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Iain Overton has been held up at gunpoint, is not a stranger to war zones and knows his way around a gun. Though he is an Englishman, he has some very pointed perceptions of the gun industry in the US and abroad in his new book “The Way of the Gun”. He illustrates how Americans in particular, have a big stake in the gun business.
Gun sales bring in billions of dollars worldwide. Americans alone take home 50 percent of this figure. The perception of fear is a driver of the desire to bear arms. Perceptions of the right to bear arms in America are quite different than Europe. Where are the lines between protection, personal rights, and profits?
Gun Control That Works
There are some dark pieces of the puzzle that have to be addressed that just aren’t being talked about. It is surprising to realize that the rise in injuries from gun violence are not recorded, only fatalities. What is happening with the militarization of our local police force? How dangerous is access to handguns for people that are dealing with thoughts of suicide? Tune in on these eye opening discussions.
– Welcome back to the Urban Monk, Dr. Pedram Shojai here, talking about guns. It’s a big deal. Especially if you live in America. Everyone’s got an opinion, one way or another. There’s a lot of emotions, a lot of charge, and there’s a lot of polarity around this thing. And I get the arguments on both sides, right. Like people have got guns and they’re doing stupid things and I also get the defending liberty and tyranny of evil argument and so there are rational, sensible arguments from people who haven’t really been around much conflict. So, my guest tody, Iain Overton has been, man he’s been in war zones, he’s been in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. He is a journalist who’s covered much conflict and so he has earned the right to have an opinion about guns, and is here to talk to us about what he’s seen globally and what the dynamics are as this gun issue starts to get heated, not just in America, but globally. So Iain, welcome to the show.
– Thanks very much for having me.
– I’m probably just by having an English accent immediately getting the hairs on the back of some of you guys watching necks up because I think, particularly in America I’ve noted that, you know, English men are not normally allowed to talk about guns. It’s like, yeah what’s your opinion got worth but, um, thanks for having me on the show. But, you’re the reason we have a right to bear arms, you redcoats. So, you know, there’s some historical basis that we can get into but first I want to get into your back story a little bit and just figure out where you got into this gun narrative. I mean, you’ve been a journalist for years.
– Yeah, so, I mean, I think the idea for the book really came to me when I was in Sao Paolo in Brazil. And I was sent out there by ITN, which is a London based news organization, doing some news coverage. And I was producing this package about police brutality in Sao Paolo, and we were called out to this death that occurred the night before, this woman who had been shot by her boyfriend and the thing that really struck me was that she had died around midnight and because gunshots are so frequent in Sao Paolo, her child had basically been lying with his dead mother for the entire night. And when we arrived he had just been carted out and he had been there for like seven hours and he was five years old and on the cusp of memory. And it struck me that when we were reporting on the story, it was almost like the gun was a shadow in the background, it wasn’t the fundamental thing we were reporting on and, look, I’ve been to plenty of war zones, I think around 20 conflict zones in my life, I’ve been held up at gunpoint three times, I’ve been shot at over half a dozen times, I’ve seen people killed, I’ve been to sites of genocide. You know, I’ve pretty much seen the gritty end result of violence, and yet, throughout all of that reporting, the one thing that I thought was absent in that reporting was the gun. We kind of just said somebody was shot but we never focused on what type of gun it was. Now if you flip that on its head, if somebody is decapitated with a kitchen knife people go, oh, my god, it’s a kitchen knife. Why would he do that? But when it’s a gun it’s just like, you know, they were shot and I thought, I looked at the literature, strangely nobody had really written a global overview of the guns role in society. And because once upon a time I used to run a gun club, I’ve been a shooter in sports, I’m a marksman, I’ve been hunting, I’ve realized also that the gun isn’t just something that’s used in genocide and you know, there’s a lot of fun to be had shooting guns, it’s huge amounts of fun. And so, I thought, you know, it’s not the clear cut issue. And that to me, journalistically was fascinating because I realized that you would have very different opinions and different circumstances, so, it sort of sent me off on a journey, both of memory and of reality trying to find out which angle I could take reporting on the global gun culture.
