American Gun Culture
Today, American citizens seek the expansion of the law on concealed carry weapons so that citizens can carry guns everywhere. In addition, they try to limit powers of the authorities relating to suspension of permits for concealed carry weapons during the officially declared state of emergency. This lawsuit is related to an incident that occurred in North Carolina a few years ago when a temporary ban on carrying weapons was introduced on the eve of a snowstorm because of the fear that people will be tempted to solve the problem using the gun in a crisis situation.
The combination of favorable court rulings, low activity, the traditional fear of crime, and concerns about the current government has led to a turning point on the issue, which is one of the most controversial in America. The American gun culture is influenced by psychological fears, Hollywood movies, high-profile crimes, famous historical figures, as well as endless debates between opponents and supporters of pistols and revolvers.
History of Gun Culture
Development of gun culture in the United States has a long history since the colonization of North America. When the first people in a hurry for a better life came to America and faced unfriendly local population, certainly people had to fight for their lives and that was impossible without a weapon. This was the first precondition for the emergence of the tradition to have an arsenal at home. The Indians attacked frequently and unexpectedly so that every member of the family, including women and children, was able use arms. Neighbors often helped each other to fend off attackers.
Traditions to be always armed and ready to fight were transmitted from generation to generation, handed down from father to son, from grandfather to father, during the time of settlement of America. Therefore, the culture to use weapons, in which every person had the right to possess a virtually unlimited number of weapons of various different modifications, was born in the United States.
Reasons for Development of Gun Culture
Today, the superiority in the confrontation on the carrying of weapons is on the side of people who want to keep the arms in the cabinet and the right to carry a gun in his jacket pocket everywhere. The basis of this desire is mentality. If 20 years ago many people who were armed being guided by nostalgic identification with civilian armies, today many consider the carrying of weapons in public places to be their fundamental rights and a lawful and even necessary tool for the removal of specific U.S. concerns about personal safety. People buy weapons to overcome their anxiety that is caused by a sense of insecurity or the need that is related to their sense of political freedom, but not everyone has a close understanding of personal risk. Fear for personal safety is the main reason why many people want to be able to use arms and carry it with them. There is a kind of revival of the cult of the Second Amendment, which is related to Western individualism, freedom from coercion, freedom of movement, and the lack of need to explain own affairs to others.
However, there is a little challenge to the government. The Democratic Party has invested too much in the law on the control of arms and this explains the negative reaction from hunters and those who have legitimate reasons to feel the lack of security and are willing to use arms.
The attacks on September 11 have strengthened the belief of many Americans that there are dark forces in the society, from which people must be protected (Jonsson, 2012). Although the overall rate of violent crime is reduced, Americans feel that in the near future the number of crimes can increase. This vague anxiety is reflected in the popularity of movies and TV shows focusing on the theme of zombies and other things.
Another reason for the fact that America is increasingly arming is Valone Paul. In 1994, Valone, a civil aviation pilot, watched the television channel C-SPAN where he saw how legislators were trying to push a ban on carrying weapons through the Congress (Hodges, n.d.). Having become indignant, he began to communicate with different groups for the rights of weapons to find out what could be done. Frustrated by their reaction, he eventually formed his own band Grass Roots North Carolina, which has evolved into a powerful lobbying force of the state (Hodges, n.d.).
National Rifle Association
Although many believe that the expansion of the right to bear arms is related to the influence of the National Rifle Association, which does remain a powerful political force in Washington, DC, and many parts of the country, others believe that the course of debate is changed because of the effectiveness of smaller and often more uncompromising groups like the one that was established by Valone. Many of them are charged by a handful of enthusiasts who spread their ideas often in a very sharp way through brochures, blogs, and mass mailings via e-mail. In particular, Valone’s group wrote a significant portion of the text of the recently enacted state law on carrying weapons and more general status of concealed carry (Hodges, n.d.). When in 2001 a bill that tightened rules for keeping weapons at home was passed, Grass Roots North Carolina contributed to its defeat, calling proposed measures the law on the protection of rapists (Jonsson, 2012).
The movement of unhindered supporters of carrying weapons continued to spread that was explained by favorable verdicts of courts and academic work. In 1989, a law professor from Texas, Levinson, wrote a remarkable essay for Yale Law Review, which postulated that the participation of citizens in the power system could be extended to the Second Amendment (Lepore, 2012). Levinson was particularly interested in the question whether ordinary citizens should participate in the process of ensuring the rule of law and protection of freedom instead of relying on professional peacekeepers. The publication of this essay could be considered a turning point in the debate about guns because it was one of the first attempts at a critical analysis of the Second Amendment.
