The gun culture in the U.S.

By: Engr. Edgar Mana-ay

HOUSTON, Texas – Guns played a major role in the development of America since the Pilgrim Fathers arrive via the ship Mayflower from England in the early 15th century. At that time the gun was purely used for nation building such as defensive purposes against Native American Indians and for hunting because during those early times their survival depends on the wild animals that they could kill.

As the Americans prospered, the gun has also evolved mainly as a wholesome recreational tool and secondarily for protection of the family. But with the influx of migration, the proliferation of drugs, the stressful and fast-paced way of life, the gun in the hands of the civilians (especially the AR-15 rifle) now personifies evil at its ugliest form and a recurring nightmare for the entire nation.

It may be just a morbid coincidence that when this writer was in Tampa, Florida in February 2018 a fatal shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School  in Parkland where a high school student killed 14 fellow high school students, 3 teachers/coaches and wounding 14 others using an AR-15 automatic rifle.

And now again, just a day after settling in Houston, another shooting incident at Saugus High School in Santa Clara California, where a young man opened fire with an automatic rifle killing two students and wounding three others before turning the gun on himself. The suspect was a quiet, smart kid, not a victim of bullying, had a girlfriend and an active member of the local boys’ scout group. But apparently he violently snapped and went on a shooting carnage.

Despite all the killings including the slaughtering of 58 innocent people during a 2007 Las Vegas concert, both Republican and Democrats have not moved to prevent civilians from possessing automatic rifles or banning devices known as “bump stock” that makes a semi-automatic weapon to fire more rapidly as fully automatic ones. Both parties disagree on everything except on the banning of automatic rifles from civilians despite a Suffolk University survey that 63% of Americans want a ban on semi-automatic weapons. It is the ugly hands of the National Rifle Association (NRA) which controls all politicians in the US to prevent the banning of automatic rifles and just implement a short arm (pistol, revolver) policy.

Buc-ee’s is one of the most popular road stops in Texas to cater to travelers since the Americans are the most nomadic people on the planet. Nobody seems contented on staying at home, maybe because everyone has a car and the cost of fuel is relatively cheap. Buc-ee’s saw this opportunity to establish roadside stops in Texas, whose main features are no less than a HUNDRED fuel pumps, which of course doesn’t require a pump boy because it is automated/self-service. Store area including parking lots is more than 50 hectares, it operates 24 hours and at any time during the day more than 300 vehicles of travelers are seen in its parking lot. Its convenience stores sell thousands of snacks and food options including Texas barbecues, chocolates, jerky and pastries and hundreds of souvenir items such as T-shirts. The secret of its success is a very clean and immaculate bathrooms or toilets, male urinals alone, I have counted almost a hundred. Buc-ee’s is now branching out of Texas to Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

One of the largest contributor to Texas petroleum-based economy is the recent (started 10 years ago) SHALE OIL production. This new type of oil deposit underground mostly found in the US specifically in the Permian basin of West Texas are gigantic oil and gas deposits that are mixed and trapped with shale, a compacted silt and clay underground layer.

The US Geological Society (USGS) said that in the Wolfcamp shale alone, a portion of the Permian basin, it contains 20 billion barrels (1 barrel is 159 liters) of oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of associated natural gas and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquid.

Unlike conventional oil and natural gas deposit which congregate or gather as a pool, shale oil requires an entirely new and revolutionary method to extract it from the “soil” or shale where it is mixed and trapped and this is known as HYDRAULIC FRACTURING OR FRACKING.

Strictly speaking, FRACKING is not a drilling process to remove the oil and gas but a large mother hole will still be drilled and from it will emanate horizontal holes in many directions towards the shale layer where a combination of water and sand is pumped to break up the soil layer to release the trapped oils and gas. Because of shale oil, the US is now No. 1 in oil production surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Recent restraints like depressed crude prices and Wall Street animosity toward nearly all things oil and gas (due to misconception on global warming) shale oil companies have put a stop on its gung ho attitude of more and more oil shale production. This new found restrain by an energy sector known for excessive overspending may lead to a better long-term viability.

But in the shorter term, it will mean a weaker economy growth for Texas and more layoffs throughout the industry – from the Houston skyscrapers to West Texas oil fields. Shale energy companies are now increasing efficiency to recover more oil and gas from existing fields instead of expanding and cutting down on exploration costs, meaning trimming its fat to survive.