America’s Gun Culture

America’s Gun Culture May 28, 2019

There is one central question here: Do we have a problem? That is, is our gun culture a problem? That is, is our gun culture productive of gun violence? One question in three.

A new book by a pastor, one who grew up (as I did) with guns for toys as a child and then owned a gun for hunting, Donald V. Gaffney is called Common Ground: Talking about Gun Violence in America. It’s a good place to begin a conversation about guns, and it addresses our gun culture.

What images come to mind when you think about America’s gun culture?

How do racial minorities fit into your image of gun culture? How do you see racial stereotypes played out around gun violence?

Do you believe violence can be redemptive?

Culture and language are tied together: what about our language?

Try making a list of gun references as you think of them or 
hear them. There may be too many to catch, but give it your best shot. Once you have a pen and paper handy, you’ll be ready to pull the trigger. You will be blown away by how quickly your list grows. As you get better and better at spotting gun language in your sights, you can load your own conversation with references to guns. Fire away! But I’d suggest you scope out your target audience for this first so that it doesn’t backfire and someone goes ballistic.

The United States has roughly 270 million guns, or approximately 90 for every 100 residents. (I have seen U.S. sources that claim we now exceed one gun for each man, woman, and child.)

Guns are our foundation and identity, a symbol of our freedom, in ways they are not for most other nations.

In colonies, the colonists thought they needed guns for hunting, for safety, and for possible military weapons. As we moved West, Americans needed guns for the same and so a gun culture was born and we became inextricable from our guns. New Israel or Manifest Destiny, one more religious than the other, became our narrative.

Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, and Gunsmoke and the American Westerns. American Westerns became Batman and James Bond and redemptive violence becomes the newest version of Manifest Destiny.

Our growth as a nation has been tied to our willingness to go into the frontier, confront and conquer the savages, and spread civilization as we know it. We have gone from a group of colonies fighting oppression to a superpower attempting to police the world.

Americans needed a savior, a deliverer—a good guy with a gun. They needed a man (they were all men back then) with a special skill (usually with a weapon) and self-control in the face of evil who could save the day.

On race: guns were used to threaten, kill and controls African Americans. African Americans did not have the same rights to guns that Whites had.

The big question: Are guns a problem? Do we have a gun culture problem?

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