– So, America has a very specific gun culture, obviously, maybe the most kind of aggressive, you know, right to bear arms culture around. So, let’s come back to America. What is happening internationally with this? Like, you know, are there some countries that have similar laws in America but you see things play out differently or is America just that much, that much further ahead of the pack and being lax about its gun laws?
– Well, America is one of the very few countries in the world that has a constitutional right to bear arms. And the other countries where there is a constitutional right but don’t really exercise it with the same sort of fervor that America does. I think that America is a kind of a curious situation where not only is this right to bear arms constitutionally driven but also there’s this very long legacy, you even mentioned it yourself about this sense of persecution from the state, whether it’s the English or Europeans fleeing, despotic regimes in Europe and elsewhere coming to America. So there is a kind of a belief, you know, if you don’t have guns, then you know, the state could take control and look at the holocaust sort of argument. I get that. And the other thing that I think in America that’s kind of unique is, there’s a late capitalism that America personifies. If you produce a gun, the gun produces profits and those profits can go back into marketing and lobbying for more guns. Whereas, you know, if you run a charity like I do in the UK that tries to investigate the impact of violence around the world, you know, I’m arguing with the absence of something. Nothing comes of nothing to quote King Lear and there’s no profit made from no guns in terms of no lobbying to have less guns in the world. So, I think the American caps its logic, it means that guns just, they’re almost like a virus, proliferating, proliferating. And it’s the kind of things is set between vehement belief that it is your right to bear arms and the market reality of the production of guns that come together in a unique way in America.
– So, I remember, I was in a guns shop, I was interviewing a bunch of guys right around the time of our last election and I talked to the gun shop owner and he said, man, Obama has been by far the best person for business we’ve ever had. I mean, it was amazing to me that this guy was a die-hard starch republican but he was voting for a democrat to stay in office. He was really upset that Trump might take it because he thought his gun sales were going to go down and it was this real weird disparity in kind of, self enlightened interest versus, you know, your own kind of moral ethics and so, yeah, it is a huge industry. There’s a lot to be said for, you know, the business of guns. I want to go back to the foundational stuff real quick. Like, I get it, right, like, you know, the evil empires emerge, governments can overstep and you know, the liberties that the ancestors of the, you know, the people that lived, you know, in America, like I’m a first generation immigrant but I get it, right, is my great, great grandfather bled for these liberties and it’s my duty to protect it, right? So, now, that translates into something that is very different than what we, you know, had then and how, in your opinion, is this out of control? Is this starting to become something it wasn’t supposed to be?
– Yeah. Well, I think, partly I think it’s just about the sheer ubiquity of guns in American society the way that Pandora’s Box is really opened and you know, you’ve shifted from this well regulated militia arguments so anyone can have it, some background checks, some sort of bide the buyer. You’re kind of just following some sort of mad logic, even today there are states debating whether you can take a gun into a courtroom in the United States. I mean, you know, wow, that’s just, from a European perspective, we’re like, have these guys gone crazy? But I can understand the philosophy behind it and it’s kind of, if you’re going to have a philosophy, you know, pursue it to the end result. But I think the thing that a lot of people don’t realize, when they analyze gun violence in America is, in primarily handguns, now you’re saying well armed militia, most people when they think of that image, they’re thinking, you know, long guns, you know, could be used in battle for long rifles, well, you know, if the majority ownership in America was long rifles and long guns, you wouldn’t have, I believe so many murders, because people just whip out a handgun, they use it in the moment of fear. The other thing that happens in America, which I think a lot of people don’t report on is the fact that 2/3 of deaths are suicides. And there’s a massive mental health crisis, around 20,000 people shooting themselves every single year. A lot of people who are pro guns going, if they didn’t do it, they’d find another way. But that’s just not true, it’s not borne out of lots and lots of research. The reason is, because the gun is so lethal, you know if you had a suicidal moment, you put a gun in your mouth, you’re going to kill yourself, 99% sure.
