By Justin Webb
BBC North America editor, Missouri
Despite the fact there are more than 200 million guns in circulation, there is a certain tranquility and civility about American life.
Deepwater, Missouri has a motto: "A great lil' town nestled in the heartland."
Since April 2007 the US Congress has passed major gun legislation
Deepwater considers itself to be an exemplar of the best of American life. A place where outsiders - if they ever penetrated this far - would find home-cooked apple pie and friendly, warm, hard-working folk.
Among those folk, I have no doubt, is Ronald Long.
Last month Mr Long decided to install a satellite television system in his Deepwater home. His efforts to make a hole in the outside wall came to nothing because Mr Long did not possess a drill.
But he did have a .22 calibre gun.
He fired two shots from the inside of the bedroom.
The second killed his wife who was standing outside.
He will face no charges. The police accept it was an accident.
To many foreigners - and to some Americans - the tolerance of guns in everyday American life is simply inexplicable.
As a New York Times columnist put it recently:
"The nation is saturated with violence. Thousands upon thousands of murders are committed each year. There are more than 200 million guns in circulation."
Someone suggested a few days ago that the Democrats' presidential candidates might like to take up the issue of gun control.
Forget about it.
They were warned off - in colourful style - by a fellow Democrat, the Governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer.
"In Montana, we like our guns", he said.
"Most of us own two or three guns. 'Gun control' is hitting what you shoot at. So I'd be a little careful about blowing smoke up our skirts."
Democrats would like to win in the Mountain West this November. Enough said.
Washington weapons ban
On the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, all this will feel to some like a rather depressing, if predictable, American story. A story of an inability to get to grips with violence.
A ceremony marking the Virginia Tech shootings
At the moment, there is an effort being made to overturn a ban on some types of weapon in Washington DC.
Among those dead against this plan - those who claim it would turn the nation's capital into the Wild West - is a lanky black man (he looks like a basketball player) called Anwan Glover.
Anwan peeled off articles of clothing for our cameras and revealed that he had been shot nine times.
One bullet is still lodged in an elbow.
His younger brother was shot and killed a few months ago.
Anwan was speaking to us in a back alley in north-east Washington. If you heard a gun shot in this neighbourhood you would not feel surprised.
Why is it then that so many Americans - and foreigners who come here - feel that the place is so, well, safe?
A British man I met in Colorado recently told me he used to live in Kent but he moved to the American state of New Jersey and will not go home because it is, as he put it, "a gentler environment for bringing the kids up."
This is New Jersey. Home of the Sopranos.
Brits arriving in New York, hoping to avoid being slaughtered on day one of their shopping mission to Manhattan are, by day two, beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. By day three they have had had the scales lifted from their eyes.
I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place, the lack of the violent undercurrent so ubiquitous in British cities, even British market towns.
"It seems so nice here," they quaver.
Well, it is!
Ten or 20 years ago, it was a different story, but things have changed.
And this is Manhattan.
Wait till you get to London Texas, or Glasgow Montana, or Oxford Mississippi or Virgin Utah, for that matter, where every household is required by local ordinance to possess a gun.
Folks will have guns in all of these places and if you break into their homes they will probably kill you.
They will occasionally kill each other in anger or by mistake, but you never feel as unsafe as you can feel in south London.
It is a paradox. Along with the guns there is a tranquillity and civility about American life of which most British people can only dream.
Peace and serenity
What surprises the British tourists is that, in areas of the US that look and feel like suburban Britain, there is simply less crime and much less violent crime.
Doors are left unlocked, public telephones unbroken.
One reason - perhaps the overriding reason - is that there is no public drunkenness in polite America, simply none.
I have never seen a group of drunk young people in the entire six years I have lived here. I travel a lot and not always to the better parts of town.
It is an odd fact that a nation we associate - quite properly - with violence is also so serene, so unscarred by petty crime, so innocent of brawling.
Virginia Tech had the headlines in the last few days and reminded us of the violence for which the US is well known.
But most American lives were as peaceful on this anniversary as they are every day.
From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday 19 April, 2008 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.