I have always had a general understanding of what the “gun culture” is and from where it originated, but I have never had to actually put it into words before, so I did a little research. America was born after the invention of the gun, so the earliest settlers in America coming to a strange land had already embraced the gun as a means of both survival and procurement of food. As the settlements grew into colonies and then into states and eventually a super-power nation, firearms made that possible through basic survival, personal defense and even revolution. In our infancy as a nation, a standing army was practically non-existent, so the “citizen soldier” or militia was our form of national defense. That concept was so ingrained in our founding that it resulted in the writing of the 2nd Amendment, which protects our right to keep and bear arms as individual citizens. Our nation was born out of revolt against tyranny and in their wisdom, our founding fathers recognized that an armed citizenry was essential to the protection of a free nation from enemies, both foreign and domestic. So, the “gun culture” has been a part of America since before it was born.
The Gun Culture Trinity Ethos: Hunting, Self Defense and National Defense
There are several aspects to the “gun culture” ranging from hunting, to personal protection, to national defense. The hunting ethos grew from a basic survival mindset. The ability to hunt in order to feed your family was essential, however today it is less about survival and more about animal conservation and tradition. Nonetheless, hunting is still a major part of the American “gun culture”. Personal protection and self-defense was also a matter of survival in the early days of this nation as it set down roots and expanded across the wild and untamed expanses of North America. It was also essential in early settlements across this nation where law enforcement was still in its infancy. People had to take personal responsibility for self preservation against criminal elements and Indian attacks. Those who still embrace the “gun culture” do not rely solely on law enforcement for their self preservation. Instead, they still take personal responsibility for their own, and their family’s, protection to this day. Unfortunately, that is a declining trend it seems. Law enforcement has its place in society and does a great service to the community, but even the multiple layers of local, state and federal law enforcement cannot prevent crime in most case, but rather respond to it. Through investigation and prosecution, as well as community outreach and education, they can address repeat offenders and intervene with some new offenders, but ultimately self protection is an individual responsibility.
Perhaps the most misunderstood, maligned and controversial aspect of the “gun culture” is the national defense portion. The belief that an armed society is the best deterrent to invasion, as both a precursor to military service and a supplement to military forces in the unlikely event of outside aggression. That national defense ethos applies to defense against our own government as well. Many within the gun community maintain our founders belief that ANY form of government can become corrupt and tyrannical, even our own. They gave us the ability to modify and improve our Constitution in hopes it would remain a relevant and sound set of governing principles. They also understood that should government abandon or infringe upon the rights and protections of the Constitution, the People would have a means of both protection and revolution to overthrow it and reform a new government. They knew that in order for tyranny to succeed, it required a disarmed society unable to resist and that an armed society was the best deterrent to such tyranny.
Although each of the 3 main elements of the “gun culture” have evolved and changed over the last couple centuries, but they all three remain in various forms and to varying degrees among the American population. However, in modern America, we now have TWO competing “gun cultures”, the “Pro-Gun Culture” and the “Anti-Gun Culture”. The anti-gun culture is guided by many motivations, some altruistic and some nefarious. While some have heartfelt, albeit Utopian, ideals of a gun-free world, others follow the doctrine that our founders feared, which is that a disarmed society is more easily controlled and/or enslaved. Proof of the more nefarious motivations can be found in the methods employed by the “Anti-Gun Culture” advocates. Because not all gun owners in America equally embrace all three ethos of the gun culture, the anti-gun advocates try to pit one against the other. They go after the “national defense” ethos first and embrace/exempt the hunters, they “support the 2nd amendment and your right to hunt, but…”. Then they try to define what type of weapon you “really need” to hunt or protect yourself and demonize those weapons that would be most effective in “national defense” as extreme, militarized, killing machines. Whether you fully embrace all three ethos or not, as Americans we should all respect and protect all three against the divide and conquer strategies in use against us.
Hunting, self-defense and national defense are the cornerstones of the “gun culture”. They have been from our very birth as a nation and the “gun culture” is quite literally part of our national DNA. Many have abandoned these core principles, some have been divided on the issue and now we must fight to maintain and restore them. The survival and embrace of the “gun culture” is essential to the survival of America as a nation, always has been and always will be. Embrace the “gun culture” ethos trifecta as if your life depends on it, because it very well may.