– Whereas if you take pills, you’re suicidal moment may just be a cry for help. You may actually recover and go on and not consider suicide again. The other thing we’re checking is missing from the Government database is this. In the last 10 years, American homicides from guns has kind of flat-lined, it’s not risen that much. And yet, guns sales have risen. Now, the NRA and others go point to this and go, see more guns not more gun deaths. We don’t have a problem. The thing that also happens since 9/11 though, is America has had a cohort of medics who have gone to war zones, have come back with huge skill sets in stemming the flow of blood from people shot by guns. And it means that you’ve seen, if you look at CBC data year in year out for the last decade, more and more people have been injured by guns but they’re surviving. And this is a massive burden to the American states because you’ve got a lot of people on disability because they’ve been wounded by guns. And also it’s an untold kind of level of violence a lot of people aren’t really addressing in the news. So, I made some calculations and I think around 100,000 people in the U.S. are being shot every single year. Around 30,000 being killed and around 70,000 just wounded. I’m letting you know over a decade, that’s over a million Americans.
– [Pedram] Wow. That’s a lot of people getting shot. You know, I was watching some footage of this drug war as it goes back and forth and how many guns were being seized in Mexico, across the border. And you know, obviously we’re talking about putting up a wall between us and Mexico and all sorts of really interesting conversations happening around that. But how is this love affair for guns starting to impact our foreign policy, how we interact with our neighbors here?
– Well, it’s very interesting, you picked up on the wall and Trump, Trumps ambitions, actually the curious thing is guns sales have declined slightly under Trump. There’s been a rise of people who voted for Clinton buying guns but generally speaking, gun sales are down and also if he builds a massive wall, yes, it will be a real issue with Mexican’s not coming North, but actually the number of guns flowing South every year, into Mexico, fueling the gun wars and the drug wars, in Mexico and Central America, would come to a trickle. You’re looking at something in the region of 350,000 guns every single year going South and they’ve done surveys and they found over 85% of American firearms dealers in the Southern states rely on the trans-border trade with Mexico to some degree.
– [Pedram] Come on.
– There’s huge numbers of gun violence in America, I mean Mexico, huge levels. You go to Ciudad Jarez, 2nd most dangerous city in the world, next to El Paso, the safest city in America. It’s incredible. But the lunacy of it is when you’ve seen gun laws loosen in let’s say, with the sale of semi-automatic rifles, when they loosened in Texas, gun deaths in Mexico rose. When they didn’t loosen in California, gun deaths in the states just South of California did not rise. So, I think there’s a direct correlation between loose gun laws in the United States and deaths in Central America and Mexico.
– I just looked up the United States Armed Forces all together is about 1.3 million people in the standing Army, and you’re saying there’s 350,000 guns going South every single year, so I mean, we’re talking about every three or four years you’ve got the equivalent of the American standing Army armed, shooting each other South of this border. That’s just–
– If you speak to, I mean I went South, I went to Mexico, went to El Salvador, went to Honduras, I spoke to gang members there. Every single one of them was packing an American firearm or a firearm that had gone through America. So, not only is the logic of the 2nd Amendment having international consequences in terms of gun violence, but there’s also another logic that’s applied, too. The 2nd thing is that because of the, I guess the mindset, that sinks into both governments of America, but also it’s foreign policy, there is some belief you can export democracy and look down the barrel of a gun. Now, I worked on a major analysis that since the beginning of, well since 9/11, the beginning of the war on terror onwards, the American government has given away 1.3 million guns to Iraqi’s and Afghani’s. And then they pulled out and you know, these guns have gone missing, they lost untold numbers. They don’t even know how many they lost. And these are now in the hands of ISIS, unequivocally, and the Taliban. So, the American tax payer actually arms jihadist salafist groups in the Middle East. That’s the other thing, and the final element where I think genuinely American 2nd Amendment has international repercussions is the Americans play big ball when it comes to UN treaties. There’s a very important treaty, the arms trade treaty that was passed in 2014. The American government came out swinging against it so much so that the amnesty international had to ask the NRA to stop telling lies about what the arms trade treaty was about, cause the NRA was going big guns saying we think this arms treaty is going to crunch your civil liberties. There was no indication it was going to reduce domestic arms, but what it meant is the arms trade treaty was not signed up to by the American’s, the Chinese, and the Russians who are the three biggest arms dealers for guns in the world. Now, I honestly think the 2nd Amendment has an impact globally on the entire debate as to what can we do? And when I see wars I’m following in Africa and in the Middle East, I do think to some degree, if America lead more forcefully on stopping the global perforation of arms, then we wouldn’t be seeing these sort of arms flaring up in Central and South America as well. But, politicians hands are completely tied in America because if you even mention the word gun, you’re going to get trolled by 50,000 NRA supporters.
