Paige: You are listening to “Coffee with Gringos.” I'm Paige Sutherland.
Ian: And I'm Ian Kennedy.
Paige: And today, we have a special guest—another Dynamic English teacher, Jesse Andrews. Jesse, thanks for being here today.
Jesse: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Paige: So, Jesse, since you are new to the pod, just tell the audience a little bit about who you are, where you're from.
Jesse: Yeah, I'm originally from Oklahoma. I lived in Viña Del Mar for a year and a half as a student. Fell in love with Chile, and decided to return in 2016 to teach English. So, I've been here now for three and a half years living in Santiago.
Paige: Oklahoma, nice. Do you see a lot of Oklahomans in Santiago?
Paige: That's fair, that would be my assumption. So today, we're gonna to talk about kind of a contentious issue. We're gonna to talk about guns. I think given our country's background, history and some of the recent headlines lately, I think it's a topic worth discussing. So recently, we had two mass shootings in 24 hours. People, you know, from the US, do you think were surprised by this? What do you think?
Ian: Unfortunately, I wasn't surprised to hear about this. The gun culture in the United States is, like you said, it's really contentious. But what's really sad is it's become something that's almost normalized. It's so normal to turn on the TV or log on to the internet and you see all these stories—a shooting here, a shooting there—and it's just like a little blip on the news feed. In any other country, some kind of mass shooting would make huge headlines would be the biggest news. And unfortunately, for us, for our country, it seems to kind of just slide under the radar after a day or two. And It's really unfortunate.
Paige: Do you guys, because you're American, get asked about guns often?
Jesse: I get asked frequently in my classes about guns and why the United States doesn't have stricter laws on guns. So yeah, it's definitely a topic that's brought up. I think for Chileans, it's difficult to understand why we have so many guns in the United States, because in Chile, civilians do not own guns.
Paige: It's something I get asked all the time, I think, by students, because when you think about the US, that's probably one of our biggest problems, is I mean, we have people dying from guns all of the time. I mean, we have, I think, a gun per person. We have that many guns, where most countries, it's hard to get guns. And I think the biggest thing that I have to explain to students is that the US is very complex. Unlike most countries, there's one federal law, right? We don't have these state laws. And I think that's the biggest confusion around guns is that each state has its own gun laws. So, a state like Oklahoma and Missouri has different gun laws than a state like Massachusetts, where I’m from. And that I think gets really confusing in the whole gun control policy.
Jesse: Yeah, I would agree. I used to live in Texas, and in Texas, basically, everyone carries a gun. It's very common to see a mother with a gun on her hip—a man, police officers, anybody. So yeah, in certain parts of the United States, there are definitely more guns than in other areas. Part of that is due to the number of hunters. For example, I am from Oklahoma, and we have turkey and deer and it's really popular and really common to hunt them. So, there are a lot of people that are very responsible gun owners, and use them for recreational purposes. So, I think that when we talk about the mass shootings, we have to clarify the weapons being used. And there's so many varieties of guns, that we can't just put a label and say all guns are bad, or all guns should be prohibited.
Ian: You make a really good point. Since I'm from Missouri, we have a very similar culture. Hunting is very popular—it's very deeply rooted in the culture. So, you have a lot of people who own guns. And like you said, there are a lot of responsible gun owners. But again, you have to look at the type of gun like you talked about. You have people now who can easily walk into a gun store and buy an assault rifle, you know, a weapon that is only used for warfare. So, people kind of start scratching their heads and thinking, “why would someone ever need an assault rifle to hunt or for any other purpose, really?” So, yeah, it's more complex than just, “here's a gun, here's a problem.” So, you have to look deeper at the issue.
Paige: To date, the largest mass shooting in the US was the Las Vegas shooting a couple years ago. And that was the problem with him. He had ten guns, and they were all, like, military-weaponized guns, right? Isn't that how he was?
