On handguns, tradition and radicalism

Gun show in Houston, Texas. Image from Wikipedia

I write a lot about the clash between traditional American culture — which tends to be conservative —  and the rapid societal changes that have triggered deep anxiety and bitterness, particularly in rural white communities.

In broad terms, this axis defines the country’s culture war, far more than any red vs. blue or North vs. South paradigm.

The truth, which I think is irrefutable, is that our nation is changing with stunning speed in ways that have sparked a sometimes understandable backlash.

In a mere handful of decades, our concept “family” has been reinvented.  Homosexuality has evolved from a recognized mental illness into a widely accepted version of “normal.”

The role of women in society has changed in radical ways, one of the largest shifts in the human paradigm in recorded history.  Soon, the white community will be only one of many minorities in a truly diverse ethnic landscape.

Active Christians make up a smaller and smaller portion of citizens and the fastest growing “faith” group is made up of people with no religious convictions at all.

That’s a lot to take on board, especially since it’s hitting the “real” America all at once.

When my urban, progressive friends wring their hands about the conservative uproard against these changes, I remind them that America’s traditional culture is merely holding on to  and defending values that were entirely mainstream just a few years ago.

But when it comes to guns, I don’t think this argument holds true.

When it comes to firearms, it is traditional America that’s changing, profoundly and perhaps even radically, in ways that are finally sparking real debate.

I grew up in rural America, and have always been a proud, unambiguous part of the gun-owning culture.  I’ve owned firearms my entire life.  My father and I were members of a shooting club at a range in my home town.  We hunted whitetail deer.

While courting my wife — herself a holder of NRA merit badges for marksmanship — I hunted turkey and deer with my future father-in law.

One of my wife’s proudest gifts to our son (he was 13 years old at the time) was his first .22 rifle.

My brother Allen and I have hunted together since childhood, and he writes one of the best hunting and fishing blogs in the Midwest.

What we didn’t do?  We didn’t own military-style weaponry.

In all my childhood and young adulthood, I don’t remember anyone owning assault rifles or high-capacity banana clips, or talking about the need for such weapons.

Guys owned shotguns for hunting fowl.  We owned hunting rifles.  Some men — not, by a long-shot, all — owned a pistol for home security, to protect their businesses, or for protection against grizzly bears, or for sport.

Through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, when I was a kid and a young man, the loggers and fishermen and outdoorsmen I grew up around would have been baffled by anyone packing a military-style heat.

I remember in particular one of my friends bragging that his dad still had an old German Luger military pistol locked away in a drawer, a legacy of his grandfather’s service in World War II.

The idea was kind of shocking and exciting.

But if you asked me whether any of our dads would have advocated legalizing teflon coated “copkiller” bullets or fought for the right to use high capacity magazines, I’d say no way.

I’m not sure when the gun culture changed.

What I can tell you is that in the part of America where I grew up — Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and later Alaska — it didn’t look much like the gun culture that exists today.

Guys didn’t talk about the need to arm themselves so that they could someday resist their own despotic government.  There wasn’t survivalist talk or talk of “2nd amendment” solutions to democratic debates.

I suspect the change came from the narrowing agenda of the NRA, which shifted from a mom-and-pop style hunter and gun-safety organization to a sleek, powerful culture war advocacy group that sees no room for compromise or nuance.

In their worldview, there are gun lovers and believers in the Constitution, and there are those who would confiscate every single firearm.

It’s a gun culture that leaves no room for people like me, who value sporting guns and believe in protecting gun ownership, but have serious moral and practical questions about the need for high-efficiency military-style pistols and assault rifles.

I suspect that at least some of the change also came from a growing population of American gun enthusiasts who don’t have strong ties to rural life.

There are a lot of suburbanites and urban folks who embraced the gun-show bang-bang culture that gets a rush out of hard-core hardware, without having been introduced to firearms through the common sense values of their fathers and mothers.

Finally, I suspect that a lot of the change in America’s gun culture came through the commercialization of firearms, as manufacturers — who now clear $12 billion a year — worked to sell more and more high-end “cool” weapons.

The kind of guns that ravaged Aurora and Newtown and Columbine have much higher profit margins — and fanboy appeal — than you see for a serious hunting rifle or a practical shotgun.

