How America Got Its Gun Love

The History Channel in Canada has presented a series about the history of the United States entitled ‘America: The Story of Us’. It is a bite-sized look at the birth of your nation that played on the US History Channel before it hit our Canadian specialty channels. One thing was very obvious to me as an outsider: the path that you took toward independence had a lot to do with your current defense of the firearm as a basic right . . .

You won your independence at a great cost to America and England. The issue was settled on the battlefield in a war between a colonial superpower (The British Empire) and its upstart colony (The United States).

Initially the British strategy was successful because they employed conventional warfare with professional soldiers against a rag tag collection of US revolutionaries.

The documentary indicated that US forces began to use guerilla tactics against the Brits. The long rifle was paired up with American snipers and they began to pick off high-ranking British officers and their Native Indian guides.

It was a brilliant strategy that undermined British military confidence and provided the emotional boost needed by the American revolutionaries at a crucial time in the war.

Eventually the military might of the US forces increased to a point where they were able to fight their way to nationhood. The British foes were vanquished largely due to a collaborative effort of strong-willed US forces and a few old foes of England like France, Spain and the Dutch.

The Germans (Hessians) were on the losing side of this war as allies of the British, but the message was clear: the new nation of the United States of America was born on a battle field. The impact of a call to arms has been a fundamental part of the US gun culture since that war.

The War of Independence was the first and best reason for the case for the right to own and bear arms in your country. It is a fundamental right for you as American citizens to protect your country and family from harm.

I have no difficulty with that basic right. The devil is in the details for the pro and anti-gun forces.

On one hand, gun rights groups argue for a universal right to own firearms with few if any restrictions. On the other hand, gun control advocates seek to place weapons under some level of governmental control, to prevent gun crime, firearms-related suicide and accidental death.

There is very little middle ground between the two factions. Gun rights groups see any effort to restrict their right to keep and bear arms as an infringement of their most sacred document: the U.S. Constitution. Gun rights advocates see the Constitution as a “living document,” affording government the right to create “reasonable restrictions” on gun sales, purchase, ownership and use.

The sacred cow for pro-gun forces—the right to private firearms ownership—is clearly rooted in the efforts of their revolutionary forefathers who fought for an independent nation that still allows freedom of expression. And the history of gun control—especially the African American experience—is littered with examples of disenfranchisement and death.

As that debate plays out, it’s important to note why it can play out. The fundamental right to express yourselves exercised by both sides of the gun debate in your country was won at the point of a gun. Firearms held by average citizens fighting for their freedom, and the freedom of their children.

comments

  1. avatar Ralph says:

    The US actually fought two wars of independence against the Brits. The War of 1812 was also fought over US sovereignty. In both wars, the young nation survived because of its mastery of arms. The same can be said of settlers all over the country; they survived because of arms, and if they couldn’t handle weapons, they died. Certainly, there is a cultural connection between this nation’s history and the Second Amendment, but that’s beside the point. Our path to independence has little to do with our daily lives and thought processes. Freedom, safety, security, marksmanship, comraderie, keeping an overreaching government out of our personal lives, those are the things that matter today.

    1. avatar sdog says:

      as i was reading this i was thinking war 1812, 1812 (star spangled banner) you are leaving a big part out Canadian, well done Ralph.

      this line was very apt:
      “And the history of gun control—especially the African American experience—is littered with examples of disenfranchisement and death”

      the right of Black self defense were stifled by the Black Codes and Jim Crow throughout the south, whereas the modern era is defined by illegal firearm
      use by criminals.

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      The US survived the the War of 1812 because for most of it the Brits were off fighting Napoleon. We were militarily incompetant on the land and got lucky at the post war dust up in New Orleans where a Franco-Jewish Pirate named Jean Lafite provided most of the firepower.

      1. avatar TTACer says:

        It’s better to be lucky than smart.

        1. avatar tdiinva says:

          Yep

  2. avatar BLAMMO says:

    On one hand, gun rights groups argue for a universal right to own firearms with few if any restrictions. On the other hand, gun control advocates seek to place weapons under some level of governmental control, to prevent gun crime, firearms-related suicide and accidental death.

    Gun control advocates use the term “reasonable restrictions”. I mean, you’d have to be an unreasonable person not to accede to reasonable restrictions, right? Well, one reasonable restriction is that of a pistol grip on a rifle. A strictly ergonomic feature that in no way increases the lethality of the weapon. Another is a bayonet lug. Sure, you could affix a bayonet using the bayonet lug but who would? Who has? I don’t recall a rash of bayonettings here in New York State before the assault weapons ban.

    Gun grabbers think the 2nd Amendment is an 18th century anachronism. In a modern, “civilized” world, guns no longer serve any purpose. I don’t think the people being gunned down by the Syrian government would agree. They’d just like to have a fighting chance.

