflection of how she generally feels about guns. “Just like camping, I feel that the anxiety of the unexpected would be lifted, while traveling. I feel that people would be less likely to commit crime if they knew other people had guns.”
She also said she does know how to use a gun and that “we go out and practice every once in awhile.”
The thought of guns being allowed on a flight, however, does not sit well with Puerto Rico resident Raúl J. Colón. Though he has put in eight and a half years of combined service in the US Army and Army Reserves, he strongly objects to the idea of guns in the sky. “Guns are items which are created to destroy, injure, and kill,” he said. “Yes, you can use them for self-defense, but carrying one does not make you safer unless you are highly-trained and with a team of other highly-trained folks.”
For this former US military personnel, guns are rightfully banned on flights. “I think they need to focus more on preventing weapons [from] getting on planes instead of allowing everyone to bring [them].”
Unlike Mrs. Horton, the Puerto Rican native, who also has experience with guns, feels safer without guns on board. “Keeping weapons out of enclosed places where people can’t escape easily gives me a better sense of peace,” he said.
Mr. Colón lamented the fact that “in the US, handing a weapon to someone is easier than grabbing a small credit card.” Based on accessibility, his argument is sound. The process for acquiring a credit card is far more stringent than obtaining a gun, depending on the state and county that you live in. In most states, it’s as simple as walking into a gun store, passing a background check, and walking out with your new pistol or rifle. Depending on the type of firearm and state regulations, a waiting period may be imposed. Given that registration is not required (a concept that mostly only applies to pistols), the background check could even potentially be avoided by conducting the purchase via private party sale. However, specific laws vary immensely from state to state, or even county to county, some states/counties even requiring a permit just to purchase or own a firearm at all.
Then there is Devin Roberts. Born in Marysville, Washington, now residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, he is a self-proclaimed patriot and has aspirations of joining the US Marines or the Army in the near future. For him, the answer is a resounding yes! “I would, and for the same reason I would carry one anywhere else,” he said. “I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”
When asked who he thinks should be allowed to own guns, he said: “There’s a lot of gray area with that question. The answer should be ‘anyone.’ Gun-safety should be something every child is taught from a young age. But in this day [and] age, [this is] rare, at best. So, the best answer right now would be anyone who is competent, takes safety seriously, and has at least some experience with guns.”
The perpetrators of the Columbine Massacre and the Virginia Tech Massacre were males around Mr. Roberts’ age, so his point of view is both curious and significant. What sets him apart from those guys? “I actually value the lives of others and my own. I would only ever use a firearm to harm another human if it was justified. Not only that, but being an advocate for gun rights. I know that committing such an act would absolutely hinder the efforts of those like me all across the United States. [It’s] a matter of mental stability, again touching on that gray area I mentioned earlier. Lawful gun-owners own their guns for the purpose of defense, not offense.”
According to him, “anyone with a negative outlook on firearms almost certainly has only one reason for having that viewpoint–inexperience.” He “could almost guarantee” that a person who has any opposition to firearms has neither ever handled a gun nor been taught gun safety. Both of which he claimed to have had, so he should be allowed to have his gun on a flight then? “I don’t necessarily think I should be allowed to because granting me that right would mean granting everybody that right. Not everyone is competent enough to handle that sort of responsibility. In order for everyone to be able to carry, especially in a situation such as on an airplane, everyone also must be level-headed and know when to fire, which is an unrealistic expectation. Granted, while most people who carry are educated in their own right in terms of gun safety, allowing the public to carry in an environment such as an airline presents the same risks as allowing people to carry in any other public place. ”
Such as? “Well, in any given situation, the only people likely to carry are those who are experienced with firearms and gun safety. You have to consider that anyone who doesn’t have that kind of experience would think twice about handling a gun in general, let alone carrying one on their person. Of course, allowing the carrying of firearms on an airline does open the window for inexperienced gun-owners or even what most would consider ‘crazies,’ such as the people involved in the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings, to wreak havoc on a large scale.”
He added: “On top of this, any bystander in that situation would ultimately be trapped, with absolutely no means of escape. The only logical way the permission of firearms on flights or even in general could be completely safe would be to implement some sort of permit or license to own a firearm, involving a psychological screening of sorts, almost parallel to acquiring a driver’s license. It saddens me for the state of society to have degraded to the point that this is the only logical answer. There was once a time when going to the store to buy a gun was like buying a gallon of milk, a time when people had the common sense not to go and do the things that have led so many to fear firearms as they do today.”
Ultimately for him, the whole idea of gun-ownership/safety and use varies from person to person, which is why he believes “certain restrictions are necessary.”
When asked when he first became aware of his affinity towards guns, he said: “I have no idea, really. [It’s] just something I’ve developed an interest in over time. I realize the importance of firearms for the safety of the public. That, and it gives [me] a sense of security. I know I’ll be able to protect myself no matter what the situation.”
Among the viewpoints expressed above, the underlying concern expressed in allowing guns on a flight is safety. Interestingly, this is true for all the respondents whether they are for or against guns being allowed on board a flight. With the exception of Mr. Sumitani, the issue of safety was directly correlated with violence in all the others’ viewpoint. He was concerned about the care of a valuable property and there was no hint of violence being a factor in his answer. This leads me to question why not many more of us feel the way Mr. Sumitani does. Have we so devalued ourselves to the point that we are in fact moving backwards in the evolutionary chain? Why do most of us associate guns with violence? Mrs. Horton would feel safer bringing a gun on a flight, while Mr. Colón wants to prevent passengers from bringing them. Mr. Roberts is not fully convinced that everyone has the capability of bearing that type of responsibility, but would definitely bring his gun on a flight. Let the discourse begin! Which side are you on? Email your response to [email protected]
In tomorrow’s edition, a former Marine sergeant-turned-Mixed Martial Arts fighter will share his perspective on this issue. His answer may surprise you, so watch your inbox.