So while on many issues, it is urban, progressive Americans who have moved into new, experimental, and sometimes nervous territory, when it comes to guns I think it’s fair to argue that conservatives are the ones who have changed.

While talking about the long-standing tradition of gun ownership and flying the banner of the 2nd amendment, they’re drawing lines in the sand that I’m guessing would have made little sense to the guys in the coffee shop in my hometown.

So here’s my question to those of you who see yourselves as gun rights advocates.  When was the first time you saw people in your community owning (or desiring) these kinds of weapons?

When did you or your friends begin to see military-style pistols and assault rifles and banana clip-type accessories as part of America’s gun culture?

304 Comments on “On handguns, tradition and radicalism”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    First of all, there is no traditional gun culture in this country other than in fantasy land.
    No one other than cops in my family ever owned or carried a gun before I got a rifle at 16, which I still have .
    The NRA represents less than 1% of all Americans. Why 1% is given so much as a dime’s worth of interest is beyond me.
    Once upon a time I belonged to the NRA but quit when they decided they would lobby for the death penalty.
    I think the heads at the NRA need to be checked out by a psychiatrist. They seem to be absolutely goofy.

  2. wj says:

    Good question.

    I come from a gun owning family, too, and I remember hearing about the desire for high-powered assault rifles shortly before legislation that limited access to them.

    I have another question for advocates of easy access to assault rifles and banana clips that hold 30 or more rounds:

    When will you acknowledge that mass killings — like those in Newtown and Aurora — are at least partly crimes of opportunity? That the crime is less likely to occur if it’s harder to get this kind of firepower? And what will it take for you to talk seriously about making assault rifles and high-capacity clips more annoying to acquire?

    Notice that I didn’t say illegal or impossible to acquire. Just more annoying.

    There’s been a lot of research on this. All of it has found that raising the hurdle of access — just a little — goes a long way in limiting the profusion of deadly firepower.

    So when does it become OK to say that buying assault rifles and high-capacity clips should be a little tougher than sending your kid to school or the movies and hoping s/he isn’t riddled with bullets?

  3. Mervel says:

    “I suspect that at least some of the change also came from a growing population of American gun enthusiasts who don’t have strong ties to rural life.

    There are a lot of suburbanites and urban folks who embraced the gun-show bang-bang culture that gets a rush out of hard-core hardware, without having been introduced to firearms through the common sense values of their fathers and mothers.”

    I have noticed the exact same change in my life experience. I think it is your point above which accounts for a good portion of it.

  4. BRFVolpe says:

    Thank you, NRA, using some of your lobby money to fund the hiring of armed guards in the Butler, PA schools!

    Just kidding. Taxpayer money for education is paying for it.

    As a lifelong hunter, HS rifle team member and Jr NRA sharpshooter, nonetheless, I will lawfully surrender every firearm manufactured for military use, while preserving my 2nd Amendment rights. That is, I get to keep every gun I own.

    Assault weapons are designed for military use. They are designed for attack, not protection. Anyone who is a poor shot or an inexperienced shooter can make up for their failings by using an assault rifle.

    Maybe an effective counter to the surge in assault weapon sales, is to advertise “If you are a lousy shot, or have low T, this is the weapon for you!”

  5. I grew up in pretty much the same culture Brian describes. My dad gave me a 22 when I was around 13-14. I did some target shooting but when I went in the army I sold it. Now I only own a high powered pellet rifle.

    As for who I know that owns military or assault type weapons, I don’t know anyone like that or at least I don’t think I do. I think that those who feel the need for such weapons also feel a need to be careful who they let know they have them, part of the paranoia perhaps. The only people I’m aware of having such weapons (through a third party) are tobacco smugglers making runs between the US and Canada.

  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    All the men in my family before my generation served in the military (at least as far back as I know of), many were officers some of them very high ranking officers and yet very few owned personal weapons – only my Rush listening uncle, that I know of.

    All of my other uncles, grandfathers, etc, were white-collar professionals who didn’t see any need to own a personal weapon. They didn’t hunt because they prided themselves on being able to pay for the food on their table – not intending any insult to anyone who hunts for food or pleasure, it’s just the mind-set they had.

    But I’m not the target audience for the questions you pose.