– Yep, yep. How big is the arms trade internationally? What are we talking about in terms of dollars per annum, do you know?
– It’s very difficult to put an entire figure on because there’s huge numbers of elicit trades and legal trades, but you’re looking at the 100 billion mark. But that also includes heavier weapons as well.
– [Pedram] Did you say million or billion?
– 100 billion, yeah.
– What we do know, however, is that the American proportion of the global gun trade is around 50%. So, America, pretty much buys and sells around 50% of the worlds total guns.
– Wow, 100 billion dollars a year. I wonder what the cost of ending hunger is? That’s, you know, there’s a lot of really interesting big numbers getting floated around here. One of the things I’ve seen this year in particular, the last couple of years is this real issue with the police. And this militarization of the police forces in America in particular in response to armed, you know, armed people and so we have all these issues with police shooting minorities and then, you know, people going after the police and it’s really starting to escalate into something very ugly, what’s the effect of these gun laws on the law enforcement here, domestically?
– Well, I mean, what we’re seeing is a massive rise in a kind of militarized police force as you eluded to. So for instance, in the last 30 years, there’s been a 4000% increase in Swat team raids. And these tactical team raids, sometimes enacted in situations that really don’t merit it. So, you’ve had barber shops having Swat team raids. You’ve had little old ladies having their doors broken down, you’ve had grenades thrown into cots where young children are sleeping, and a kid blinded. You’ve had a young boy who is attending a Japanese class in his garage who was shot because they thought he was dealing in dope. I mean, you know, these are trigger happy responses. The intriguing thing as well, is the American public doesn’t actually know how many people are shot and killed every year by American police officers. There’s no central database who records that. Even worse, there’s even no idea how many people are shot full stop, so I’ve got a team here in the UK that has been submitting frequent information requests to American cities and asking places like Detroit and Chicago, how many people have you shot in the last 10 years? And you know, we’ve been doing this for a year and we haven’t had responses from some of these cities yet. So, you know, it’s kind of like a reluctance to tell people, because people don’t want to know that actually an awful lot of African Americans, and they often are, are being shot and wounded by police, and I think even when you hear the figures of how many people are being shot by police in the states, you’ve got to take that figure and triple it, because they’re not including the wounded, they’re just reporting on those who were killed.
– Wow, and it seems to be this escalation that has no choice but to happen because everyone’s getting more armed and more trigger happy. One of the arguments that a good friend of mine makes, lives in Utah, you know, gun toting, I think he grew up in West Texas, so, you know I’ve got friends on all sides of this thing and so it’s, I listen, right, like, I don’t get charged, I want to listen, I want to hear what the other side has to say. And in this case, I like the 2nd Amendment, you know, personal bias. I think the right to bear arms is important, I just think that the thing’s messy. His whole thing is, listen, America has the largest standing Army in the world, technically because any house you go into, someone’s armed and that’s why we’re uninvadible. Right, that’s one argument. The tyranny of evil argument is also another one. You know, you want to prevent the holocaust. You want to prevent, whatever, some corporate takeover or now we all salute to Exxon Mobile. I get how all these things are built into it, but then the cops get more armed and then the people get more armed. So, how does one find some sort of middle ground here to get everyone to deescalate a little bit and you’re allowed to have guns, fine, but let’s stop shooting each other. How do you even go about looking at that research?
