Lotte Stegeman and Peter Smolders

Some of our best friends are Americans. Apart from the best scenery in the world, they’re one of the reasons why we own a second home in Moab and travel for about twenty hours to get here whenever we can. We proudly defend our Moabite friends in any discussion with – mostly ignorant – Europeans, who seem to keep thinking they know all about Americans without ever having met one.

We think we get the main differences between the Netherlands and the U.S.

We’re used to these differences and embrace them most of the time. But some things we just don’t get. Don’t bother trying to explain to a Dutchman why you would give a kid a My First Rifle, for instance. Not even to us, part-time Moabites.

The Netherlands are a country of strange laws, gun laws included. Basically, buying a gun is every individual’s right, as long as that individual obtains a weapon license. Carrying a gun is a different matter though. To be able to do that, even for a second, you need a permit that is not easily acquired. The only people that carry guns openly are part of the army or the police. Apart from them only one group can carry a gun, albeit concealed: members of shooting clubs. They have many restrictions, one that they can only buy a gun of a type they have used for their sport, and two, use it only for events within the context of their club.

Being European, that’s the way we think. We never had a discussion about buying a gun. And that has nothing to do with political or ethical reasons. We just don’t think about weapons. The thought that we might like to own one simply never crossed our minds.

We’re not saying every American loves guns, not at all. But statistics don’t lie. For every hundred people who live in the Netherlands, you’ll find a total of three guns. In the USA that number is 88. And the chance of being killed by a gun is ten times bigger in the U.S.: Three people in every 100.000, versus 0.3 in The Netherlands.

Some people say that this is sheer logic: With so many arms around, some collateral damage is inevitable. Some may say that a gun in The Netherlands is more dangerous than one in the US. And rightly so: relatively, an average ‘Dutch’ gun more often kills someone than an ‘American’ gun. And some or even many of you will end the discussion immediately by stating its irrelevancy because it’s just any man’s and woman’s basic right to own a gun and take it anywhere he or she wants, no matter what the consequences are. It’s just us, Europeans, that don’t understand that.

Any man’s and any woman’s rights, but any kid’s right, too? That’s the part even we can’t explain to our Dutch friends.

Why give a four-year-old a gun?

We all know they’re dangerous. We don’t give our kids razors, alcohol, cocaine or a lighter and a can of gasoline. But some Americans do give their kids a weapon that, according to a My First Rifle advertisement, is “the perfect way to get young and small-framed shooters started right.”

The advertisement continues, a gun that “girls and even mom will love.” Until one kid kills another with it that is, as happened a few months ago in Kentucky where a five-year-old boy shot his two-year-old sister.

Is it necessary for U.S. gun stores to offer kids’ packages where kids ages 6-12 can learn to shoot a .22 rifle or handgun? Call us Dutch unoriginal, but we tend to take children to the bowling alley or the movie theater on their birthday.

We’re open to different views on the gun-matter, but teaching kids how to use a lethal weapon sounds like a few bridges too far. Could anyone try to explain to us – two Europeans who have never even heard a real gun fire in their lives – the sense in that?