With shops lining the main road and hard bargaining merchants abounding, Jihana appears to be your average Yemeni market. But instead of shopping for food or clothes, customers peruse a vast assortment of glocks, pistols, AK47s, M16s, anti-aircraft artillery, bazookas, and nearly any other weapon short of an actual tank.
"In Yemen, no matter if you're rich or poor, you must have guns. Even if it's just one piece," insists Abdul Wahab al-Ammari, a tribal sheikh from Yemen's Ibb province who resides in Sana'a, citing self-protection as the primary driver of gun ownership. "I have maybe 14 high powered weapons, and 3 handguns [at home]."
Remember this ad for AR15 (the weapon used by the Newtown killer):
Driving across Sana'a, walking down the street, or eating at a restaurant, it's almost impossible not to encounter a firearm. And that's the capital. Gun-slinging in tribal areas, especially northern ones, is even more cavalier. "Yemeni society links the weapons culture with manliness," says Abdulrahman al-Marwani, the founder and director of Dar al-Salam (House of Peace), the first NGO in Yemen to focus on disarmament.
Another day in NRA paradise:
Weapons remain a central aspect of daily life in urban and rural areas alike. Weddings and other momentous occasions are invariably punctuated by joyous outbursts of automatic gunfire... But, in the end, bullets have to land somewhere. In 2011 alone, hundreds were injured or killed by celebratory gunfire.
More broadly, there are an estimated 4,000 violent deaths here annually, a pre-revolution count that has likely increased over the last two years. Either way, the per capita rate is even higher than in America.
The society that exists in the heads of gun nuts happens to exist in reality. That society is Yemen, that society is religious and patriarchal, that society looks hellish.