Bang, bang…you’re dead.

I never usually have to ponder much the topic of a blog. It simply comes in its own time, leaving me to run to the laptop and release. I’m fighting it a bit today. The only thing that consistently comes to mind at the moment is guns. I don’t want to write about guns right now. I wish I didn’t have to write about them at all. I mean, no one’s holding a gun to my head to do so, right?

When thinking back to the war years in Bosnia and the years to follow, it’s hard to fathom just how common guns were. Pretty much every male aged 18-65 toted an AK-47. Then all of a sudden they just went away. There were some NATO sponsored gun collection actions throughout the latter half of the 1990’s that were pretty effective in getting some of the heavier metal out of people’s homes. Of course, there were special operations to put some bigger caches stashed by one group or another out of commission as well. But the heavy stuff seemed almost to disappear. I’m sure being occupied by 60,000 NATO troops not wearing blue helmets (the ‘neutral’ color to signify UN troops) helped encourage local people to give up the goods. But the end of the war truly signified people willingly laying down their arms. Go figure.

That’s not to say there isn’t a fair share of the metal hardware floating around. There certainly is. But violent gun crime, despite the horrific and violent years of the early 1990’s, is an extreme rarity here. By no means am I saying that the men here took off their uniforms and cloaked themselves in dove attire. But I think there were several factors that influenced this phenomena.

After four years of having a heavy assault weapon being part of one’s daily routine and reality, I honestly think most just got fed up and could not wait to give them away and never see them again. The gun ‘culture’ that was forced upon them they quickly grew to despise. Hunting rifles were and are common here but assault weapons have always been, naturally, intended for the military and police – under lock and key until the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan. That’s what they’re for, right? (The police and military I mean).

So Bosnia and Herzegovina was not only completed saturated with guns but they were used, day in and day out, for three and half years. Yet violent gun crimes are next to none in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is estimated that 60% of the men here suffer from PTSS (disorder has been technically replaced by syndrome) yet there has never been a school or mall massacre. No disenchanted or disillusioned youth have exploded in rage with semi-automatic assault weapons in public spaces…or any space for that matter. In fact, since 1995 there has never been a mass shooting despite the madness and evil of war and its aftermath. That’s the strange thing about Bosnia, it defies logic. Or does it?

The ultra violence that visited and haunted us from 1992-1995 pretty much stopped when Dayton was signed in Paris. Which brings me to my point (which I didn’t know I had when i started): American gun violence is most often weighed against those of western or developed nations. The comparisons are shocking and discouraging to say the least. But it runs much deeper than that. Take this comparison. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country where an estimated 60% of the male population suffers from some degree of PTSS. There is a 40% unemployment rate…probably over 50% for young people. There are guns here. Kids watch violent American movies. They play the same horrible video games. Believe me, it can be a pretty stressful place to be at times. Despite all that, there is hardly any gun violence to speak of.

So the question of the day is…what on earth has gone wrong with the once well-stitched fabric of our society?  If we dare to think we’re not in deep crisis… I’d say we need to think again. peace

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