What’s Gun-Sense Nation Going To Do Under The Trump Regime? Not Back Down, That’s For Sure.

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Now that the dust has settled and the smoke cleared, Gun-sense Nation has to figure out how to move forward during the presidency of Donald Trump. Back when nobody realized how much Nate Silver’s predictions were nothing more than hot air on toast, there was almost a giddy-like atmosphere among gun violence prevention (GVP) advocates imagining an unthinkable political alignment of Hillary in the White House and a Chuck Schumer-led Senate on Capitol Hill.  Expanded background checks, banning assault rifles, scrapping PLCAA, anything was possible. No wonder Smith & Wesson lost nearly $300 million in market value over the last three days.  Who needs to buy another gun now that the gun-grabbers have been banished for good?

gun control          Except they haven’t been banished at all.  Just because the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the Constitutional right to own a gun, doesn’t mean there’s any Constitutional requirement to buy a gun.  So it’s back to the drawing board, this time with a sharpened understanding that social change, serious social change, profoundly serious social change is never a process that takes place overnight. The task is long, arduous and rife with unanticipated twists and turns of all kinds.  So if you came into this process because someone promised you a rose garden, you should have stayed home.

After all, what are we talking about when we use the term ‘gun violence?’  Most people define it by the number of victims killed (35,000+) or injured (75,000+) each year with guns. But it’s much more than that.  Guns, owning guns and using guns represents a national culture in this country, one of the most powerful and deep-rooted cultural traditions that this country ever had.  And I’m not just thinking about Kit Carson and Daniel Boone using their Kentucky long rifles to open the frontier, or General Patton saying that the M-1 Garand was the “greatest battle implement of all time,” or Clint sticking his 44-magum in the bad guy’s face and saying, “Go ahead, make my day.” No other country celebrates Christmas by sticking a b-b gun under the Yule tree, no other country spends upwards of $6 billion each year on video games that let someone shoot someone else with a Glock. And of course this is the only country in the entire world which gives just about all its citizens free access to real guns.

And that’s exactly the point.  Because there would be no gun violence, not a single death or injury, if there were no guns.  So we can argue amongst ourselves about which regulation or which law will reduce gun violence a bit here or there. And I’m not trying to say or imply that new regulations are no better than no regulations at all.  What I am saying is that really reducing gun violence will require a massive cultural change, and it’s not the kind of cultural change which GVP advocates blithely refer to when, for example, they throw up the ‘success’ of something like MADD.

Because nobody in their right mind would ever argue that getting into a car drunk is a good thing.  But plenty of Americans, probably a majority of Americans, now believe that owning a gun makes you safe.  So changing this culture is not just changing how we think about guns, it’s changing how we think about why we need to have guns, and you don’t change culture by citing this statistic or that.

A solid piece of new research shows that 10 million gun owners have entered the gun market over the last twenty years. These people, and the folks who may be thinking about coming into the gun market perhaps represent a population whose views on gun culture are not yet firmly fixed. Gun-sense Nation needs to reach this audience and help create an alternate culture in which guns are neither necessary or even relevant to the real issues faced by people in their daily lives. And this task lies ahead.

There Are All Kinds Of Myths About Why We Love Guns, But Myths Don’t Help Us Reduce Gun Violence At All.


What is a myth?  According to most dictionaries, a myth is a widely held but false idea or belief.  And if there’s one area where myths abound, it’s in the statements made by Gun-nut Nation to justify their ownership of guns.  Now I have no problem with tall tales – we all learned fairy tales as kids, we then went on to be enchanted by The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, but if you get into a discussion with someone and want to prove a particular point, you’re not about to use a rhyme from Doctor Seuss as your source.

boone1           Unless someone wants to explain why they just went out and bought another gun. Because the one thing that nobody in Gun-nut Nation will ever admit is that they just picked up their tenth, or twentieth, or thirtieth gun because they had a few extra bucks in their pocket and the truck doesn’t yet need a new set of brakes.  But nobody wants to admit that they didn’t have a good reason to lay down some real, cold cash, so out comes the nonsense about they ‘need’ the gun because guns are our American heritage and without guns we would not have ever settled this great land.  Or if that one doesn’t work, they can always trot out the 2nd-Amendment script about how guns make us ‘free,’ and if that one doesn’t fly, let’s not forget that ‘guns protect us from crime.’

These slogans are all nothing but myths but the reason they are so powerful, the reason why people believe them, hold onto them, often shape their views of themselves and the world around them is because every myth has just enough reality within it to appear plausible, logical and true. For example, let’s look at the myth about how guns made it possible to conquer the frontier and turn an inhospitable wilderness into a verdant and rich landscape from sea to shining sea.

The settlers who got off the boats first in Virginia and then at Plymouth Bay came armed with guns.  And they used these guns to hunt game and, on occasion, shoot a few pesky Native Americans who got in the way.  But the forest which started right at the water’s edge stretched clear through to the Great Plains.  And in order to open land for crops and animal husbandry this immense woodland had to be cleared.  And what cleared it was controlled burning, called swidden, and then mechanized farm implements like plows.

Daniel Boone didn’t discover Cumberland Gap by using a gun.  He got friendly with Indians and followed them through the valleys that had been used by Native Americans since prehistoric times.  And there was so much rich, open land that the early settlers didn’t have to rotate crops as they did in Europe in order to keep land fertile; the moment a piece of land became less productive, they picked up, tramped a couple of hundred miles further west, and started a new farm over again.

From earliest times guns were used for hunting and self-defense. But what settled America wasn’t the frontiersman, or the mountain-man, or the hunter.  It was the farmer and then the stock breeder, all of whom owned guns but didn’t use those guns either to clear forest land or fence off the plains. And when guns were used to pacify and exploit the wilderness, this was largely the work of commercial hunters whose furnishing of hides and feathers to urban markets drove many game species almost to the point of becoming extinct.

And that’s what gun myths are really all about: take a tiny bit of evidence and turn it into an explanation for how a whole country developed and grew which then validates the way you behave today. But guess what?  You don’t reduce 115,000+ yearly gun injuries by inventing a myth. You reduce that kind of violence by understanding its true cause – the existence of guns.