    1. avatar Res Publica Americana says:

      1) The gun IS civilization.

      2) Natural rights are not subject to the desires of the majority, or the whims of the politician. Ever. At all. They are absolute, or else they would not be rights; it isn’t screaming “FIRE” you get arrested for, but the damage doing so may cause, just as it would be if you stabbed or shot somebody, you’d be arrested for murder. I’ve always hated that freaking analogy.

      1. avatar Joe Grine says:

        The “fire in a crowded theatre” example is often cited as a form of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment. Unfortunately, it’s not a good example. It originates in the case of Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), but the “clear and present danger” test articulated in that decision has since been overruled by the “imminent lawless action” test of Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). A good summary of applicable law on this topic can be found here:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_v._Ohio

        http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/89jan/dershowitz.htm

        Speech will fall outside of the confines of constitutional protection if there exists is the combination of intent to incite imminent lawless action along with a likelihood that those efforts will be successful that causes the speech to be unprotected – no actual harm is required. As a practical matter, prosecutors usually only press charges if actual harm occurred (after all, actual harm is good evidence that the speech was “likely” to cause harm) but actual success is not required.
        Without getting into a long debate about John Locke’s theory of natural rights, your formulation of the theory is also incorrect. As much as I wish you were correct, your implicit suggestion that gun ownership is a “natural right” goes far beyond even the statement of natural rights as set forth in the Declaration of Independence.

  3. avatar Res Publica Americana says:

    I’m particularly conscious and passionate about these things because I’m Soviet-born, and my family fled precisely because tyranny was ripping apart the very fabric of human society at every single micro- and macroscopic level. You might be surprised to know that a great many Soviet-born immigrants, or even their second- and third-generation children, are patriotic and libertarian. I’m a highly militant constitutionalist/true republican/libertarian, and a rabidly patriotic one, too, and these are facts of history I’ll never forget.

  4. avatar ExurbanKevin says:

    Speaking as someone who grew up in Canada (and just Canada, but the best part of it), guns in America go beyond the Second Amendment and the wars with Great Britain.

    Americans don’t trust their government. While this seems blindingly obvious to Americans, it’s actually unique among all the nations of the world. In America, civilization came first (pauses, waits for the non-Americans to snicker over the concept of a “civilized American”), then came the government. This didn’t happen anywhere else in the New World, and makes America special. Everywhere else in the world, the common practice is for citizens to outsource their own protection to the government. In America, there is the realization that you are your own first responder.

    1. avatar sdog says:

      as civilized as those riots in Vancouver, where they were protesting their loss to a team that is also %90 Canadian? real intelligent Kev

      1. avatar Matt H says:

        Easy sdog, I think he’s on our side. I took the “civilized American” bit as a swipe at non-Americans for not getting it.

      2. avatar ExurbanKevin says:

        Actually, sdog, I wrote about those riots on my political blog in terms of personal freedom and liberty. Everything in Canada is so tightly controlled and regulated, there’s no release valve. Only the politically impotent see mass rioting as a good thing.

        1. avatar sdog says:

          my apologies, the snark was a bit greater than i had intended. As an American who as lived outside of the country , albeit in a warmer climate (think blue water and islands), i encountered that kind of attitude often, how “unsophisticated” Americans are. After reading your blog post, I now understand the context of your comment. sounding retreat

        2. avatar ExurbanKevin says:

          Not a prob. 🙂

          It’ll be interesting to see what (if any) long-term fallout there is over the riots, because a) They happened in Vancouver, Canada’s slightly colder version of San Francisco and b) it wasn’t anarchists or Bloc Quebecois (but I repeat myself) rioting in the street, it was normal everyday Canadians, and Canadians just don’t DO that sort of thing (they think).

        3. avatar New2This says:

          Great to see someone else from Canada posting here. I can relate to your post and understood the “civilized American” comment as it was intended. I lived in Calgary for quite a few years before fleeing the weather (no, two lukewarm weeks in July do not qualify as “summer”). Home now is North Carolina which is a great place to live for any number of reasons.

        4. avatar Buuurr says:

          “ExurbanKevin says:

          June 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM

          Actually, sdog, I wrote about those riots on my political blog in terms of personal freedom and liberty. Everything in Canada is so tightly controlled and regulated, there’s no release valve. Only the politically impotent see mass rioting as a good thing.”

          One of the many reasons I left.

  5. Not sure where to ask this, but the mention of both sides of the Gun Rights issue above made it seem appropriate. I’m a 2nd Amendment guy, I own guns for self defense and hunting, and I enjoy healthy debate about all of the above. That being said, I try to keep up on the gun control lobby ideology – mostly for humor, but also so I can speak intelligently to my very liberal, gun-fearing friends. I’m not sure how to refute the quote below – from the splash page for the book Lethal Logic by Dennis Henigan – what am I missing? I realize that maybe I’ll come across like an idiot by posting this – but it bugs me that I don’t have a rebuttal for it.

