Phew! The thread has doubled in size since I last checked in. No way I can hope to address everything talked about since then.
So let me just reply to the questions that were asked of me. Keep in mind that though I am an American culturally and family-wise, I don't have American citizenship and haven't lived in the States for a long time. I am neither "Republican" nor "Democrat", and am completely disengaged from the whole two-tone American view of politics, namely "liberal/conservative". The way I personally see it all, and have been exposed to in the places that I've lived, follows much more of a middle ground view of society and how things ought to be dealt with. I'm much like Lynn in that I look at the spectrum and pick what I feel benefits people, including myself, best, and does a good job ensuring that society is a benefit to itself. I'm philosophical until immediate reality forces me to make a practical judgement.
For much of that time, the average black had more to fear from the police and others than from the usual criminal element. For them, just as for those fighting the British or isolated on the frontier, the gun was not an instrument of violence so much as an guarantor of equality. Seen from that perspective, a gun need not be fired in order to serve its purpose.
For most of black history in America blacks had to be extremely careful how they handled guns. Get a white hurt or worse killed would have had disastrous consequences for any black. No trial. Lots of lynchings or plain getting shot dead. So the whole "guarantor of equality" just didn't figure into the black mindset until very recently. The Second Amendment meant just about nothing to blacks and other non-whites. The mere possession of a gun could have very easily gotten them killed. Certainly whites didn't take into account the Second Amendment when blacks and Indians and Mexicans were concerned.
Miguel lets lay aside guns for a moment. Could you compare the gang situation in different countries for us? What factors other then guns make the situation different in different countries?
To be honest I really don't know enough about the gang situation in countries outside the States to make much comment on them. There are gangs here in Japan, for instance, like motorcycle gangs, inner city street gangs, high school gangs (some really wild schools here), yakuza gangs, and even young women gangs now. When they become big enough and dangerous enough most of them eventually become connected to the Yakuza somehow. That's Mafia level domestic terror. But, for the most part a situation almost completely detached from everyday society. You rarely see any violence of any kind, and guns are non-existent. In part it's a healthy fear of a government that takes regulating anything that threatens society and people's safety very seriously, but it's also an attitude that people carry around everyday. People for the most part don't think, even privately in their hearts, about taking things from other people or causing violence to them. You can leave your wallet, filled with $1,000 cash, in any major train station in the country, and can almost be assured that it either will still be where you left it five hours earlier, or someone has turned it in to the lost and found or the police station. This is something taught since a very young age, here. It is something not just logical, but felt, by a majority of the people. You feel safe because others make it a priority, plus people don't allow half-measures for regulations. Punishment for harming other people is dealt with extremely seriously. Absolutely none of it is allowed to be made into entertainment purposes, as so much of American dealing with use of guns and committing crimes is (TV court, following O.J. Simpson's car chase by camera, TV shows allowing footage of police rounds, videos of shootings, etc). Harming others is considered something that goes against the whole idea behind creating a society, so people take it seriously and don't even make jokes about it... not because they aren't allowed to, but because it is considered by everyone to be in extremely bad taste. Here, as a fundamentally Buddhist country, holding negative thoughts of others in your mind is the ingredient for suffering. Even sarcasm doesn't work among Japanese... they just won't understand it, because it is fundamentally a putting down of others and holding yourself above them.
Banning guns and having very serious regulations for them is considered the logical step for society to take. There was little protest when it was implemented, except by the samurai, who at first objected to having their swords taken away (the Japanese gun ban was simultaneously implemented with the ban on swords). No one, and I mean NO ONE, argues about anyone's right to own guns here. It isn't even a controversy.
That's only what I see of Japan. Germany has always had strong regulations of guns, though it was long a gun culture, long before it became a unified nation. The Hitler era aside (it was an aberration of German society and history... Germans have been among the most socially progressive people in history. Just read the plethora of books on social commentary and philosophy from before Hitler's time), Germany understood the need to have regulations concerning such dangerous tools. I guess societies like Germany and Japan recognize that human error and judgement can lead to big problems if not carefully watched.
But again, I am not qualified to answer questions about gangs. I see gangs as symptoms of societies that have gotten sick. Having grown up among low-income blacks in my earlier years in Brooklyn and the Bronx during the 60's and 70's, and later living in Roxbury in Boston, I have a fairly good idea how and why gangs form in areas where people are at society's worst receiving end. You don't see gangs in rich neighborhoods because gangs form out of a social need for something. Rich kids don't lack for homes, jobs, families, money, education, dignity.
One of the reasons I wanted to focus this question on gangs not guns was a theory I have. Most gangs are connected to the illegal drug trade and/or smuggling in some way. So they could probably smuggle in guns if they wanted too but they don't seem to be doing it on a large scale in countries like the UK and Australia. Why?
Could it be because those countries have social programs provided by the government that help address the needs of all people, like proper health care for all, housing for all, education for all, jobs for all, and less discrepancy between the haves and have-nots? (Oh wait, that's "socialism"!!! Oh HORROR!!!) There is far less desperate need to get the money that selling drugs brings in. Drugs are about money, don't forget.
UK - Criminals can get illegal guns but are afraid to carry them regularly.
USA - Criminals can get guns (usually illegally) but they are not afraid to carry them.
Are criminals in the UK more scared of being caught?
I don't think American gangs are "tougher" or "braver" than gangs anywhere else. Young men are pretty much the same everywhere you go in the world. Stupid and reckless. But there is far less celebration of it in places outside the States. Especially not with senseless violence. Maybe young men have better outlets for their "energy" and frustration elsewhere? I don't really know. All I know is that Americans seem awfully angry about a lot of things. All the time.
Some people think that there are guns everywhere killing people and we need to eliminate the guns. None of my friends or family have ever been hurt by a gun - don't worry about it.
Depends hugely on where you live and who lives around you. Nearly every member of my family and many of my friends in New York and Boston have been hurt or threatened by guns. I've personally been held up with a pistol to my forehead while working the nightshift in Boston. One of my closest friends had his entire family gunned down in upstate New York. Another friend in Maine was shot dead in Maine in a hunting incident. A Yemeni friend of mine, a woman, was shot at repeatedly while walking along a highway in Alaska, a year after the New York tragedy. And I don't know how many times I've witnessed police pull out guns on black guys walking on the street, and then beating them to a pulp. I myself have several times been pulled over by gun-bearing policemen, and then violently thrown up against the patrol cars and interrogated for hours, simply because I was a non-white driving a beat up old car in a white neighborhood. And so many of my non-white male friends have the same stories.
A lot of this many of you will never, ever see. It happens outside of your world, because you are white, and live among other whites.
But then again, I've seen things with guns elsewhere in the world, too. I once saw two cars that had been racing along a road in Karachi, Pakistan, screech to a halt at an intersection, one guy stepped out of the car and shot the man in the other car in the head.
In the Philippines I was escorted everywhere by a machine gun (not sure if it was a machine gun... it was a huge titanium gun) toting bodyguard because a week earlier my cousin had been hijacked on the Manila street by armed gunmen and nearly shot dead before his car was stolen. And I am a nobody! With no money!
In Egypt I saw five soldiers wrench one of the passengers on my plane to the ground and stand there pointing their rifles at her and threatening to kill her if she didn't tell them what they wanted to know. (this was during the midst of the Egypt/Israel War).
And Yosemite Sam had no problem at all shooting off his guns whenever he felt threatened by Bugs Bunny. That's forever etched in my mind! (^ J ^)/"