Why Do Americans Love Their Guns?


Back in the early 1980’s when I was helping to ‘arm’ America as a gun wholesaler, I was asked by a major gun manufacturer to be a member of a panel which help the company better understand the types of people who were buying its guns. The company paid a lot of money to a consulting group which had conducted a detailed survey both of gun owners and non-gun owners, and me and some other gun dealers spent several days in a group meeting analyzing the results.

What struck me about the survey’s findings was one particular point: no matter how you sliced and diced the composition of the people who answered the survey – gun owners, non-gun owners, men, women, Black, White, urban dwellers, rural dwellers, Republicans, Democrats, Protestants, Catholics, Jews – two-thirds of the survey respondents believed that a law-abiding resident of the United States had the ‘right’ to own a gun.

The results of this survey (I can’t reveal the gun company which conducted the study because I signed a confidentiality agreement prior to participating) defines one of the two basic fault lines which divide the views of pro-gun versus anti-gun activists. The other fault line is the idea that a home with a gun is more safe and secure than a home without a gun. Two thirds of all Americans support this idea as well.

In terms of our love affair with guns, the United States is a true outlier among advanced nation-states (a.k.a., OECD.)  But with this status comes another unique condition, namely, the use of guns in illegal or improper ways which results in 125,000 intentional fatal and non-fatal gun injuries every year. There is no other OECD country which suffers even a fraction of such events, there is also no other country whose residents own a fraction of our civilian guns.

John Lott has just published a new book, which like his other works, makes the argument that guns are more of a benefit than a risk. The argument has gained him a degree of recognition on the pro-gun side. As for gun-control advocates and researchers, he is considered an illicit promoter of the worst, most dangerous, pro-gun ideas.

This book is John’s attempt to compare his findings which focus on self-protection and safety, as opposed to the arguments which focus on guns as risk. The text also recount some of the many instances in which his views have either been rejected, ignored or mis-stated by gun-control activists and media venues representing the other side. John writes clearly and his viewpoint deserves to be considered seriously by Gun-control Nation, and here’s the reason why.

I have yet to see one, single gun-control activist or researcher attempt to figure out why 40 percent of all American homes happen to contain a gun. Sorry, but the fact that the NRA has 4 million members or thereabouts doesn’t explain why maybe 10 times that number own guns even though they don’t belong to the NRA.

You may not like John’s argument about the link between gun ownership and guns as a benefit rather than a risk. You might also find it somewhat difficult (as I do) to accept the idea that the issuance of a concealed-carry license is the reason why shootings by people carrying illegal guns have gone down (although lately they seem to be going back up.) But I’m still waiting for the other side, my side, to come up with an argument that can explain why so many Americans love their guns.

And the reason I’m still waiting is because until and unless Gun-nut Nation can figure out why people like me love to wander in and out of gun shops all the time, coming up with a convincing narrative to make me stop and think before buying another gun is simply something that won’t take place. I hate to break it to my gun-control friends, but gun owners don’t need to be lectured by non-gun owners about how to behave ‘safely’ and ‘reasonably’ with their guns.

In that regard, reading John’s new book is a good place to start.

3 thoughts on “Why Do Americans Love Their Guns?

  1. Gloria-
    Please share your thoughts on the Minneapolis Police Department telling residents of that fair city that they are ‘on their own’ and should just ‘give criminals what they want’.
    Minneapolis is by no means the only city where a complete breakdown of social order has occurred.
    The more you tell me I don’t need a gun, the more I realize that you don’t care in the least for my well being.
    It gives me great joy that there is such a run on guns and ammo that I cannot get anything locally.
    It brings me further joy that more African Americans are beginning to realize that gun ownership is not just for Southern rednecks.

    Smell the coffee Gloria, you and your fellow advocates for gun control are going to have to reinvent yourselves, AGAIN!

  2. The Vox piece by German Lopez is pretty one sided as I would expect. It was not just the 2A but the 1A that underwent dramatic reinterpretation during the 20th Century; you could get jailed during WW I for advocating resistance to the draft. There is good scholarship on both the evolution of the First Amendment and the history of firearms ownership.

    Most Americans are not studying the changing dynamics of the Second Amendment or the NRA when they buy a gun. As Mike notes, between a third and a half of Americans have guns in the home while about 4-5 million belong to the NRA.

    Oh, and Lopez forgets to leave out the critical word in his excerpt from Miller: “The Court cannot take judicial notice that a shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches long has today any reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, and therefore cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon.”

    Yeah. Citizen. Individual right. As Winkler points out, that has never meant restrictions were off the table and with Heller, Assoc. Justice Scalia reasserted that concept. Miller decided that the 2A didn’t give the citizen the right to own anything he or she wanted to own. But it has that magic phrase: “…guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear…”. I think Miller decided on 18 inches because the WW I “trench broom” or Winchester Mod. 1897 shotgun had about a 20 inch barrel. The 2A is silent on sawed off shotguns.

    Most people buy guns because they like guns and like some women who have a lot of shoes or men who collect bicycles (ahem), they have a collection of guns. Its that simple.There are periodic spikes in people buying things like guns, toilet paper, bottled water, and canned goods when things get upside down. But that’s an overprint on a high baseline.

    All the best,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.