    The gun lobby’s refrain is, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” conveying the idea that gun control will never be effective in preventing criminal access to guns. Leaving aside the red herring of “outlawing guns,” the one category of guns that has long been subject to a strict federal licensing and registration system – machine guns – is an insignificant crime problem, even though machine guns have an obvious appeal to criminals. The National Rifle Association has admitted that, after over 50 years of strict federal regulation, possession of machine guns “has never been a crime problem.” According to federal data, machine guns account for around 0.1% of guns traced to crime.

    1. avatar Matt H says:

      First of all, outlawing guns is not a red herring. In less guarded moments, gun control advocates admit that they wish only the state could have guns, or that guns could be uninvented. Publicly they take a more moderate, incremental approach, but with few exceptions, a total ban is their endgame.

      One thing that has me suspicious about that quote is the part that says “guns traced to crime”. That’s different from the number actually used in crime. To be traced, it has to be found by police first. It also has to be traceable, which would mean that it was legal at some point and still had its serial numbers.

      What I’d want to know is how many crimes are committed with full-auto weapons, whether or not the weapon itself is found by police or legal.

    2. avatar Daniel Zimmerman says:

      First, outlawing guns is far from a red herring. Just about every other western society has outlawed them (at least handguns). Henigan acting as if this is a silly notion that gun-wackos use to stir up fear is disingenuous at best.

      Outlawing guns is the ultimate goal of the Bradys and VPCs of the world. Get a few belts into them at the end of a long day communing with Chuckie Schumer and they’ll spill it.

      “Reasonable restrictions” are just a step on the continuum toward that end.

      As for machine guns, they’re not a big problem because they’re really of little use to the average BG. Spraying bullets may look cool in Grand Theft Auto, but it’s a waste of ammo and less accurate than semi-auto. If BGs thought machine guns would be a big help to them in a practical way, there’d be a lot more machine guns on the street.

      1. Thanks for the reply. Also, you bring up a good point. If full auto was important for the BG’s to have, they’d have them – just like Mexico. I didn’t think about that part.

        And thanks also for the clarification about the ‘red herring’ of Outlawing guns. I’m a lifelong shooter, but having lived in UT and AK, have never thought too much about gun rights. Now that I’ve been in WA state for a while, the politics around this just makes my head hurt!

      2. avatar Andrew Snyder says:

        Just wanted to expand on the bad guys don’t really want MGs theme.

        The anti-material rifle has been around and publically available for many years. Most people think of the .50 cal sniper rifle (it is actually anti-material or anti sniper by design). Most people here know that the .50 cal rifle is an object of desire that is not so obscure. The gun control lobby is sure anxious to ban these due to their obvious potential for bad use by bad people. It has great potential for violence, and so you would think would be desirable to criminals.

        But it isn’t! In fact the last time I checked, and I doubt it has changed, there have been absolutely no crimes committed by perps using .50 cal rifles. There was one case where someone committing a crime was carrying a .50 cal rifle, but he never touched it, aimed it at anyone, or even threatened anyone with it during the crime. It was more of a prop or backdrop to the other guns, the ones he was using to commit the crime.

        So why not? Well, it turns out bad guys have a different scale for their firearms than the rest of us. Highest on their list of what makes a good bad guy gun is how easy it can be hidden. They after all usually have already forfeited their rights to gun ownership, and even if not the last thing they want is to stand out as a bad guy on their way to, during, and way from the crime. Not respecting those things will just get them caught and locked up. Then, they also have to be able to easily hide it in a discard place or out of sight when they are home so the police don’t find it and connect them to it. Smaller is always better for this. And the small guns are handguns and revolvers, which by their very nature are typically not automatic.

        The second highest is cost. Even bad guys have to pay for their bad guy guns, that or steal them. Full-auto guns are expensive! So, even if a bad guy manages to steal a full auto gun, he is going to look at it and say “Man this gun is big, but I bet someone will pay me a crap load for it!” Then he will find someone willing to pay him good money to add the automatic to their secret stash (secret means they do not plan to use it to commit crimes, just want to squirrel it away for Armageddon or the cool factor or whatever). He takes a small portion of what he sold the automatic for, buys a handgun or two and some ammo and uses the rest to buy drugs or whatever. One thing bad guys know is “Bodies” reduce the value of a gun substantially. So using an expensive gun they could sell instead is a bad idea.

        Finally, the ability to look cool while shooting is important, if you can’t hold the gun sideways and shoot it, then bad guys don’t want it. Ever tried gangstah shooting a rifle? Ok, so I am mostly joking about the sideways shooting.