– Well, that’s the million dollar question. I think you touched on it just in the last comment. The research, and I think this is the fundamental challenge that America has, is that basically a law was passed in Congress, you guys can’t use state funds to research guns violence research. The CBC had it’s budget for research slashed. When that budget was entirely looking at how to address the issue of rising levels of gun violence. I think that’s the fundamental start. So, you know, understanding the correlation between suicide with intent and the use of guns for instance, would be very, very important. You’ve got mergers for instance, where a doctor is not allowed in some areas, to ask the patient if they have a gun because that seemed to be a contravention of their 2nd Amendment. But you need to draw a line at some stage. If somebody is wanting to kill themselves and they have a gun, surely the doctor should have a right to be able to address that issue. Even if that is seen to be, oh that’s going to be an infringement of civil liberties. Well, civil liberties is a fluid reality. We respond to it differently. If you ask somebody in the UK, is it your right to have a gun where you haven’t registered it with the police, everyone would be like no. That’s not my right at all. But in America, you know, if you have a private sale, you’re entirely allowed to have that. So, there’s no such thing as absolute on this situation, but how does America manage to enter that debate, well I think there needs to be much more investment in education, investment in healthcare. I mean, it’s a systemic issue because where there’s poverty, there’s violence. I mean that’s a standard mantra around the entire world. I think when it comes to another element is sort of deescalating tension between ethnic communities and the police. Well for a start, the government should stop, for instance, giving the police ex military hardware, you know, they have huge amounts of hardware that they never used in Iraq and Afghanistan and they’re giving local police Humvee’s and guns that can shoot through concrete. You ask yourself, why do you need that? Why do you need that sort of level of entrenchment? And then I think distances, the American police and the American populace and then causes this sort of race to the bottom in terms of arming themselves.
– Yeah, yeah, there seems to be militarization of the police. And you know, the police are under attack in some ways, but this militarization then continues to separate them as a different class of humans than civilians, right? And I love hanging out with cops. It’s like they’re there to protect and serve and you see a cop, their a guy on the street and they’re there to enforce the law and keep us safe, but then you walk through Times Square and you see these guys looking like they’re at war and they’re holding assault rifles and they’ve got the red dot scopes and all that and like, they’re less easier to say hi to, right? Like those dudes look very intimidating.
– I mean, and frankly, you know, I think Europe, we have this massive influx of refugees from the Middle East and along with those refugees, there’s also concern that there may be some people who have arrived who might have salafist jihadist ideologies. We have homegrown extremists in our, in Europe. You know, we’ve had plenty of terrorist attacks here. In comparison to America, you know, you guys have not really had the same quantity of terror attacks but I think your response to the threats of terror actually end up suffocating, and you know, you bought into the fear. And you guys don’t need to find the fear. You’re not under attack in the same way that Europe is. And in many ways, Europe’s response is much less, less run to militarize ourselves. So, I think there can be lessons learned. But also I think sometimes, particularly when I see him, them, I’ve seen as you said, these guys, armed to the teeth and you’re like, oh, my god, you look like Robocop. I think there is a question, what really is the threat here? Are you, is your society diminishing itself because you feel threatened? And in so doing, you’re causing alienation between police and populace. Or is there really a threat? And I honestly don’t think that America is under direct attack from salafist jihadist, I really don’t.
– Well, if I, if I was running 100 billion dollar a year industry, I would need a narrative that supported what would allow for those guns to keep moving. So, for me, I would ask, I always follow the money. And so, somebody needs that fear to exist because if we trusted and loved each other, we wouldn’t be buying as many guns and the world wouldn’t be so threatening, so, there is definitely a financial component to this. There’s definitely some sort of stinky trail that is driving an industry. I mean, listen, 100 billion dollars buys a lot of lobbyists. And it gets every Senator I know to shut up, right? Like there’s very few Senators that speak up about any of this stuff because they don’t want the wrath of the NRA and I get that. I get that, that’s ugly. So, you’ve been on the other side of this though, right? So, it’s one thing to say I’ve got a rifle in my, you know, in my closet somewhere where my kids can’t get it and if someone breaks in, I have an intruder, then I’m going to do what I’ve got to do. It’s the other side of that is being held up at gunpoint. What the hell does that feel like? I mean, you’ve had a lot of guns pointed at you.
