By Steve Hyde
I am an American citizen. I own two guns. One is a 12 gauge shotgun and the other an antique WWII era Soviet rifle. Many times I wish I had more guns. I would love a deer hunting rifle, a .22 with a magazine that holds about 50 rounds so I could have fun ‘target’ practicing instead of ‘loading’ practice. Honestly, I would like a handgun, but only just in case I visit Fresno, CA or downtown Memphis again; because I didn’t feel safe in those two places. Being an American living in another country, however . . .
I don’t have the same freedoms which I had in America. So, all my guns are stored in various undisclosed locations in the US. All two of them. I honestly believe that many Americans have no idea the value of the freedoms which they are living under. They take it for granted that they will always be free, but soon, I think, you’ll be just like me.
On a cold December day my wife and I arrived in the US to the news that more than twenty children and teachers were shot at an elementary school. That’s sad. When I went to elementary school no one shot at my school, but my school was in the Philippines. There we had patrolling armed guards 24 hours a day. We had drills in case of an attack and the entire school was surrounded by a huge chain link and barbwire fence.
Seven different times over my years at school there, classes were postponed due to military uprisings (coups d’etat). Once I even watched F-4s and F-5s strafe and bomb while 105mm and 155mm Howitzers pounded the city while I was at the school. I don’t think kids should have to learn about those things. My school wasn’t a prison, but we were safe and free . . . just not allowed to leave campus.
Tragic violence is always sad. CNN and FOX News don’t cover news from Cambodia news, I’ll relay a little local news from the last week or so here:
1) Four American soldiers were severely wounded defusing a landmine. We already banned landmines . . . too bad more than 200 people get blown up every year.
2) Two men got in a fight with wood boards until one was hit in the head with an axe. Axes are still legal here.
3) A drug addicted husband in northwest Cambodia beat his wife nearly to death with an electrical wire because she refused to give him more money to buy drugs. Electrical wire is also still legal.
4) A group of 10 students at school in northern Cambodia got in a fight and pulled out samurai swords and fought until police showed up. Samurai swords are illegal in Cambodia.
5) A man in Phnom Penh, after an angry fight, poured gasoline on another man’s house and lit it on fire. Cigarette lighters and gasoline are legal in Cambodia.
6) A man and wife in southern Cambodia, both 60 years old, were headed home when they were attacked by thieves with cleavers. They were nearly killed with gashes in their necks, limbs and bodies and were evacuated to Vietnam for treatment. Cleavers for cooking are, in fact, legal in Cambodia.
You know, we didn’t actually have any gun violence in the last week. Two months ago one of my staff was robbed and they hit his wife in the face with a rock repeatedly trying to kill her. She survived even though she’s severely traumatized. Did you know it is impossible to make a stone illegal? Unless that stone was carved in the shape of the ten commandments — then it would be illegal today in many public places in America. There were dozens of other acts of violence, but it would bore you to mention them all. I guess it’s good we didn’t have any gun violence last week. Hmmm.
Living in Cambodia, I feel quite safe here compared to some other countries I have been to. Guns are illegal here, so only authorities like police and military have them, along with the criminals. Sometimes we don’t know who is who.
I want to invite you into my world so you can see my house in this gun-free world. You might need a similar design soon enough in America, given current trends. We have no protection from criminals and they are certainly not afraid of me and my smile, so we have to make provisions to protect ourselves around our house. I don’t worry so much for my own safety but I worry for the safety of my kids and wife.
My gun-free house:
Welcome to my living room. When you look out of my living room window, this is the view you see. Steel bars on every window (we tried to make them look nice), and a 15 foot wall with razor wire on the top of it is outside so we don’t have much of a view. I was going to paint the wall with an Iowa farm scene so it would remind me of home.
Now, look at my bedroom view. This is the view from the master suite on a higher floor. Again, bars on every window to keep people out.
