“American Gun Culture” is a pejorative according to the media and their masters in the federal, state and local law-enforcement leviathan. It goes hand-in-hand with the relentless reporting of almost every shooting as a “mass shooting,” and every gang drive-by-shooting conspicuously stripped of all mention of the entrenched violence of the blue cities. It is an a priori assumption that the catastrophic murder rate in the blue inner cities is caused by America’s irrational fixation on guns, even though the vast majority of those guns are owned outside of the inner cities.
Here is a Politico article from four years ago, written by a couple of well-meaning academics who nonetheless fall into the trap of treating guns as emotional objects…the talisman of the flyover states. These two knuckleheads actually try to be evenhanded, and for that I give them credit, but they miss some huge issues when they try to connect gun violence in America with “American Gun Culture.”
The view of guns as neutral tools, a view shared by conservative defenders of gun rights as well as liberal advocates of gun regulation, misses a crucial fact about guns and gun ownership. It wrongly assumes that the distribution of guns and their presence in their owners’ lives are totally independent facts that don’t shape the opportunities and choices of the people who use them.
But increasingly, research into the culture and political views of gun owners is painting a very different portrait. Gun owners’ politics don’t generally fall into lockstep with the NRA–but guns themselves are woven into people’s lives in ways that go far beyond a tool. This suggests that the path to gun law reform won’t be as simple as liberals might hope or conservatives might fear.
There are two huge errors. The first is that they conflate gun culture with violence, even though the hyper-violence of the inner city, which is where most gun crime occurs, is driven by societal breakdown, lack of respect for the rule of law, and a fundamental lack of respect for life (I wonder whether abortion rate and murder rate are correlated?). There is no gun culture in the inner cities…guns are a tool to make casual violence easy. True American Gun Culture is far less violent…in fact, legal owners of firearms are astoundingly law-abiding. Gun Culture means a tremendous social network of gun clubs and competitive shooting and the millions of Americans who hunt. Gun Culture means sitting around at the local gun club, drinking coffee, socializing, talking politics or baseball or reloading or complaining about how loud the neighbors were last night. It doesn’t mean the glorification of violence and the raising to some mythical level the ability to kill ones’ interlocutors. It is quite the opposite. And gun safety is the main focus at every gun club, organization, event, sale, and many conversations I have experienced. And most of all, American Gun Culture is the internalized belief that we are a free people, that we possess rights independent of government.
The second error is the now axiomatic assumption that America needs gun law reform. No, we do not. We need the existing laws enforced…rigorously, consistently, and forcefully. We need to treat law-abiding gun owners — who represent the overwhelming majority — as regular American citizens, rather than potential mass murderers teetering on the edge of sanity.
Once again…legal gun owners do not commit crimes. They are among the most law-abiding people in America! I have seen statistics that suggest that American gun owners commit fewer gun crimes than American police!
But the incessant drum-beat of GUNS GUNS GUNS in the media is designed to shift the historical American perspective that it is our God-given, natural right to possess the means with which to defend ourselves from crime and, yes, government, to an attitude that accepts government as the sole possessor of force. That is a recipe for totalitarianism, and one that we must fight.