  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    BRFVolpe: “Anyone who is a poor shot or an inexperienced shooter can make up for their failings by using an assault rifle.”

    That actually describes my uncle who has Parkinson’s. Not joking. He bought an AR-15 type weapon a few years ago when his shaking got bad. He is a perfect example of the type of person who feels oppressed; old white guy, retired engineer who watches Fox News. I love my uncle and he has always been very good to me, but he is very angry and out of touch with reality.

  8. Peter Hahn says:

    Nate Silver has some good statistics on who the new gun owners are. http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/in-gun-ownership-statistics-partisan-divide-is-sharp/

    Turns out they are mostly the suburban Republicans. Those same older white suburban males.

  9. wakeup says:

    What kind of scum tears down his own uncle on a public forum?

  10. Peter Hahn says:

    One interesting thing about the statistics on gun ownership. The groups with the lowest gun ownership rates – African Americans and Asian Americans are both groups that live in urban inner city areas that are more likely to be threatened by violent crime. Wheres the suburban gun owners are living in the safest neighborhoods. I dont think the suburbs are safe because the older white guys all bought guns. Those neighborhoods were safe before, and thats why those guys moved their in the first place. What it says is that from a personal protection standpoint, people who are closest to the danger and most familiar with how to survive there are the least likely ones to own guns.

  11. wj says:

    Hey wakeup-

    Congratulations on completely missing the point.


  12. Mervel says:

    Maybe wakeup is his uncle.

  13. Mervel says:

    It will be interesting as gun owners are not a uniform bunch, yet laws are uniform. I hope whatever happens it is targeted toward the true problem guns and problem areas. A wide reaching approach that snares in millions of people including teens with 22’s, into some sort of tracking system would be a very bad idea in my opinion. It would probably lose.

  14. The Original Larry says:

    Recent testimony in the James Holmes case was that he spent months planning the assault and accumulating the firearms, ammunition, chemicals, explosives, etc. that he used. This adds to other evidence that these are very much not crimes of opportunity encouraged by easy access to firearms. In fact, they seem to be planned well in advance and the shooters often make no secret of their intentions. This needs to be carefully considered by those who think making it “more annoying” to acquire weapons is some sort of answer.

  15. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – as (most) everyone agrees, there is no simple single answer.

  16. marcusaurelius says:

    It is my understanding that James Holmes amassed at least part of his cache of munitions via the internet. That qualifies as easy access to me.

  17. wj says:


    Holmes got the weapons easily. He had the opportunity to get them. He then planned his crime knowing what weapons he’d use to carry it out.

    Planning doesn’t negate the fact Aurora was partly a crime of opportunity.

    If Holmes couldn’t get his hands on the guns, he would have planned a different crime. Maybe he would have used a knife.

    The point is that a lot fewer people would have been hurt. And a lot fewer would have been killed.

    The same is true of Newtown. And you can’t argue with this.

    If it had been more difficult for those two nut jobs to get their hands on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, fewer people would have been killed. Maybe none.

    And that’s the outcome we’d prefer. Right?

  18. tootightmike says:

    To Brian’s question about when….. I’ll remember as far back as ‘Dirty Harry” as the first time I can remember guys fetishizing guns. Every red blooded American male can recite that little speech about the .357 magnum…and not remembering… and do you feel lucky. Partly I remember because, while I saw the same movie that everyone else saw, I came out of the theatre angry at being manipulated by the film-maker.
    I grew up in a hunting family too, and as a teenager, regularly read “American Rifleman” magazine, a publication put out by the NRA. Somewhere they lost me though, and as the publication became more glossy, more political, and in my opinion, more childish. In particular, there was always a column called “The Armed Citizen” in which the innocent gun owner saves his family from bad guys with his gun. In Ohio, where I grew up, “innocent family” translates as “white”, and “bad guy” translates as “darkie”. Anyone with a political conscience could see through the charade, and become offended.
    It’s not too hard to carry that thought forward, and to understand that angry old white men and their childish offspring are thinking about having to overthrow the government, and wanting the biggest firepower they can lay their hands on to do it.