Ian: Yeah, correct. And I think he had a special type of gun, that's called a bump stock, which allows a lot more of the ammunition, the bullets to come out of the gun easier. So, it's essentially a really high powered, high velocity machine gun, that again, you would only use in a war or some kind of scenario like that. So, the fact that a civilian was able just to accumulate these guns, and just have a reign of terror on all these people is frightening.
Paige: The recent one in Ohio, the shooter was taken out by police in twenty seconds and he was able to kill nine people and injure, you know, a couple dozen others. And it's quick, like, twenty seconds.
Jesse: Twenty seconds to kill nine people. That’s much different than a shotgun or a hunting rifle. So, we have to, again, kind of classify, what weapons are being used.
Paige: And so, since you both are, you know, more from the southern states, explain for Chileans, what's the history of guns in the US?
Jesse: Well, in the United States, we have what's called the Second Amendment, and that allows the citizens to own, possess and use firearms. What we have to realize is the context of when the law was written. During the time that America, or the United States, was founded, we were at war with the British. And the law was written so that the people of the United States could defend themselves against the British invasion. At that time, however, the guns were a single bullet, and it probably took at least thirty seconds to load one bullet. So, the ability to kill multiple people wasn't there. When that law was written, it was a different time. And the weapons were completely different than what we have today.
Paige: And what are some of the rhetoric, I guess, that you hear in the political arena, when it comes to guns? You have, obviously the left side, which are very more gun control, you know—background checks, lesser guns on the streets. And then you have the right, which are, you know, more about Second Amendment, right—we want to have our guns. I guess, where is the biggest conflict around getting any kind of policy passed on gun control in the US?
Jesse: I would personally say the biggest obstacle is the National Rifle Association, also known as the NRA. They give millions and millions of dollars to politicians and the politicians choose not to vote on legislation that could change the law, or could amend the law. So, in a lot of ways, it's a powerful organization that controls government.
Ian: And In addition to that, just with bipartisan politics, in general, in the United States, you have politicians who just want to stick with their group, stick with their team. So, if that means your party supports guns, then you feel automatically that you need to support guns, or vice versa on the other side. There's a problem with politicians not really wanting to speak for themselves apart from their group. So, it's become this whole “us against them” sort of mentality, which I think is a problem for having any kind of change with policy or problems in the United States. And gun control is one of those problems that falls into that that sort of issue.
Paige: Unfortunately, for us, being Americans, we've kind of been, like, numb to these mass shootings—we've had just so many of them. And you have the same politicians going out and say, oh, you know, “I'll be there for the victims and praying for the victims” and all these ideas about gun control. But I mean, nothing passes. And it's always the deadliest shooting, the deadliest shooting, and it's kind of for us, I don't know, like where the breaking point will be that there will actually be meaningful policy pass. I don't know. What do you think, Jesse?
Jesse: Look, I think it's a dangerous slope to go on. And I think politicians, rightfully, avoid the issue, not only because they're concerned with re-election, but if we enact a policy where we take away the assault rifles, which, in my honest opinion, I think we should—I don't think any civilians should have an assault rifle or a weapon of war. But if you begin that process, and make one gun illegal, then responsible gun owners may see that as a first step to you eventually taking all of their guns. I think politicians are nervous, because if they if they make a move to eliminate one type of gun, then it potentially could open a Pandora's box of political fallout for them.
Paige: It's so true. And I mean, that's why you see something as tragic as the Sandy Hook mass shooting and policy wasn't really passed after that. And it's like, if you have over twenty elementary school kids dying from guns. I mean, I don't know what could be worse than that.
Jesse: I remember, I was in high school, during the first Columbine shooting. I remember, clearly, we in our school after the Columbine shooting, we could only bring clear or mesh backpacks and we could not have any kind of bag that would conceal. So unfortunately, and maybe I'm giving my age here, I'm from the generation that started to see these mass shootings. It started when I was in high school and I'm out of high school for twenty years now and it hasn't stopped.