Two relatively recent decisions of the Supreme Court – District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008) and McDonald vs. Chicago (2010) – have supported the constitutional right of Americans to own guns for self-defense (Jonsson, 2012). Meanwhile, the laws in favor of the weapons were taken by state legislatures. In 1987, Florida passed the country’s first law on concealed carrying of weapons, which assumed the issuance of permission to carry concealed weapons in public places for every citizen who performed a set of requirements (Jonsson, 2012). These laws vary by state, but include provisions such as the payment of the fee for the license, passing the training course, fingerprinting, and no criminal record. Today, there are similar laws in forty of the fifty states, while four of them (Alaska, Arizona, Vermont, and Wyoming) do not require a permit to carry concealed weapons. Even President Obama, who has long been considered as an enemy of the Second Amendment, unwillingly subjected to the requirements of the fighters for the freedom to bear arms. In 2009, he signed the law that allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons in national parks (Jonsson, 2012). This coincided with fears of rampant crime in the country’s leading sports grounds.
Impact of High-Profile Crimes
Nevertheless, if Valone and other advocates of gun rights talk about the army of peaceful citizens, critics consider this to be a romanticized vision of the armed and dangerous population. Americans should be able to solve problems without resorting to the gun. The bloody events in a provincial American town of Newtown (Conn) where the 20-year-old man shot 20 children aged six to seven years and six adults in the elementary school literally shocked the whole world (Esposito & Smith & NG, 2012). In the United States, the new and not the first tragedy shook the entire society. It is unprecedented as in America armed insane individuals with guns have never attacked younger schoolchildren. The number of the dead is shocking. From the time of the tragedy in Virginia in 2007 where 32 people were killed, such mass murder in the United States has not happened (Esposito & Smith & NG, 2012).
Naturally, the tragedy in Newtown has caused a number of very sharp and lively public debates about the causes of the incident. The root of the problem has been searched in hidden defects of the society such as the growth of aggressiveness, lack of spirituality, sociopathy, the absence of proper monitoring of people with mental disabilities, etc. However, the main reason for such blood events is the fact that citizens have a critical mass of firearms on their hands, which is simply impossible to control.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a powerful movement for gun control was formed in the wake of concerns about the urban crime. Frequent unrest, assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, as well as the attempt on President Reagan intensified concerns about the proliferation of weapons (Jonsson, 2012). Other high-profile crimes, including the killing of five children in Stockton, California, in 1989, and four federal agents during the siege in Waco, Texas, in 1993, switched attention, in particular, to the assault weapon (Jonsson, 2012). This was followed by a series of federal laws: restrictions on trade of rifles in the mail in 1968, prohibition of Teflon-coated bullets in 1984, the law on the creation of school zones that were free of drugs in 1990, which provided a harsh punishment for the introduction of weapons in such areas, and banning assault weapons in 1994 (Jonsson, 2012). The assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, became the symbolic completion of the arc of gun control. The unrest in cities and assassinations of the 1960-70s marked the beginning of thinking, according to which the weapon was considered as an evil and banning weapons was considered as tantamount to evil.
Reasons for Arm Prohibition
Supporters of arm prohibition state that there are too many firearms in the world. Moreover, people often use weapons for entirely unjustified reasons. In the event of any conflict, it can lead to irreparable consequences. By its destructive power and efficiency, guns are still superior to cold weapons and, therefore, are able to cause greater harm. “Proponents of handgun control in the USA argue that fifteen children and young people are killed by guns each day, most of them in or around their own homes” (Squires, 2000). Weapons could fall into the hands of children or criminals. Citizens can lose them or store them an accessible place. When there is insufficient experience with the handling of weapons, a person is able to unintentionally cause harm to oneself or others. Again, in the event of a collision with a criminal, the latter will be able to obtain weapons. Another reason against weapons is the fact that any social protest or riot in the armed country is fraught with a real war. In addition, a law-abiding person can become a criminal in case of excess of self-defense. There is also a possibility of the increase in the number of suicides.
The right to bear arms is a term of wartime, archaism, a relic of the past, and a long-outdated measure that pushes the humanity back. In itself, a permit to carry weapons pushes a person to its use. In addition, selling weapons is a profitable business. Those who make blood money will do everything possible to avoid restrictions on the issue of the proliferation of weapons.
Despite all the arguments of opponents of arms carrying, weapons remain a part of the American way of life. The right to self-defense with the use of arms is enshrined in the Constitution as one of the cornerstones of the American system of values. A citizen of the country is in a position to provide the security zone if it is not contrary to the law. Such logical behavior has been preserved from the time of the first settlers and serves as the basis for the much-vaunted American democracy.
An armed citizen is not just a citizen. The authorities must regard this person’s rights. In case of mass discontent, the authorities will have to deal not with simple demonstrators, but practically with the army. Therefore, they have to be extremely interested so as not to arouse such grievances. Thus, arming of the population in the United States is a very efficient and very effective deterrent. Gun culture has been formed in the wave of psychological fears of insecurity, Hollywood movies, famous historical figures, crimes, and endless debates between opponents and supporters of gun legislation.