  19. Rancid Crabtree says:

    I think you need to do a lot more research Brian. You have to consider what was state of the art at the time to put things in perspective. In 1892 the newest thing going was smokeless powder rifle called the Krag-Jorgeson. That’s what Teddy R and the Rough Riders used as they charged up Kettle Hill. It was a high capacity, fast reloading rifle. The previous issue rifle had been the Trapdoor Springfield, a single shot rifle that was 15-20X faster to reload than it’s predecessor. The latest word in the handgun of the day was the fast reloading, high capacity double action revolver which the US forces were slowly changing to. The venerable Colt 45 Peacemaker was still issued and widely available to civilians. A few years after the Spanish American War, in 1903, the US dumped the Krag and went to the faster loading ’03 Springfield using and even more powerful round than the Krag. In 1911 the Colt M-1911 45ACP auto loading pistol was made standard issue to US forces, and it’s civilian counterpart followed soon after. In the early days of WW2 the M1 Garand, a high capacity, faster reloading rifle and the M1 Carbine were issued. The Carbine featured a high capacity magazine.

    You may wonder what this has to do with your memories of the days of your youth. Well, the Springfield 03 was a copy of the Mauser 98, the German WW1 and 2 issue rifle. It was widely sold in the surplus market and it’s design was copied to become todays Winchester 70, Remington 700, Ruger 77 and numerous rifles from other makers. In fact, Remington bought many hundred thousands of alternate issue 1917 Enfields and marketed them as their M30 bolt action hunting rifle after being restocked and the metal shaped differently. The Colt 1911 is still issued today and is among the most popular handguns in the civilian market. Equally popular is the old Colt Peacemaker which was also state of the art at one time. The Garand and M1Carbine, along with the later M14, are still going strong and being sold by the US gov’t Civilian Marksmanship program. The Springfields and Enfields of WW1 fame were state of the art too and were considered high capacity, high powered rifles, millions were sold to civilians who used them. You probably saw them and numerous other surplus rifles and never even realized what you were looking at. The Winchester 94 deer rifle, the old 30-30, was issued to factory security and military security during the war and a variation of the gun was used by Russia and Turkey pre-WW1.

    The point is all these firearms, almost all firearms of any type, are based on military firearms used at one point or another. The AR platform, the Bushmaster, has been around since the early 60’s. The reason you didn’t see many around in civilian hands was because they were full auto rifles that very few people had the proper licensing to obtain and because they were obscenely expensive. In the mid 70’s Ruger developed a military rifle called the Mini-14 which was a scaled down M14 using the 223 round. THe US didn’t want it, but it sold like hotcakes in other areas of the world. They released a semi auto version here and people loved them. Colt saw that and started releasing a semi auto version of the M16, the AR 15, and other makers got into the market. Today the AR or M16 is gradually being superseded by other weapons platforms and will one day be obsolete, just like the M1 Garand and Springfield and Krag.

    As far as who owned those military guns? My first deer rifle was a military Remington Rolling Block in 7×57. It may well have been used against TR as he charged up the hill. My 2nd was an Italian Carcano ex-military, the same type used by Lee Harvey Oswald. The 3rd was a Mauser Kar98, the WW1` German battle rifle. Today I have a small collection of rifles and handguns, many which are military or military variants. Your pump action shotgun for birds is not only still in use by the military, but at one time it was widely denounced for it’s high rate of fire and capacity by the writers of the day!

    Getting all hysterical about a modern gun and demanding limits and bans be established would be like saying we should all be limited to Commodore 64’s and dial up internet as far as the actual tool in use goes. Technology moves on. What was state of the art changes. High capacity, high powered rifles and handguns have been in use for well over 100 years. What has changed has been the people. But it’s too damn hard to find an answer to people problems, isn’t it? Instead we’ll let the politicians take our rights away.

  20. Rancid Crabtree says:

    WJ, and after we ban all the weapons this round of legislation includes gun crime will come to a screaming halt, right? I didn’t think so. What would have stopped Holmes or the Sandy Hook shooter was a single bullet in the K5 zone. Restricting peoples rights to defend themselves is wrong no matter how you cut it.

  21. Ken Hall says:

    Hey KHL, Don’t be badmouthing engineers; we are not all ultra conservative republicans. ;-

    Back in the late 70’s early 80’s I knew an FB-111 airplane driver, who purportedly owned a fully auto fire assault style weapon; however, I never laid eyes upon it.