Ian: Interesting you mentioned the Columbine shooting, because another topic that I talk about with students around this issue is how it was so normal for us in school to have shooting drills. I'm sure it was the same for you, but explaining to students that yeah, we used to practice, at least where I live, tornado drills and then fire drills, which are very normal. But then I explain the shooting drill. So, you know, the teacher would close all this all the shades, all the curtains, lock the door, and all the students, we would huddle in the corner. We would simulate this scenario, what happens if someone comes to school with a gun. And the older I get, the more I realized how kind of crazy that is that it was normalized for us. You know, being a little boy, pretending to be hiding from a shooter in a classroom is not normal. So, the more people I talked to outside of the United States, the more I get that other perspective of it's a real problem. And, to be honest, if I had my own child going to school in the United States today, I'd be nervous. I'd be scared that something would happen.
Paige: I think the scariest thing about these shootings is what you said is that they take away our safe spaces. I mean, going to school is something that should feel comfortable and safe—going to the movie theaters, going to a concert, going to the bars…
Jesse: …going to church.
Paige: Exactly. I mean, these places where they happen are places where now it's in the back of your mind. For me, I don't really worry about it. But I definitely have friends that are a little nervous now when they go to the movies or if they go in a place where there's a lot of people. They’re kind of always on guard because these incidences happen everywhere. No one is safe. You know, it's not like it's condensed to one state or one city. I mean, just recently you had El Paso and then in Ohio. I mean, so far away.
Ian: Yeah, it's not a geographically isolated event. It can happen anywhere, anytime. And for that reason, you have a lot of people on edge, a lot of people nervous to do normal, everyday things. A lot of people in the back of their mind have to play the scenario out—what happens if there's a shooting? What happens if something happens? And that shouldn't be a normal way of thinking.
Jesse: I often tell my students that maybe they would be surprised to go into some grocery stores or maybe even a Walmart. Because I know in my state, in a Walmart, you literally can buy cheese, butter, milk, and right next to it, the guns. There's a row of guns, they're just opposite aisles—milk, guns.
Paige: Just so we know, because I live in a state that we have pretty strict gun laws, so, I don't see that. I grew up and I don't think I ever saw a gun. What would be the policy like? I can walk into that Walmart today and buy a gun? Like, would I need my ID? Would I need…like, what would I need?
Jesse: Correct, you would need to show identification. But that's all.
Paige: And I could walk away that day with it?
Jesse: Correct. Yeah, and we also have, and you might hear this talked about, what's called the “gun show loophole”. In the United States, oftentimes gun manufacturers, gun collectors, they will host a big exhibition, and they're called a “gun show.” And in those shows, they're in the law, you do not have to do a background check for anyone if you're selling the gun privately. So, if your neighbor wanted to sell his AK-47, he can sell it to you or give it to you and there's no paperwork, there's no documentation. So, it's very, very easily accessible.
Paige: The thing that I don't get too is you read more so now and a lot of these mass shootings that the shooters get their guns online. I don't get how that works. Because, I mean, how can they verify that it's you buying it?
Jesse: Again, That’s part of the loophole. And I know some online, you can buy the gun in pieces and then assemble the gun later. Similar to the Vegas shooting, those bumps stocks that we talked about are not included with the gun. It's an extra accessory that's added to the weapon.
Paige: So, the assumption would be that what's in the federal database of what we think are the amount of guns in circulation…
Jesse: ….is incorrect.
Paige: It’s probably a lot higher.
Ian: Another interesting part of just talking about the ease of being able to get guns, another surprising fact that I tell a lot of students is, you know, in the United States, you can buy a gun when you're eighteen but you can't buy a beer until you're twenty one. That's a little mind- blowing. I mean for us, but really for foreigners as well. Every student that I've told that fact, they've just been eyes wide open and kind of almost gasping. Really? You can't buy a beer, but you can go buy an assault rifle? And there is something a little backwards about that, that I think needs to be changed.
