Zephan Wood | President, CSU Stanislaus College Republicans
Gun owner or not, it is hard to deny the robust gun culture that permeates the American Republic. From organizations like the Boy Scouts to First Person Shooter video games to gun clubs, it is clear that Americans from childhood to retirement have been exposed to “gun culture” in one way or another. But what is gun culture exactly? In brief, it is the affinity for the practical or recreational use of firearms. Whether that be hunting, collecting, open or concealed carry, or just going to the range every once in a while, all of these activities would fall under the scope of gun culture. This concept of a “gun culture” is so deeply woven in the daily lives of some Americans that many would concur with the old Mandalorian saying that “weapons are part of my religion.”
Gun advocates argue that the right to self preservation is a god-given right that predates government and that any regulation on that liberty is an infringement on basic human rights. This reality spurs the gun community into action. The NRA boasts approximately 5 million members and other groups such as Gun Owners of America and the Firearms Policy Coalition also foster an immense amount of support. However increasingly, the mainstream American culture has made it socially taboo to be a gun owner. If it happens to be brought up in conversation that you own a tool to defend yourself and your family, people look at you as though you could be the next mass shooter.
On the issue of mass shootings, it has been argued that gun culture is directly responsible for this phenomenon. It is wrongfully inferred that if less families had access to firearms that Americans would be more safe from mass shootings. The reality is that mass shootings are so rare that they are barely worth a national conversation and the American gun culture makes violence much less likely to occur. To further the first point, since Columbine, there have been 10 mass shootings in schools. 81 people have been killed and of that 64 have been students. Annually, on average, that is about 4 deaths per year or 3 deaths for students. To put that into perspective, playground equipment, especially swing sets, kill about 20 people a year. Yet instead on focusing on a phenomenon that kills about 5x more people on average than mass shootings in schools, the media instead decides to instead vilify gun owners. To add insult to injury, according to a study conducted on the media’s coverage of mass shootings, the media is “largely responsible for providing the model to imitate”. While decrying, rightfully so, the horror and senseless violence of mass shootings, they are simultaneously providing the strongest incentive for them to continue.
According to the CDC, guns are used defensively about 500,000 to 3 million times per year. Additionally, 98% of all mass shootings happen in gun free zones. Finally, studies show that concealed carry permit holders are more abiding than police officers! If we as a society believe that mass shootings are worth addressing, the goal should not be to combat gun culture, but rather, to embrace it. If this data has the potential to be translated into real life, we would allow teachers that are trained to legally open or concealed carry to do so. Consequently, we could see mass shootings become a thing of the past. By all available metrics, as a responsible gun owner I am much more likely to stop the next mass shooting than partake in it.
It should also be mentioned that a gun culture as robust as the United States can also result in a lower risk of institutional violence. The culture of “Don’t Tread on Me” has resulted in a government that has been uniquely afraid to systematically kill off segments of its population on a genocidal scale. Meanwhile, internationally democide, or death by government, was the leading cause of death in the 20th century, responsible for 262 million deaths globally. The two most common practices a pre genocidal state institutes is removing speech rights and confiscating guns. I do not think I need to explain why. American gun culture has put the natural tyrannical urge of the state at bay since 1776 and will continue to do so as long as it is preserved.
That being said, with great power comes great responsibility. Gun culture has made it clear that safety is a top priority of gun ownership. The three rules of gun safety are ubiquitous with gun culture. Those being, Rule #1 ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, Rule #2 ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and Rule #3 ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. A violation of any of these rules will result in decreased safety, as well as an increased likelihood in getting chewed out by the range officer and any other valiant defender of gun culture.
With an estimated 2.5 million new gun owners since the onset of Covid-19, it looks as though the gun community may have a chance to rebound and take back the culture. With essential items continuing to disappear off shelves and riots continuing to insue in our streets, the American people are realizing that on an individual level they are the only ones responsible for their own (and their family’s) safety. Additionally, on a societal level Americans are responsible for serving as another check and balance against the mob. So while the mainstream media tries to continue to denormalize gun culture by replacing the classic firearms of Yosemite Sam and Elmer Fudd to instead carry knives and scythes (so less gruesome), gun owners must fight back and continue to shape the culture. I implore anyone who is reading this to be open and honest with their views to others around them. Now is the opportune time to show that gun owners are normal people that make insightful and practical contributions to society on a daily basis. Invite your friends to the range, start a local gun rights chapter, or heck, just buy one more gun! It is said that politics is downstream from culture. Hence, if the Anti-Gun movement effectively eliminates gun culture from American public life, how long will it take for guns to be removed from the American public entirely?