Cowboy

Guns in America

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Gun control in the USA is a divisive issue. Both sides of the debate (for or against gun control) are very vocal when arguing their case. Those against gun control use the second amendment to support their argument, while those in favor of gun control want stricter laws or a complete ban on the sale of firearms.

In this post we are going to look at the different arguments put forward from both sides and try to understand why guns are such a big part of American culture. We are also going to talk about whether there is a correlation between guns and homicides.

We will use this article from the Guardian to give ourselves an introduction to some of the key issues.

Some Facts

  • There are nearly 90 guns for every 100 people in America.
  • There are 85 deaths per day and nearly twice the number of injuries caused by guns.
  • Firearm homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans under the age of 44.

The following is taken from the Guardian:

Story

…America’s relationship with guns is as deep and complex at home as it is perplexing abroad. The fact that most British police are not armed confounds even the most liberal here. And even though the nation is evenly split on whether there should be more gun control, every time there is a gun-related tragedy, whether it is the shootings in Arizona, Virgina Tech or any number of schools, the issue has been effectively removed from the electoral conversation. And at the centre of these apparent contradictions stands the NRA, once an organisation that represented the rights of hunters and sportsmen and now a major political player closely linked to the gun industry.

The second amendment to the US constitution reads: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” There has long been a dispute about whether “the people” described refers to individuals or the individual states. But there is no disagreement about its broader intent, which is to provide the constitutional means to mount a military defence against a tyrannical government.

But the second amendment is not the only factor that embeds guns in America’s culture. As a settler nation that had to both impose and maintain its domination over indigenous people to acquire and defend land and feed itself in a frontier state, the gun made America, as we understand it today, possible. “None of us in the free world would have what we have if it were not for guns,” says Britt. “It’s about freedom, it’s not about violence.”

Missouri representative Jeanette Oxford, who represents a district in St Louis, disagrees. “From the outset violence was enforced with weapons of various kinds in North America,” she says. “I think the ability to enforce your right through might is ingrained in us.”

Vocabulary

Confound (v) – to surprise or confuse someone (against expectations).

Embeds - to make something an integral part of something.

Enforce your right through might – to get something or to take power through the use of force.

The right to keep and bear arms – the right to have and carry weapons. This is usually shortened to the right to bear arms, which can mean something completely different (see this picture for a some funny word play)

Discussion

From the article it seems that the nation is roughly divided between those who want want more gun control and those who don’t. It mentions that the discussion is removed from the electoral conversation (i.e. politicians don’t talke about it). Why do you think that is the case?

Many people argue that because the Constitution and the Second Amendment were written over two hundred years ago, that the argument put forward for the right to own guns is outdated. The opposite argument to this is that a tyrannical government could be a future possibility and that the right to having guns is something that is necessary to protect yourself and your family. What do you think about these arguments?

The article talks about how guns are embedded in American culture due to the history of the country. You only need to think about the number of Cowboy movies to see that is clearly the case.

Many people argue that lower gun control leads to higher homicide rates, but there are lots of facts that contradict this claim, including:

  • Other countries that have lots of guns, for example Switzerland and Canada, have much lower homicide rates per capita relative to the number of guns in society.
  • Guns sales have hit record levels while homicide rates are at their lowest level since the 1960s.

Do you think that more guns in society equals more homicides or crime in general? What other factors affect the crime rate in the United States?

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