– Well, it’s the most disempowering moment. I mean, I’ve had guns pointed at me in a whole variety of ways, in a kind of a weird sense. So, when I’ve been interviewing gang members down in Central America, El Salvador, they sort of said to me very casually, I met this one guy who killed 88 people, and he said to me very casually, you know what, I’ll kill you for a favor. I was like, wow, you know, somebody just asks you, hey, kill that gringo, you would do it, absolutely? And so, you suddenly realize just how, how in danger I can be and I think I’ve got quite a low threshold of fear. I’ve wandered into plenty of situations. But when you’re shot at, and I was shot at in Iraq, I’ve been shot at in a couple of civil wars. When you’re shot at, you don’t take it personally. It’s just like, oh, I’m in crossfire, I’m just going to get low and get out of there. When somebody pulled a gun on me and put it in my face, you know, you can’t help but take that personally. I think there’s been twice in my life where I basically, you know, got the fear later on, sort of like, waking up with sweats a couple of days later. One was after coming out of, around the time of Fallujah, when Fallujah was really kicking off in the Iraq war, I was there, and that was just hell on Earth. And the other time was, I was held up at gunpoint in Papua, New Guinea. These guys came out in the middle of nowhere, I was hiking with a friend, and they just pulled a gun on us, and basically stripped us from head to toe. In the process, I remember thinking, and it’s kind of crazy things that goes through your head in slow motion, I remember reading a book saying that in the first World War, prisoners of the Germans, they sometimes used to rip their shirts off to show that they were human, that they weren’t some sort of demonic horde, so they were harder to kill. So, no, this guy was holding his gun in my face, and I was ripping my clothes off going, I’m a human, I’m a human. And then I suddenly realized halfway through, the man in front of me was basically only having a loincloth around him, it’s like, he must be looking at me going, I know you’re human, quite clearly. So, it was, after the event, I think the, you’ve got this anger bubbles up inside you, ’cause you feel like you’ve been emasculated, you think, I had no capacity to exert my own, I mean, I’m a big guy, I’m 6’2″, but I was totally helpless. And this has happened three times, so, you know, I sometimes think twice now before entering curious areas late at night.
– Yeah, no kidding. So, the flip side of that emasculation is, fuck that, that’s never happening again. I’m walking around with an Uzi, no one does that to me, right? So, it’s the militarization of yourself and your character to then be able to say, no one, no one, will ever do that again, right? And you see a lot of people do it. A lot of men layer up, right? And you’re in New Guinea, you can’t go with your gun. But that tendency to say, we’ve been attacked, therefor, let’s arm up. I think it’s a real kind of gut reaction that we’re seeing in American with all this narrative of, they’re out to get you, they’re out to get you.
– Absolutely. But, look, to come back to something you said before about the marketing of that. I think there’s this intersect between a lot of blue collar workers in America who have lost their jobs, lost their job security, and in a way, they also felt emasculated from global circumstances. So, they have this emasculation from lack of being able to go down to the car plant and get a job, simultaneously, there’s this, I’ve got my gun and I don’t want that being taken away, there’s these Muslim guys over here threatening my freedom, I’ve got Liberals over here threatening my way of life, and I can see how a working class, blue collar American can feel under threat. But the intriguing thing to me is that the gun companies know that explicitly, and they market to these guys without any sense of irony and remorse. So, to get a Bushmaster rifle, you know, they led a gun campaign saying, consider your man card issued. You know, they’re talking directly to that sort, that exact form of emasculation. And this idea of the perpetual enemy, it sounds crazy, but I think there is something quite powerful in America’s fascination with the zombie apocalypse. Because when you think of the gun shows, there are zombie target signs, and it is as if you’re being sold the idea that your life as you know it is about to end just around the corner. You know, you look at some of the further right media channels, and they were saying that if Hillary Clinton got into power, it