    Several days ago I was discussing the US gun gun culture with an ex-military friend of mine who now resides in Columbia, SC. He has had as long an association with guns as have I and when I first met him some 30+ years ago he was an ultra conservative republican; however, I believe our illustrious POTUS Ronnie Raygun turned him not into a screaming liberal, as I am purported to be, but at least moderately liberal. As we chatted each of us were scouring the internet for documentation bolstering our somewhat divergent points of view when he said “Google CCW and open the first Wiki link”. Although the subject of the article is Concealed Carry Weapons and not necessarily assault style it appears that the time frame of the time lapse animated map illustrating the change in CCW laws by State beginning early in the second term of the Reagan Presidency (1986) to present, likely parallels the US machismo affair with assault style weapons. Very interesting, take a peek.

    Here is the link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_carry_in_the_United_States – and another to the enlarged map – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rtc.gif

  22. Brian Mann says:

    Rancid –

    What you write is very interesting. I mean that sincerely. So let’s unpack it.

    For a number of generations, it turns out that the military technology used in rifles is practical and efficient for another use – killing deer and other game.

    It stands to reason that common sense people like our fathers and grandfathers would look to companies that produce those weapons for civilian grade models.

    But then the technology advances to the point where weapons designed for killing other human beings no longer really offer any practical advantage in the civilian world.

    You don’t need to fire 30 rounds in 30 seconds to kill a deer. You don’t need a banana clip to protect your home or business from burglars.

    So the vast majority of us in the American gun culture stayed with our 7 mm’s and our .30-06s and, for some guys, our .357 magnums with 8 rounds or so of capacity before reloading.

    I think this is where the ‘great divorce’ happened for guys like me.

    I don’t see the need for civilian gun owners to have access to increasingly sophisticated and efficient hardware that has absolutely no other purpose other than the efficient killing of other humans.

    And following your logic, what happens with the NEXT generation of military killing technology designed for infantrymen?

    Should even more efficient weapons be allowed for civilian sale? Can we draw any lines as a moral and civilized society?

    Regarding your computer metaphor.

    If we discovered that something in the evolving technology of smart phones and other computer devices was contributing to the deaths of a lot of people, we would do something about it.

    And in fact, we did. We recently banned the use of cell phones and PDAs while driving.

    That kind of common sense regulation is often used when we find that changing technology poses serious risks to society.

    –Brian, NCPR

  23. Ken Hall says:

    TooTight, I believe Hairy the Dirty carried a .44 magnum which he purported to be “the most powerful handgun in the world” (at that time) not a .357 magnum. Agree with your contentions otherwise.

  24. Peter Hahn says:

    Rancid – it is not a shock that the driving force for weapons technology innovation comes from the military. That doesnt change the fact that limiting the number of rounds in a clip would be only a minor inconvenience to anyone not in a firefight with other humans.

  25. Newt says:

    Crabtree, I admire your knowledge of the history of military-to-sports conversions of American weaponry, but it hardly speaks to Brian’s point. In fact, supports it. The hunters of days of yore did not lust after Browning .30s, Thompson submachine guns, or BARs. They just wanted reliable and accurate bolt actions, or the occasional semi-auto. And many today are happy with the extended season and challenge that black powder muzzle loaders bring. Military-grade, or near-grade weaponry is different, and the personality that seems to require it is also different.

  26. Kathy says:

    Why do liberals say times are changing when it applies to their ideology but toss it out when it comes to the evolution of gun ownership?

    I suspect the change is not to be solely placed upon the NRA or the gun manufacturer, but the culture. Films like Dirty Harry, Rambo – maybe it began there?

    And as far as a despotic government, don’t you think the Founders had that in mind given the time they were living in (a point often used on this forum), and the battle to become free from England? If they had it in their minds that the Constitution would evolve with each generation, why would you think they didn’t have it in their mind that one day we may have to fight for freedom.. again?

    But we keep interpreting without substance, resulting in nothing but opinions – and we all have them – mostly based on our experiences as Brian’s article suggests.

    Consider this:

    The Second Amendment to the Constitution (“the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”) has been a focal point of recent debates, and according to critics, the traditional interpretation of the Second Amendment has apparently caused all the violence in American.

    Some therefore claim that the Second Amendment is simply wrong and should be ignored.

