This past weekend a 19 year old student from China, who was studying in the local University here was shot and killed. A woman crashed into the back of her car. She then proceeded to walk up to the girls driver side window and unload her gun into the girl. Causing the girl to hit the accelerator and crash into a car with 5 people in it, one of whom was a pregnant woman. The 19 year old girl died but the others were fine. There was an outpouring from the 3,000 Chinese students that attend the University. To me, it seemed like there was a lot less compassion from the American students and general public here. It’s as though they have become desensitized to it. This made me think a lot about my experience with guns since I moved here.
My first exposure to a gun in America was actually within the first couple of days of my arrival. I spent my first night staying in an airport hotel and then picked up a rental car to move to the next place. I moved into an extended stay hotel, somewhat close to where I would work. It was there that I saw my first gun. A family got on the elevator with me, they were dressed in cowboy gear and each carrying what looked to be rifles. I know nothing about guns…I felt a little uneasy but made peace with it in my mind and convinced myself that they were at some dress up event and the guns were likely relics that couldn’t even be shot any more.
Within a week, I moved into my first apartment. I paid out the ass for a place in a really nice area. I had read online that Phoenix had the highest grand theft auto rate in the country and had several thousand gangs! I wanted to make sure that I lived somewhere gated and safe. I moved to North Scottsdale. One of the fanciest, most posh places in the Valley. A place not so lovingly referred to as Snottsdales. The extortionate rent was worth my safety. I figured, after a year I would know the valley better and could move somewhere a little cheaper. So imagine my surprise when I went to check out the pool and found two rough looking guys, one with hardly a tooth in his head holding a handgun, looking at it with the chamber out. I got scared and quickly left.
Facebook brought out the timeline feature a few years ago and this year brought out the ‘On this day’ feature…you can see what you posted on this day in recent years. I knew that I was putting on a brave face and trying to stay positive when I moved here. In fact, I loved it here for my first 2.5 years. Phoenix was unlike anywhere I had ever been. European cities are nice but this was very different. It was an adventure. A new place to explore. Find good pubs, restaurants, meet people, get immersed in the culture etc. I find it amazing now that I seemingly ignored what was going on around me. I’m not sure when things changed exactly. My guess is that I went home for a visit and got sad leaving and started to look at Phoenix in a different light. Not just Phoenix, in fact, all of America.
People in Ireland and just people outside of the US say some things that are simply not true about America and Americans. Americans are smart and very hard working. They have the same wants and needs as anybody else and although the US government does some atrocious things most people are just trying to get by. The US gun culture is something that has been a source of preaching for non-Americans and a beacon of what’s wrong in America and having moved here now, I can say that it’s actually understated. You have to live here to realize just how bad it is.
Arizona is only 33rd in the country for rate of gun ownership. Arizona permits concealed and non-concealed weapons. I’m not sure which is more terrifying. Knowing someone has a gun or not knowing. I have met neighbors going about my business carrying their gun in plain sight. On two separate occasions, I have seen neighbors being reckless with guns. One, a chubby fella carrying a rife pressed against his chest with his forearm holding it there, while carrying a bag in his hand and ammunition in his other hand. The gun was bouncing up and down as he walked. If there was a bullet in there, it could have gone off and hit anybody. I saw another neighbor holding a handgun pointing out in his hand as he carried boxes from his truck into his apartment with the same hand. This is the type of people who can legally own guns and it’s terrifying!
One year I lived beside guys from India and it was a relief because I figured the chances of a domestic dispute and shooting were a lot less likely. I moved to a nice area in a place called Chandler. We thought it was a quiet area. Our first week living there, there was a report of a man with a gun being seen in an area close to a school. The school was put on lockdown. People on Facebook and news sites commented on the story about how ridiculous it was that this was even being reported…that it’s in the constitution and under Arizona law he’s allowed to carry his gun out in the open. 4 hours after the story broke, the same guy got in a shoot out with the police….
Last year I took the I-10 to and from work. You may have heard of the I-10 last year in the news. That’s because there was a ‘freeway shooter’. A person with a gun taking potshots at cars on a busy freeway. The shootings lasted several days with 11 reported incidents. Much like the missing Malaysian airlines plane story exposing the amount of filth floating in the Pacific Ocean, the freeway shooter story exposed the amount of shootings that happen on that freeway on a normal weekly basis as the police struggled to figure out if the 11 shootings were all actually related!!!
I also happened to live about 6 miles away from a shooting spree. A man went around Mesa shooting people, including going into a college, demanding a kids car keys and then shooting at him. I lived half a mile from a native reserve that also just happened to be quite active for shootings. I worked in a company that had multiple offices in the area. The office a block away from mine had a workplace shooting….a man found out his wife that also worked there was having an affair with a co-worker. He shot the guy and then shot himself in front of his wife in the break room.
The most disturbing aspect of the culture to me is not just the shootings themselves. We have some shootings in Ireland…not many, most are in Dublin or Limerick but the shootings that occur are almost entirely from suicide or gang crimes. Criminals shooting other criminals. It’s not a good thing either but over here the shootings are not just on criminals. There’s shootings related to road rage. Obviously, there’s been the mass shootings on civilian targets. Work place shootings. Police shootings (many on unarmed men). Home invaders being shot (usually unarmed). Suicide by cop. Out of all of the shootings, even the one that happened at my company, I think the most disturbing to me was the one in which a 21 year old working in a petrol station was shot in the chest and killed because the shooter thought he was taking too long to give him his change. I worked in a petrol station for 8 years! At this point, I wouldn’t want my kids to work in retail or a service job here. Hell, I don’t think they would be safe going to school or just living here in general.
I was going to move to Seattle. I had thought things would be different up there and they are to a degree. Seattle is a much smaller city but there’s still shootings. (There was an accidental shooting in a cinema just this week) It’s much more socialist but there’s still massive social problems. Others suggested that I move to California, which I found laughable as California is where most of the notorious serial killers lived. Also, obviously there’s been several mass shootings there in the last couple of years. I don’t think it matters if a state is liberal or conservative, left or right…the American attitude seems to be that when met with confrontation, you should escalate. People cum in their shorts when reading stories of a home intruder being shot and killed. Human life outside of you and your families lives don’t matter here. I guess that’s why there’s no Vietnam era type of protests about the terrible atrocities being carried out in the name of the American people. Underneath it all, with people wanting a gun for home protection, to prevent a tyrannical government, because the criminals have weapons, it’s clear that people here live in fear and I’m one of them! I’m scared over here.
I was sick at Christmas. On Christmas Eve, I knew I would be alone the next day so I went to my nearest grocery store to get some food. It was a Wal-Mart. They had armed Tempe police officers dotted around the store. I try to not go out after 8pm for a few reasons. It seems to be a busy time for shootings at places like Wal-Mart, like CVS and because drink driving is a huge problem here and that’s usually close to the time that Happy Hour ends.
America has given me a great opportunity. I have made and saved more money than I ever could while living in Ireland. The only way I could have made more money, is if I went to Saudi Arabia or UAE. If I went there, I would not have got to experience the country I was born in. I would not have met my fiance. I would not have had all of the great experiences that I have had here BUT I think my love affair with the US has fizzled out. Right now I’m just biding time to leave. I might move back to Ireland, I might compromise and move to a different country if my other half would prefer that but one thing is for sure, I want to leave America.