The Cultural Context required to understand US Gun Culture

It becomes readily apparent to people outside of the United States that people within the US have quite a different take on the issue of gun control (even as we read today of the 29th mass shooting in the US in the first 6 weeks of 2018 -18 of which have taken place in schools). To people outside of the US, this is pure insanity, and the obvious solution is gun control. 

For example, Australia had a similar issue (though in a much lesser degree). 

In April 1996, a man armed with semi-automatic rifles entered a cafe in the town of Port Arthur, and shot and killed 35 people. It was the worst mass shooting in Australian history. The day after the massacre, the country’s prime minister, John Howard, started to put together the most sweeping gun control reforms ever contemplated by any Australian government. The country passed the National Firearms Agreement, which banned automatic, semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and introduced a stricter system for licensing and owning guns. The agreement is considered one of the strictest gun laws in the world. Furthermore, a national gun buy back scheme saw more than 640,000 weapons turned in to authorities. The guns were collected and destroyed. It took just 14 days after the Port Arthur massacre for gun laws to be proposed and then passed by the Australian government.

In the decades before the Port Arthur killings, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia (defined by academics as the killing of five or more people, not including the shooter). Since the gun reform, Australia has not had another mass shooting. (details paraphrased from a news article Oct 4, 2017 Global News)

So, we have international precedent, we have results. What's the problem in the US? 

In just one of 100's of examples, a 2016 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (after the Orlando shooting), fifty percent of voters said that they were concerned that the government will go too far in restricting the rights of citizens to own guns, while 47 percent said they were more concerned that authorities would not do enough to regulate access to firearms. The widely interpreted 2nd amendment of the Constitution seems to be the primary and uniquely American issue that hinders progress on gun control. I don't think I would find too much resistance to the idea that it is the foundation of modern gun culture in the US.

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution was designed to protect the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights. Despite being written in 1791 in the era of muskets, recent legal interpretations such as Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016) have seen the Court rule that the Second Amendment extends to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding, and that this Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States. So, fully automatic military weapons are fine for home use. The US has an unhealthy gun culture.

America's gun culture in 10 charts (Feb 15, 2018) nicely summarizes the issue.  Mass shootings aren't the only problem.

The sociology of U.S. gun culture (D. Yamane, 2017), is a look at the history of the issue.

In this study, a couple of earlier studies are mentioned citing the “citizen soldier” - male gun carriers as citizen-protectors who are seen as morally upstanding citizens exercising their historically masculine duty to protect their families while female gun carriers emphasized a need to protect themselves (rather than their families) and felt empowered to do so because guns are “equalizers”. Both males and females seem to embrace of a cultural ideal of personal responsibility that requires guns. 

It is difficult for someone outside of this gun culture to understand this as being remotely logical (and roughly half of those within it aren't buying it either). 

The solution to the US problem lies within the US. We on the outside can wag our fingers and shake our heads in disbelief but external negative opinions will never change this. I would suggest this requires legislation, a change in legal rulings regarding the interpretation of what is allowed under the 2nd amendment, and a ton of education starting in kindergarten to counter this embedded gun culture.







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