Paige: Yeah, that's absolutely crazy. And I think, I mean, we're talking about a weapon, right? I mean, if you gave me a gun right now, I don't think I do so hot with it. You know, and I could just go into a Walmart, buy this deadly weapon and just have at it—like not having any experience, no lesson, no training? I think that's the scariest thing. I mean, for most things that have any kind of danger, you need to take a class, you need to pass the course, take a test. But, it’s like, one of the deadliest things you can buy legally, you can just have without any experience.
Jesse: Correct. And if you look at the numbers of small children who are accidentally killed by guns, that they find their parent’s gun in a drawer and they think it's a toy, then they shoot their brother or sister or themselves. Unfortunately, that doesn't get reported a lot, but the numbers are really high in the United States of children hurting themselves with guns. Unless you're from the United States, it's very hard to understand. It's really, really difficult to understand how, first of all, it's so easy to get them and why so many people die from them.
Ian: It’s a really complicated issue that hopefully gets fixed sooner or later.
Paige: I think it's something I'm not proud of being from the US because I think it's something that they're like, “oh, you're from the US. What's up with your guns?” You know, and it's something that I get frustrated with. Another mass shooting happens and another mass shooting happens. You know, people ask and you have no answer. Like you said, you hope something gets done. But being realistic, something probably won’t.
Jesse: No. Thoughts and prayers are not going to handle this situation. It's going to take legislation, and it's going to take politicians standing up to lobbyists and listening to the people of the country.
Ian: Hopefully they can do that.
Paige: Well again, sorry. This was a very serious, sensitive topic. But Jesse, thanks so much for joining us. It was really great having you.
Jesse: Yeah, great to be here.
Paige: Well, as you know, students go on the website and you’ll find the full transcript and vocabulary guide on there. So, thanks again for listening.
Ian: See you next time.
Key Vocabulary, Phrases and Slang:
1. assumption (noun): something accepted as true but without proof.
a. It’s the assumption that everyone hates Mondays.
2. contentious (adjective): controversial, debatable.
a. Gun control is a very contentious issue.
3. headline (noun): heading or title at the top of an article, usually newspaper or magazine.
a. Newspapers like to use engaging headlines to interest readers.
4. mass shooting (noun): a shooting involving the injury of five or more people by use of firearms.
a. There have been several mass shootings in the US in the last year.
5. blip (noun): unexpected change or notification from the normal trend.
a. There was a blip in the radar of the ship when they passed through the ocean.
6. under the radar (idiom): unnoticed, not getting attention.
a. His actions slid under the radar since no one was willing to pay attention.
7. civilian (noun): a normal citizen, not serving in the military or police.
a. It is important for civilians to understand their rights.
8. hunter (noun): a person who hunts animals.
a. There are lots of hunters who live in the US.
9. recreational (adjective): for enjoyment
a. I play basketball in a recreational league on Saturdays.
10. deeply-rooted (adjective): firmly held, often with tradition.
a. The culture is deeply-rooted in dance and music.
11. assault rifle (noun): a powerful semi-automatic or automatic firearm able to shoot several bullets in a row.
a. The sale of assault rifle’s raised questions at the city council meeting.
12. scratch one’s head (idiom): to wonder, to be confused.
a. The policemen were left scratching their heads when the murderer left strange clues.
13. military-weaponized gun (noun): firearm that is built specifically for the use of military force.
a. Military-weaponized guns are very common for civilians to purchase.
14. ammunition (noun): supply or quantity of bullets.
a. The terrorist was found with lots of ammunition in his car.
15. to accumulate (verb): to gather, to collect.
a. The police are accumulating information on the criminals in order to capture them.
16. reign of terror (noun): period of violence and bloodshed.
a. The gunmen was able to have a reign of terror while the police were gone.
17. frightening (adjective): causing fear, terrifying.
a. That movie we saw yesterday was really frightening.
18. take out (phrase): to kill or destroy.
a. The police were able to take out the shooter within a couple of minutes.