        Most semi-automatics can have the semi part removed. In fact many of them have extra parts keeping them from being full auto that just need to be removed. AKs are extremely easy to convert to full auto, you can even learn how on the internet if you don’t believe me. Some others like the 10/22 are simple to convert to full auto. Law abiding citizens don’t do these conversions generally because in most states it causes them to cease to be law abiding. But criminals could care less about the law. So, why aren’t they converting semi-autos to full-autos and using them to commit crimes? Because AKs and 10/22s are not easy to hide! Many handguns (revolvers aside) can be converted but doing so is extremely difficult and dangerous, so anyone who has the skills and intelligence to do it is using those same skills and smarts to make an honest living.

        And if they think banning something keeps it from the criminals, how do they explain cocaine, crystal meth, and the other banned drugs?

        1. avatar Todd says:

          “And if they think banning something keeps it from the criminals, how do they explain cocaine, crystal meth, and the other banned drugs?”

          Meth is banned? There goes my gun budget! 😉

  6. avatar Matt H says:

    “Gun rights advocates see the Constitution as a “living document,” affording government the right to create “reasonable restrictions” on gun sales, purchase, ownership and use.”

    Huh?

    1. avatar BobG says:

      “Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.”
      – Thomas Jefferson

  7. avatar Eliot says:

    To take it from the “Huh?” I see myself as a Constitutionalist. In fact, half of all my education was dedicated to understanding the history of our Republic, and the other half was understanding the differences of our experience from those in the U.K. and those of our neighbors in this hemisphere. I particularly focused on our sociopolitical legal history, and I believe thinking of our constitution as a living document is a GOOD thing. Think of the term poetically, would you rather fight to defend the living, or avenge the dead? I for one would like to think of the constitution as alive. It is there to protect me, but I too must protect it and advocate for it.

    3 years ago this September is the anniversary of a friend I had through school’s death from an illegally obtained gun by an 18 year old. I was the summer after my graduation. I mutual friend responded with a crusade against the perps who were 16 and 18 and immediately caught, and a crusade against guns. Try to talk to her about it and you get responses about how “outdated” the constitution is! People like that see it as a dead thing! It is advocates for the Constitution that still see it as a “Living Document”, and it is Advocates who keep it living! Even Madison’s rebuke of the Bill of Rights calling it a “parchment barrier” was meant as a minder that it means NOTHING without Belief in the hearts and minds of the American People.

    . . .

    Other than that bit of semantic debate I agree with everything in this article. The second amendment and the BOR is to guard against enemies foreign and domestic, including especially tyranny.

  8. avatar Pete says:

    Jim, I think you are missing a key point: Americans are, by the terms of our Constitution, SOVEREIGN citizens, not SUBJECTS of the Crown, the government, the bureaucrats, the aristos, the “proletariat”, or whatever other group of wanna-be rulers you choose. WE the People formed the nation, we set up a Constitution to specifically limit the powers of the government [no matter how poorly we are keeping those powers limited], and we put the 2nd amendment in the Bill of Rights to ENFORCE our ultimate sovereignty over the government. We believe, and some of us are willing to die for, the principle that our rights come from God, not from a government or a ruler. This is the one and only time a people have deliberately set up a nation where the “rulers” are subject to the people. Why do you think American presidents (other than FDR) have failed to declare themselves “President for Life” like Hugo Chavez, Castro, and a multitude of other rulers of “People’s Republics”? Because the statists know, deep in their slimy little hearts, that there will be enough armed Americans who will refuse to live on their knees, even if it means our deaths. Patrick Henry spoke for generations not yet born when he said “give me liberty or give me death.”

    Yes, our schools and media and Demo/RINO government are slowly trying to convince us to willingly surrender our liberty. I don’t think it is working, as witnessed by two facts: (1) the FBI admits to conducting 124 MILLION firearms purchase background checks (NICS) from 1998 to 2010; (2) 41 state legislatures have bowed to public pressure to pass “shall issue” concealed carry laws, and 4 of those have passed Constitutional carry laws (recognizing no permit is needed to “bear arms”.)

    We did not get into this socialist nightmare overnight, but I think we are gradually climbing out of it. The 2010 election showed that America is not happy with big government. The 2012 election will be key – can we throw the Marxist out of the White House, or will we continue down the road to serfdom?

  9. avatar RWC says:

    Just as an aside…that show is on Netflix instant now.

  10. avatar CUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    The first recorded murder in The New World? A dispute had taken place on the Mayflower. One pilgrim ambushed another with a blunderbuss.-Bloodletters and Badmen

    1. avatar RWC says:

      John Billington must’ve been a gun-loon 🙂

      1. avatar CUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

        Very impressive! I couldn’t remember his name for the life of me.

  11. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    It’s really very simple, “NO GUNS, NO FREEDOM”. Might makes right and if your a scared lil sheep, your enemies will walk all over you.

    1. avatar Buuurr says:

      That’s fact, Joe.

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