    Others argue that it actually means something different from what it says-that “the right to keep and bear arms” is a right guaranteed to the collective military rather than to individual citizens.

    In the recent federal case United States v.Emerson, federal judge Sam Cummings was called on to investigate these issues. Utilizing a practice which is unusual for many in today’s judiciary, Judge Cummings wisely followed the guidance of James Wilson, signer of the Constitution and original Supreme Court Justice, who long ago advised: “The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.” Therefore, rather than relying on the opinions of today’s ivory tower professors, Judge Cummings examined the writings of George Washington, George Mason, Richard Henry Lee, Noah Webster, James Madison, and a number of others. He found Patrick Henry’s declaration that “The great object is that every man be armed….[and] that everyone who is able may have a gun,” as well as Samuel Adams’ pronouncement that the Constitution “be never construed to authorize Congress….to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.”

    After completing his thorough examination, Judge Cummings issued a strong, unequivocal ruling which upheld the original intent of the Second Amendment!


  27. Jeff says:

    Brian- None of my teenage aquaintences in rural Pennsylvania spoke much of semi-automatics. Where I lived, one could not hunt with semi-automatic rifles. Little point in owning one. My lever action, patented in 1881 holds 11 rounds. It uses round nosed or flat (dumb dumb) bullets. My dad was a city kid in the pre-WWII days and claims he knew every firearm in every block adjoining his. His primary hunting rifle as an adult was a converted military Enfield. It was surplus WWII military issue when he got it. It was affordable. Since I didn’t grow up around semi-automatics I don’t have much interest in them. I could do without. I don’t go for the “cool factor.”

    The kids I knew in my elementary years (yes elementary early 60’s) spoke of Remington Rolling block rifles or O3-A3 Springfield rifles because they were on the back of magazines as surplus for $19.99. The Springfield was military issue. We talked of BARs and M-14s when we played army. There was a weekly program called COMBAT on the tele. As the plastics industry grew, plastic models of these later hit the toy shelves. I did have a photosensitive target game in ’63 that used a replica of a 1911 Colt. We had a couple of military 7mm Mausers purchased at Western Auto for $20 each which have been sporterized since. They were surplus from Spain.

    The “assault rifle” when we were kids was an M1 rifle or carbine or Thompson sub-machine gun. My dad was in Korea. Vietnam dads used different firearms and Gulf War soldiers had newer versions and newer designs. We use what is available or what we know. We are aware of what the the mitary uses and there are people who want those firearms to re-live what they see on TV or in the movies or imagine being tough. When I was in that stage, my rifle was a siloutte cut from a board. I never had to reload.

  28. Kathy says:

    Oh.. and to answer Brian’s question, my 11 year old went to a gun range last summer. The elderly gentleman and range officer were men in their early 70’s who assisted him.

    I was a mother who started out scared to death of guns. I had an experience that had made me afraid along with finding myself in the “guns are bad” group. I soon realized I would be feminizing my sons if I did not allow them to cultivate how they were wired. I was one of those moms who didn’t buy toy guns but the sticks they used caused me to learn what I didn’t know.

    I was privileged to watch these men carefully teach my son everything there was to know about a gun. He even got to shoot some kind of AK high powered sniper gun (I think that’s what it is called) and hit the target 500 yards away.

    You cannot observe this older generation and not be grateful for their experience, ability, knowledge, and wisdom. It’s something that is rare. Our society has evolved alright. People are too flippant and casual and our culture is part of the problem.

    It’s not a gun problem. It’s a heart problem.

  29. Kathy says:

    Oh.. and I shot a 9mm for the first time, too. Learned how to load it and everything. A tear formed in my eye before taking the first shot, but I faced my fear and my friend was amazed at my target shooting!

  30. Will Doolittle says:

    I think Kathy’s post sheds some light on the psychology behind the idea that having a citizenry armed to the teeth and capable not just of hunting deer, but of using military-grade weapons, is a good thing. If you look up Noah Webster’s thoughts on guns, you come across a quote where he talks about U.S. citizens having no need to fear the creation of a standing army, because U.S. citizens were armed, unlike citizens in Europe, “and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops.”
    It’s weird and paranoid and absurd but I do think that idea, that the government might turn on us at any moment, and therefore we need our personal arsenals, influences lots of gun advocates.