was like the devil was going to be in the white house, apocalypse would come, the end of days, Armageddon. And I think, actually, the sort of perpetual fear that is sold to the American population and the response to that, as you touched on, is, let’s go and arm ourselves up. So, I’m not denying why people shouldn’t feel that urge, but I think sometimes people need to say, you know, actually, I need to separate fear from hardcore reality. That in America, you’re more likely to probably be killed in your car than you are to be killed in a gun fight in certain states. Because people are fearful they’re going to be killed in a gun fight, they go out. Now, if you look to the statistics of, let’s say, mass shooters, it’s only 2% of mass shooters are taken down by armed citizens. Very, very small number. But, you know, people, after horrors like Sandy Hook, gun sales went up across the board. And these guys who sold the gun, the makers of the Bushmaster rifle that was used in Sandy Hook, they said, just after Sandy Hook, you know what, we’re going to divest ourselves of that investment. Cerberus Capital Management said they were gonna get rid of the company on their books that made the Bushmaster. 12 months later, they were still happily trading with that company and they made themselves a cool profit that year. So, there’s money in this and you’re right to follow that instinct. And in a very sad way, I think the concept of freedom in America has been warped by an argument that you should bear arms. Now, your viewers may not realize this, but the Statue of Liberty, the icon of liberty and freedom in your country, was made out of copper, not bronze. Because copper was the metal of commerce, whereas bronze was the metal of military might in Europe. Traditionally we would melt down the bronze guns of the people we’d defeated and turned them into statues. And the person who designed the Statue of Liberty decided to use copper because it was an anti-gun sentiment, anti-violence. They were promising a new land free from the violence of Europe. And actually now, if you look at Europe compared to America, you know, with the exception of occasional jihadist attacks, we don’t have gun violence, we really don’t. Whereas, you compare it to America, we look at you guys and we think, you’ve kind of lost your way a bit. And I think, actually, when you’re discussing issues like liberty and freedom, isn’t one of those freedoms the right to live without fear. And you know, I think you guys are very fearful. And I mean that from somebody who has traveled your land, who loves your people, and who has great respect for your institutions. But I feel sad in a way that, you know, that you do have these cops on the corners who look like they’re in a war zone. And you know, you have people who are clearly terrified that they’re going to be held up. And I think there’s a general societal question that needs to be addressed in America that’s slightly detached from the second amendment. It’s more about what sort of society do we want to be, and are we actually achieving that?
– There is this notion of slavery, in the abolition of slavery, I think it’s been really just judo flipped into health slavery. I mean, everyone’s addicted to sugar and then hooked into healthcare system. But also psychological slavery of being leveraged by all of these different hooks and being in fear all the time, and being driven by fear-based decisions. And you look at the political system and you look at the discourse, it’s really about, it is, it is, it’s like that apocalyptic invocation of things that are just so heavy and memetic that get people to respond in very kind of predictable ways. And it really is, it’s speaking to the lowest of low elements of survival in us. And at the end of the day, that’s not where we live, right? Where we love is, you know, loving our families, enjoying our co-workers, doing the things that make us human. And that’s why I think a lot of people are off the media. It’s just, it’s too dark, it’s too hard to listen to. And it really is starting to become overwhelmingly pessimistic, and I don’t like who I am after watching the news for 10 minutes. And so, there is this upheaval right now in information and the brokering of information. But again, in times of fear, you clutch your gun. And so, how do we get out of this? How does one tiptoe away? I mean, you said research was kind of your crux there, right? How does one start, is it more dialogue, is it more education, is it crossing over and having conversations that are less polarized so that we can just talk about things?
