The day that my US Green Card arrived in the post, I remember thinking to myself: “Oh cool, now I can go out and buy a high-powered semi-automatic assault weapon.”
Approximately two millionths of a second later, I had another thought - actually it's probably best if I don't go out and buy a high-powered semi-automatic assault weapon, or any other kind of weapon for that matter.
Knowing me, I would almost certainly shoot myself in the groin while loading it. Or my two-year-old son would get hold of it and execute his play date.
Or someone would break into our house and I would scramble for the gun. but hesitate before pulling the trigger and then the intruder, being more experienced in such matters, would grab it off me. And by that time he'd be angry.
BackgroundOr I'd kill the intruder and then a blood spatter expert would declare at my trial that I'd shot him as he was turned away from me and I'd spend the rest of my life on Death Row.
The truth is that, when you get down to the boring, un-Rambo-ish details, it's hard to envisage a scenario in which the benefits of owning a gun for the sake of self-defence outnumber the pitfalls.
Take the issue of storage: most gunowners I know keep their firearms and clips locked up in separate places, for safety. But you can't very well say to the bloke in the ski mask who has just burst into your bedroom wielding an industrial meat cleaver: “Oh hang on a minute, old chap, while I remember the key-code to my gun box - and if you can just bear with me for a few moments longer, I need to go down to the shed to fetch my bullets.”
I mention all this because in the past four weeks a total of seven gunmen have killed 50 people in mass shootings across the US, which has inevitably provoked another debate over Americans' (and, by extension, Green Card holders') right to bear arms.
Some argue that such things would never happen if guns were banned; others say that such things would never happen if everyone from grannies to toddlers were packing heat.
While the latter argument is terrifying - who on earth would want to live in such a country? - I can understand why the Second Amendment (which protects the right to bear arms) is considered so politically untouchable. After all, it serves broadly the same purpose as Britain's constitutional monarchy, ie, to keep the elected government's ego in check.
But, of course, there's a crucial difference - a lone psychopath can buy a gun and shoot 13 people as they take an immigration exam in Binghamton, New York; that same lunatic would have a harder time trying to kidnap the Queen and use her to start a war with France.
Still, it took us a thousand years to reach such a benign relationship with our royals. We can only hope that it doesn't take so long for the Americans to reach a similarly tenable state of affairs when it comes to their firearms.

If anything, the recent shootings have inspired more Americans to buy guns, recession or no recession.
In fact, all over the country they are stocking up on as many pistols, rifles, and shotguns as possible before the Obama Administration bans or taxes them.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the FBI carried out more than 4.2 million background checks on behalf of gundealers from November to January (a check is required with every sale), up 31 per cent on the same period in the previous year.
Interestingly, however, violent crime rates have at the same time been falling in Los Angeles, New York and other big American cities The experts are at loss as to explain why this should be happening.
I have my own theory: people are buying so many guns that the criminals are simply running out of bullets. Or as one firing instructor explained to the Columbus Dispatch newspaper: “The ammo is being snapped up as soon as it comes in. People are in a frenzy. It's kind of like that run on Elmo dolls.”

Child's play
Speaking of Elmo dolls, a good number of the people arming themselves these days are young mothers.
If you don't believe me, visit, where a discussion forum was opened recently under the headline: “Do you think that every mother should own a gun?” One reader responded: “I keep a loaded 9mm in my diaper bag.”
Another wrote: “I carry a Keltec 380 [a small pistol] on my hip every day. I can clip it on my belt with the pistol between my undies and my jeans. I consider myself an easy target, a young mother who is juggling two rowdy toddlers, so I can't explain enough how glad I am that we have the right to bear arms.”
Ah yes, toddlers and deadly weapons - that famously reassuring combination.