Beware: a rant will commence below, one of the few I will post here.
The shooting at Virginia Tech has dominated Japanese news; it is getting more coverage than the shooting today of the mayor of Nagasaki (here in "gun-free" Japan). NHK just had an "expert" on US gun culture on. Ekisupaato-san said that the reason people still have guns in America is twofold: (1) the level of mistrust is so high that they feel they need them and (2) they "blindly" believe a gun is the only way to deal with life-threatening violence. He was followed by Mrs. Hatori, whose son was killed in New Orleans when he went to the wrong house by mistake for a Halloween party and didn't understand "Freeze!" Then came footage from "Bowling for Columbine," by Michael Moore, another "expert," one I'll ignore.
The pontificating NHK "expert" is apparently so well-versed in America gun culture that he doesn't bother to talk (or know?) about the 2nd Amendment and why it was enshrined in the Constitution (Penn & Teller can tell you more). Mrs. Hatori says she still can't understand why Americans have guns after all her efforts to have them banned (Again, that pesky U.S. Constitution, dagnabbit. Why can't the Americans just get rid of that thing?). I'm sorry for her great personal loss, but I wonder what she thinks about foreigners who come to Japan to urge Japanese to change deep-seated cultural practices and customs that are "wrong."
Let's look at those two points from the NHK "expert" again. As for mistrust, consider this excerpt from the Pew Research Center report, "Americans and Social Trust: Who, Where and Why"),
An International PerspectiveSo, in short, Mr. Expert is essentially wrong about US mistrust. It is probably lower than in Japan, but it is not remarkably low, as he suggests (without any figures, sources, etc.). No surprise there, especially since it fits so well with the stereotype of Americans being nasty soulless capitalists constantly screwing and exploiting each other 24/7/365 since 1776.
The question of what explains social trust - and why certain societies are more trusting than others - has long fascinated social scientists. Many theories have been advanced - personal optimism; voluntary associations; homogeneous societies; equal opportunities; honest governments - but over the years, not all have stood up to empirical scrutiny. Cross-national surveys have found that the highest levels of social trust are in the homogeneous, egalitarian, well-to-do countries of Scandinavia, while the lowest levels of trust tend to be found in South America, Africa and parts of Asia. In these multi-national comparative surveys, the U.S. population ranks in the upper middle range of trust.3
As for Americans "blindly" believing they can protect themselves with guns, what is the alternative? To wait for the police to show up in a couple of minutes, after you've been assaulted, if at all? What does Mr. Expert think one should do, reason with the attacker? Give the attacker what he wants, even if it's your own head? Never will I understand why some people are terrified that others might be willing (and able) to defend themselves. Why do people want to deprive others of the right to defend themselves?
What percentage of people who hate and fear guns do so because they have never handled or been around guns (like why some people hate or fear foreigners, homosexuals, Christians, gaijin, etc.)?