– Well, I’m a great believer in education, and I think education and trying to get people to engage in debate and to be able to, what I think education offers is the ability to process facts and figures with a dispassionate mind and not immediately take one concept to its logical conclusion without looking for a counterbalanced argument. And the one that a lot of people said when they were reviewing my book was, they like the fact that it was balanced. I tried to take both sides of it, I mean, I did come down onto the idea that too many guns wasn’t good for society, but nonetheless, I tried to listen to why people wanted the gun and what was motivating them. And I think education enables you to have that balance, to be able to look at data with a dispassionate eye and to actually say to yourself, look, I shouldn’t be fearful because the chances of that happening to me are pretty remote. So, that’s why I’m saying, in America, the chances of you being killed in a terrorist attack, are virtually nonexistent in my head because they’re so rare. But, you know, the chances of you being killed in a gun massacre in a high school, if you’re a student, is much greater, simply because of the statistical evidence. And I think, if there was a greater attempt to, I guess, bolster your, not only your educational systems there with investment, but also, I really do believe that having the security, as we have in Europe, of healthcare does take away a level of fear. I mean, if I have a heart attack tomorrow by doing this interview too stressfully, I know that I’ll be picked up by the NHS here in the UK and they’ll look after me. And I know that exists. Now, you guys, you need to either be in the right job or be wealthy enough to have those guarantees, and I think in the absence of that, it is like the wolf is permanently at the door for you guys. And you know, I’m reading Cormac McCarthy’s book, The Road, at the moment, and it’s a beautiful, lyrical book, but it is kind of, it’s only a book that could be written in America, because it is this apocalyptic belief system that I think you brought with you, the founding father’s created that. It’s got deep rooted Protestant belief systems in there. And you know, this sort of idea that there is a permanent threat of a despotic regime, you know, that’s Bonnie Prince Charlie right there being defeated by the English at Culloden, and that kind of Scottish memory finding itself in Alabama and Louisiana, you know, the problems of the Jews coming over to America, you know, Europe has laid so much blood and waste that you can see why there’s that kind of cultural fear of despotism in America. And I can understand why people want to have a gun at their door to stop the despotic rise, but I think there needs to be perspective, and I think that perspective is lost, and I think you’re absolutely right that the media sometimes means people lose their perspective because they can get caught in a kind of frenzied echo chamber of fear.
– Yeah, yeah. Well, we also live in a culture now where the current leadership and administration is questioning even education, it’s just like, there’s this way of looking at information, as an educated person would, so you look at the pros, you can look at the cons, you weigh it out, you think for yourself, and I know right now, and they’re probably gone already, because there’s someone listening to this right now saying, fuck that guy, he doesn’t agree with what I agree with, and they’re out. Because it immediately will trigger something saying, he must be a leftist liberal, therefor I’m not listening to him because everything he’s saying is hogwash propaganda, and so there is this insistence on finding your camp and being in that echo chamber that’s now being echoed all the way to the top, which means there’s no way you’re going to listen to any counter opinion because it’s obviously the other side’s propaganda, and if there’s always another side, there’s never going to be a conversation, there’s no debate, there’s just civil war, then the guns will definitely get used. And that’s not the society we want to live in. Man, anyone who’s listening to this, I recommend you simply read the book and make up your own mind, look at the information, make up your own mind. Let’s get into an exercise on all subjects. I’m happy to have people from the right, people from the left, I don’t care about any of that, let’s just have intelligent conversations about what the hell is going on, and let’s read the books, and let’s have conversations that can move us forward instead of being in this polarized ping pong match of fear. Iain, I really appreciate your perspective, I really appreciate the miles that you’ve run, and thanks for taking all those experiences at gun point so I don’t have to. I don’t want that experience at all. The book is called, The Way of the Gun, A Bloody Journey into the World of Firearms. I’ll put it up right there. And, again, it’s just good journalism means asking the question, and obviously you’ve landed on an opinion, but it came after spending a lot of time looking at this, so I’d like to follow you on that journey and see if I come to similar conclusions or what. But that’s what we do, right? That’s what we do as humans is, we look at evidence and then we weigh it for ourselves, we don’t wait to be told what to think. So, again, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate the work that you’ve done and keep it up, keep up the good work.
– And you, you’re doing great work there, and you’re right. I think if there is ever a need for dialogue and understanding in America, it’s right now. You guys, you know, are such an amazing nation, and divisiveness doesn’t do you proud, but your past does.
– Yeah, this isn’t who we are. We’re better than this.
– [Iain] You are, you are.
– Copper, not brass. Let me know what you think. Obviously this is a contentious subject, let’s hear it, let’s get into it. Don’t be lame, say something that’s worth saying, don’t just say something angry. Let’s talk about it. I’ll see you in the next show. This is Dr. Pedram Shojai, the Urban Monk.