19. invasion (noun): attempt to enter and control another place usually by armed force.
a. The army successfully defended the invasion by the rebels.
20. to load (verb): to prepare for use.
a. The soldiers loaded their guns in anticipation for the start of the big battle.
21. rhetoric (noun): effective or persuasive speaking or writing.
a. The politician’s presented their own rhetoric for the economic problem.
22. background check (noun): background investigation of one’s criminal records/history.
a. The background check for my new job was very long and detailed.
23. obstacle (noun): something that blocks or slows progress.
a. The company experienced several obstacles in starting their operations.
24. to amend (verb): to make a small change, modify
a. Many people want to amend the current law in place.
25. bipartisan (adjective): involvement of two parties or groups.
a. Bipartisan politics have ruled for many decades in the country.
26. numb (adjective): unable to think, feel or respond normally.
a. People became numb to the violence of war after years of conflict.
27. breaking point (noun): moment of greatest strain or when something can no longer be tolerated.
a. She reached her breaking point when they told her she couldn’t enter the building.
28. meaningful (adjective): important, useful.
a. The information that she shared with us is very meaningful and will help us in the future.
29. dangerous slope (noun): a situation that can become worse and more severe.
a. Changing long-existing laws can be a dangerous slope for a government.
30. to enact (verb): to create, make
a. The government wants to enact laws preventing the sale of firearms.
31. Pandora’s box (noun): a process that causes many complicated problems.
a. Introducing new laws can cause a Pandora’s box to open for the lawmakers.
32. political fallout (noun): negative effects caused by a political decision.
a. The mayor is experiencing political fallout after his speech.
33. Columbine shooting (noun, event): a well-known mass shooting that occurred at Columbine High School in Colorado, USA in 1999.
a. The Columbine school shooting is one of the most well-known events.
34. mesh (noun): transparent material used for clothing and other items.
a. Mesh bags were used for the cleanup program at the school.
35. to conceal (verb): to hide, not make visible.
a. He made sure to conceal his valuable items while going through the busy street.
36. shooting drill (noun): practice or simulation for the event of someone entering a crowded place with the intent to shoot with a gun.
a. The students practiced shooting drills each month with their teachers.
37. to huddle (verb): to come together in a small space.
a. The team huddled together to think of the net plan.
38. to pretend (verb): to act or behave in a way that isn’t what is reality.
a. My daughter loves pretending to be an animal.
39. on guard (adjective): attentive, alert, cautious.
a. It’s a good idea to be on guard whenever walking downtown.
40. condensed (adjective): compressed, focused to only one area
a. The crimes were all condensed in the same area of the city.
41. to be on edge (phrase, adjective): to be worried, nervous.
a. She is always on edge whenever she has an exam.
42. loophole (noun): a small mistake or alternative making it possible to avoid certain laws or rules.
a. Companies use loopholes in order to avoid paying corporate taxes.
43. AK-47 (noun): powerful, popular assault rifle
a. My friend recently bought a new AK-47 at a gun show.
44. to verify (verb): to make sure something is true or accurate.
a. They needed to verify his information before allowing him to buy the gun.
45. to assemble (verb): to put together, combine.
a. We need to assemble the machine using all the parts they gave us.
46. federal database (noun): a country’s collected information system.
a. The federal database shows there are several million citizens with guns.
47. mind-blowing (adjective): overwhelmingly surprising or impressive.
a. Their group gave me some mind-blowing information I didn’t know before.
48. to gasp (verb): quickly breathe in air due to surprise or shock.
a. She gasped when he told her that he had broken his arm.
49. backwards (adjective): opposite to the way something should be.
a. Their process for removing danger from the community is completely backwards.
50. to do hot (phrase): to do well.
a. Unfortunately, I didn’t do so hot on my exam this morning.
51. lobbyist (noun): someone who attempts to persuade government to make laws that benefit their group.
a. The tobacco industry has used lobbyists for years to persuade lawmakers.