  31. Gary says:

    To answer your question. First I would suggest looking at the demographics of those purchasing these semi-automatics (not assult). My guess is it’s not the older generation but the younger generation who have been exposed to movies like Rambo and violent video games. I never even remember being exposed to them growing up.

  32. Walker says:

    No one likes my idea that assault weapons would be OK as long as they were pink? Maybe with sky blue rhinestones affixed. And no large capacity clips.

  33. The Original Larry says:

    “It’s weird and paranoid and absurd…”

    And you know this how, Will Doolittle? Why can’t you stop the insults and engage in civilized debate? You want people to be reasonable? Start acting like it yourself.

  34. dave says:

    “… fewer people would have been killed. Maybe none. And that’s the outcome we’d prefer. Right?”

    I’m starting to question if in fact that is the outcome some of these people would prefer. Or, at least, if they believe that this outcome is not worth enduring some restrictions on gun ownership.

    It is like they have done a warped cost benefit analysis in their heads… less people dying vs not being able to have military style weapons and they come down on the side of the latter. ‘Hmmm, I really do want less people to die, but dangnabit, I just really can’t give up owning military weaponry… sorry!’

  35. Paul says:

    “So here’s my question to those of you who see yourselves as gun rights advocates. When was the first time you saw people in your community owning (or desiring) these kinds of weapons?”

    Not yet.

    “When did you or your friends begin to see military-style pistols and assault rifles and banana clip-type accessories as part of America’s gun culture?”

    Not yet.

    I spend a lot of time with a bunch of folks that hunt here and in Saranac Lake where I grew up and still hunt. I have yet to see any of them with any of these things. I have only seen them on TV or pictures of them here and in other places online.

    Brian, how about you? Maybe there are two separate “gun cultures” in America?

    Are there more assault style guns sold now than more “traditional” rifles and handguns?

  36. wj says:

    dave, that’s a good point.

    That cost-benefit analysis was done some time ago by the NRA.

    The group’s main goal now is to make sure Americans can and will buy as many guns and as much ammo as possible.

    This is fueling the drive to easier access to assault weaponry and high-capacity clips.

    It’s money.

    And the NRA doesn’t give a damn about the blood on the other end.

    It’s the same kind of morality as a cancer cell.

  37. Paul says:

    “What it says is that from a personal protection standpoint, people who are closest to the danger and most familiar with how to survive there are the least likely ones to own guns.”

    I wonder if this anything to do with the fact that they are pretty expensive. 500 for a pistol or 500 for food?

    If you consider guns necessary for personal protection (I do not) you are probably more likely to feel less of a need in an urban setting with a high level of police protection than you would out in a rural area. The perception is probably not accurate but I can see where it comes from.

    Having grown up in a very rural area I feel very safe when I am far away from everything. My wife on the other hand who grew up in a very urban settings does not feel as comfortable running on a rural road at night than she does in a city park.

  38. Paul says:

    In thinking about this maybe to get back to the “real” America we need to move to Europe or Canada?

    Rancid, I agree with Brain, in your post above you make a very good point.

    I think that we have taken military technology that can improve our hunting and and other gun sporting pursuits that we feel made sense for those sports not just everything as it came down the pike.

  39. Peter Hahn says:

    Paul – “I wonder if this anything to do with the fact that they are pretty expensive. 500 for a pistol or 500 for food?” Rural poor manage to buy guns for hunting. Urban poor could buy them for protection if they thought it was worth it, but they dont. You say you are familiar with Baltimore. How good is the police protection in the poor and dangerous parts of Baltimore, and why are those parts dangerous then? (and how likely are people to get shot?)

  40. wj says:

    Rancid Crabtree wrote this:

    “WJ, and after we ban all the weapons this round of legislation includes gun crime will come to a screaming halt, right? I didn’t think so. What would have stopped Holmes or the Sandy Hook shooter was a single bullet in the K5 zone. Restricting peoples rights to defend themselves is wrong no matter how you cut it.”

    No one is talking about a ban — except extremist nut jobs. *cough*

    I never said gun crime will come to a screaming halt. To be clear (and repeat myself), I said, “…the crime is less likely to occur if it’s harder to get this kind of firepower.”