We have a beautiful home even though it’s made of solid concrete (so bullets cannot penetrate, and has a solid concrete slab for a roof to stop any potential mortars or other projectiles (and, of course, people from entering through the roof). Do you see my house behind the gate? Why is my gate so tall? It’s not really for decoration, but because we need to make it less attractive to get over the top of! My neighbor’s gate is shorter, so thieves will probably rob him first!
Do you have a pet dog? I have two. They are not really pets though. I have had several dogs. We name them after weapons just to be funny like “Bomb”, “Missile”, “Landmine” and “Soldier.” My dogs are really big for only one reason; they scare the bejeebers out of Cambodians (who are similar in size). They’re my security guards. This is them playing with my oldest son in the ‘backyard’ (again a really big wall, steel and razor wire).
If all my fences, razor wire, the 15 foot gate, steel grates, concrete barricades and dogs fail to defend me, I have only one last line of defense. (Shhhh. . . don’t tell, I think the blade is too long and may not be legal.) I hope I never have to use it, because the thief will probably just shoot me first.
Well America, welcome to my world. In the past I have enjoyed visiting the US where my kids could run around freely. I’m amazed that houses in America don’t have bars on them and you can walk across the grass to the neighbor’s yard. You can walk down sidewalks and play in public parks. You can go shopping without being frisked. You know, it’s sad that as an American I have never been able to enjoy much of my inherent freedoms which I was born into because I have not lived in America.
In the Philippines every store has an armed guard with a shotgun, rifle or handgun protecting it. You get searched going into every mall, store and every theater by armed security. Before parking in a parking lot, they use lights and mirrors to scan under your car for bombs and check the inside of your car. All just to park. . . at a mall. In the airport you’ll be searched a minimum of three times.
In Cambodia I’m afraid of guys with guns because they always get what they want. Traffic cops carry handguns. They collect ‘donations’ every day. We have an elite unit of soldiers who carry AK-47’s and work in the night. They scare me silly, especially on dark roads. Every month the fire department (a unit of the police in Cambodia) comes and asks about our fire extinguishers. They always carry handguns with them and demand money. I have to pay. One time I stood up to their extortion and I thought, as did my wife, I was going to get shot. Better just to pay every month.
There are as many as 30,000 current land disputes in Cambodia and it seems the guys who have the guns always win. Rich people have armed body guards with them all the time. My neighbor sells cars and has to hire four armed soldiers every evening to escort him home. I have never seen him dare go outside his house or work.
My wife survived genocide in which they gave guns to 12-15 year old kids who took over Cambodia. They took away everyone else’s guns and then killed 3.1 million people including my wife’s mom, dad, five brothers and sisters, grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins. Only one sister survived the kids with guns. They were called the Khmer Rouge. My father was blown up with C4 put in a backpack surrounded by nails and steel. The military makes C4, but I can buy nails at any hardware store.
Cambodia we are going to have an election here in a few months. This is now a democratic country where we have free press and free elections. It won’t be a cliffhanger like Obama vs. Romney, though. In fact, we already know who will win: the guys with all the guns.
I am an American. I own guns. But I don’t live in a country which allows civilians to have guns. Only those in the government can have guns. I think people shooting school children, or anyone for that matter, is bad. I think AR-15s are bad, as well as landmines, mortars, F-16s, 155 Howitzers, 50 caliber sniper rifles, Glock 50s, AK-47′s, 100 round drum magazines and Uzis. But what is far worse to me than removing those weapons is when one person can have them and I can’t. It’s just not very safe for me.
The American Bill of Rights is something which has allowed Americas to not only stand for liberty, but to live in freedom. Of those freedoms, the most valuable to me are freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the freedom to bear arms. All three have been severely eroded in my lifetime and it is a shame I will probably never get to enjoy those freedoms like generations gone by.
Welcome to my world, America. A world without guns.
This article originally appeared on Steve Hyde’s blog, Jungle Adventures, and is reprinted here with permission.