October 14, 2007


Guns take pride of place in US family values: Despite the spiralling rise in the daily number of shootings in the US, its arms culture has a firmer grip than ever (Paul Harris, October 14, 2007, The Observer)

Despite the fact groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) consistently claim they are being victimised, there have probably never been so many guns or gun-owners in America - although no one can be sure, as no one keeps a reliable account. One federal study estimated there were 215 million guns, with about half of all US households owning one. Such a staggering number makes America's gun culture thoroughly mainstream.

An average of almost eight people aged under 19 are shot dead in America every day. In 2005 there were more than 14,000 gun murders in the US - with 400 of the victims children. There are 16,000 suicides by firearm and 650 fatal accidents in an average year. Since the killing of John F Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century.

Studies show that having a gun at home makes it six times more likely that an abused woman will be murdered. A gun in a US home is 22 times more likely to be used in an accidental shooting, a murder or a suicide than in self-defence against an attack. Yet despite those figures US gun culture is not retreating. It is growing. Take Katz's case in Oregon. She brought her cause to court under a state law that gives licensed gun-owners the right to bring a firearm to work: her school is her workplace. Such a debate would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. Now it is the battleground. 'Who would have thought a few years ago, we would even be having this conversation? But this won't stop here,' said Professor Brian Anse Patrick of the University of Toledo in Ohio. Needless to say, last week the judge sided with Katz and she won the first round of her case.

It is a nation awash with guns, from the suburbs to the inner cities and from the Midwest's farms to Manhattan's mansions. Gun-owning groups have been so successful in their cause that it no longer even seems strange to many Americans that Katz should want to go into an English class armed. 'They have made what was once unthinkable thinkable,' said Patrick, a liberal academic. He should know. He owns a gun himself. Even the US critics of gun culture are armed.

Because limiting rights is seldom about taking away mine, but rather taking away yours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 14, 2007 12:00 AM

"Spiraling"? A headline that tells me there's no point in even bothering to read the article, since I've no desire to visit Fantasyland.

As for cases like "Katz's case in Oregon", the gun control nuts are discovering the hard way that, like the Bolsheviks under Gorby, "What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable" doesn't last forever, especially when the times pass you by.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 14, 2007 11:37 AM

I have fought this good fight, have run this race, since the 1960's. One of my memories of those early days was how inevitable gun control leading to confiscation was thought to be by everyone--everyone except the NRA and the gun people themselves. We fought and we held. Our final victory was no more expected than the going under of THE FORMER SOVIET UNION.

Let me tell you why we won. To begin with, we understood the place of the gun in American culture. Madison, Jefferson, then Jackson and Polk, Lincoln, Grant and, yes, Davis and Lee, on to Teddy Roosevelt: gun people all. If you love America, you love the gun, and if you hate America, you hate the gun.

Guns wrested the land from the savage, and the other not-folk; guns preserved our domestic institutions. (big-time code-words, here!). Guns were with us when we trekked-forth. If you curse our history as a folk-enemy or culture-traitor, you hate the gun.

Guns limit the power of lo Stato to throttle civil society, for civil society may defend itself when the state withholds its protection. "No justice, no peace," is the thinly veiled highwayman's demand, meaning, "Your money or your life," and the gun lets us answer, "None of the above!"

Guns inform us spiritually, as well. Now we know that battlefield casulties are mostly gained with supporting arms, air, artillery, mortars and all that. Still the elite armed forces train heavily in individual weapons and marksmanship. Why? because the man with confidence in his individual weapon has a different attitude about it all--he believes in himself, and in his own ability to shape the outcome.

This spiritual strength is important not only for members of the military, but for all of civil society, for the inactive militia, if you will. All of us who are not in the military or the select militia are still part of the nation at war or ready to be at war. We may do no more that cast our ballots is the spirit of the gun, but if we do that. we do a great deal.

Now let us turn to how we won, as well as why we won. For some reason related to the difference between folk and folk-enemy, culture-bearer and culture-traitor, the gun side understood American government and the gun-grabbers did not. In our system, governing coalitions are not assembled along political parties, but among voters election by election, and issue by issue. The NRA, those ignorant yahoos (also known as wahoos), understood this, the other side, with all those gun-grabbing professors, did not. We very carefully evaluated candidate individually, rating them by our criteria, not those of the party-line of some imagined popular front.

We also understood federalism and local politics, where the grabbers again failed. While they frittered away such strength as the may have had on national publicity, we enacted a right-to carry revolution, one state at a time. Now millions carry guns for self-defense, in places where twenty years ago this was unthinkable. This victory has taken hold, as it shall not be undone.

We continue to win and win: castle doctrine, range protection, conservation issues. Perhaps these things are not as world-shaking as the fall of the Berlin wall, or as immediately dramatic as the roll on Baghdad, but they a major victory for the American spirit, song and folk.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 14, 2007 12:50 PM