    We’re not talking about restricting any individual’s right to defend himself. We’re talking about limiting every individual’s access to weaponry that’s designed to kill the maximum number of people possible.

    If you can’t understand the nuance of this argument, please find another. You seem keen on history and military matters. Maybe you should stick to those.

  41. Mervel says:

    Technology often outpaces our debates.

    At what point is military technology off limits? Is a Bazooka a type of “gun” how about a flame thrower? In the future, maybe 50 years the military may totally drop bullets and the crude mechanics of how we shoot them and move to lasers or laser style weapons, would those be guns?

  42. Paul says:

    “Rural poor manage to buy guns for hunting. Urban poor could buy them for protection if they thought it was worth it, but they dont.”

    I suppose you are right but hunting does put food on the table for many rural poor so maybe they don’t have to make the same trade off.

    What was your point exactly? I would guess that the vast majority or rural people also don’t feel the need of having guns for protection. I am confused a little, do the rural poor have more guns as you say for protection or for hunting? If they do or did a survey you are looking at they should be careful that they ask the right questions.

    “How good is the police protection in the poor and dangerous parts of Baltimore, and why are those parts dangerous then? (and how likely are people to get shot?)”

    I will take a shot (no pun intended).

    I think the police protection in most parts of the city is pretty good. You tend to see more presence in the trouble spots. Those parts are mainly more dangerous due to drug related crime activity. People in those neighborhoods are more likely to get shot (intentionally and unintentionally) than in other parts of the city. Why do you ask?

  43. Paul says:

    Mervel, the flame thrower is actually a pretty good idea. Kill it and cook it with one shot! Where can I get one of those babies!

  44. Paul says:

    If they come up with a gun that kills without ruining any of the meat that might catch on.

  45. Paul says:

    My wife would support a full ban on guns for anyone not in the military and/or law enforcement. She is no extremist nut job, she just has an opinion that is different than mine. I don’t think that it is out of the question that president Obama with a similar urban upbringing to my wife would favor a complete ban. But he can’t support it or it would be political suicide. Does anyone know if he has ever voiced such an opinion. The same could easily hold true for a guy like Mitt Romney or many other politicians.

    Maybe this goes toward what Peter is saying about the urban poor. Folks that have been raised close to the damage that can be caused by illegal gun use are maybe more likely to want to have nothing to do with the things. We are becoming a more urban society perhaps that is where we are headed? That is not a “he is going to take away all my guns” conspiracy theory but a logical possible trajectory for the country. One that is not very attractive to many people.

  46. Peter Hahn says:

    Paul – the point is that older white suburban (Republican) males buy guns for protection, but African American urban (Democrat) males do not, even though the suburban neighborhoods are very safe and the inner city neighborhoods are relatively dangerous. Therefore – there is a negative correlation between the perceived need for guns for protection and the actual level of danger. The explanation is not obvious. But the implication is that guns do not actually provide security from danger, or otherwise people who live in dangerous neighborhoods would own more guns than people who live in very safe neighborhoods. (rather than the other way around).

  47. Paul says:


    I see. can you point me to the data you are looking at regarding gun ownership, the reasons for gun ownership and the racial and political make up of those particular owners.

    I understand the idea that gun ownership does not provide security when looked at in a general sense.

    I thought you were getting at something else. Thanks.

  48. Philip Williams says:

    It’s a shame that the NRA’s head had such a poor response to Newtown, and since has added more tone-deaf comments. He might have had some influence in where all this goes.

    I guess he figured out by now that the Newtown shooter was not actually stopped by a “good guy with a gun” but shot himself. And that the Aurora movie shooter did not get shot by a “good guy with a gun” but surrendered.

    I personally favor “responsible” gun ownership, that is, most anyone can get a gun, but every gun has an owner who is responsible for its use – and within limits – its misuse. The simple concept is that if you have a gun, and you misuse it, you should have insurance to cover your victims. If someone steals your gun, you should have to report it. If someone gets your gun and you were negligent in allowing it to either happen, or not be reported as a theft, then you are liable. The Newtown shooter’s mom was not a responsible gun owner; her guns were not properly secured considering the loopiness of her live-in son.

  49. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Jeez wj, I said I love my uncle and he’s been very good to me. Show me another person who has said they love their uncle on here!

  50. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Sorry, Wakeup, not wj.

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