Question of the Day: Are Guns Central to the American Culture?

Thom Hartmann hosts what he claims to be America’s #1 progressive talk show. As boasts go, that’s kinda like claiming that you make America’s most delicious brussels sprout and kale smoothie. In this clip Mr. Hartman interviews Howard Epstein, author of Guns, Trauma, and Exceptionalism: American in the Twenty First Century.

To save you the time and more than a little aggravation, Mr. Epstein’s thesis is that while gun control is wonderful — he’s from the UK, after all — it’s insufficient to address what ails the good old U.S. of A.

In his view, we have a cultural problem over here. Mr. Epstein calls America a traumatized society which suffers from a form of PTSD, owing to our history, our addiction and infatuation with firearms. As he sees it, “America has a unique propensity to use guns and inflict large-scale violence.”

To address the problem of “gun violence,” Mr. Epstein’s recommends creating committees at the state and local levels tasked with examining anonymized records of children — all children, apparently.

The committees would try to ID any budding Dylan Klebolds and Adam Lanzas (I’m not sure I want to know how). The records of the targeted individuals would then be de-anonymized and “benign intervention” (that gave me a chill, too) would then be applied to steer the tyke off the path of violence.

Just who would intervene and how benign the intervention would be isn’t clear, short of reading the book. I already took one for the team by listening to the interview. I won’t be reading his opus.

The fact that Mr. Epstein considers his Big Idea for fixing what he thinks ails us to be “politically anodyne” reveals how little he really understands about Americans or our culture.

But set aside the Orwellian prescriptions for now. Consider instead the question of whether our love for and use of guns is baked into our culture. Hartmann sees the American experience — from manifest destiny to slavery and beyond — as evidence that we’re hard-wired to resort to ballistic responses. More so, at least, than those in other industrialized countries. True story?

comments

  1. avatar Mister Fister says:

    benign intervention – like re-education camps?

    1. avatar VerendusAudeo says:

      More like the counseling and behavioral interventions that is already utilized in all schools. Conceivably, dangerous behaviors that may lead to future violence would warrant an IEP.

    2. avatar Nigel the expat says:

      “Social Adjustment Centers”
      “Outlook Alignment Spas”
      “Harmony Retreats”

      So many nicer ways to say that than reeducation camps. Narrative is everything after all. 😉

      /sarc

  2. avatar BLoving says:

    Welp. Most of us understand there wouldn’t BE an American culture if it wasn’t for the right of the people to keep and bear arms… so… yeah. Guns are a part of our culture, and real Americans don’t care if that offends anyone.

    1. avatar Bosko says:

      The fundamental problem with contemporary Britain is that 80% of the Kingdom’s Real Men were killed off in the two World Wars and most of the remaining breeding stock were of a fruitish pansy genetic makeup. There are very few Real Men in the UK nowadays.

    2. avatar Jeff K says:

      Britain tried to disarm the Colonists so that there would be no armed resistance; thankfully they failed. Good comment about no ‘Real Men’ left in UcK.

  3. avatar General Zod says:

    “Hartmann sees the American experience — from manifest destiny to slavery — as evidence that we’re hard-wired to resort to ballistic responses. More so, at least, than those in other industrialized countries.”

    A conclusion that can only be drawn by someone who is completely, wilfully ignorant of European history…particularly that of the UK.

    1. avatar phageghost says:

      Yeah, I almost threw up in my Cheerios at that. To anyone the slightest bit familiar with the massive, systemic brutality and atrocities committed by British Imperialism across the globe for centuries (continuing, I might add, into the 1950s in Kenya, when post-war Euros were supposed to nice fuzzy pacifists), this is a ridiculous proposition.

      Glass houses, dude . . .

      1. avatar binder says:

        I know, how many Europeans have been killed by other Europeans in the 20th century.

      2. avatar BLoving says:

        Cherrios for lunch?
        You just crawled out of bed, didn’t you?

        1. avatar phageghost says:

          Actually, I’m still asleep. I have just have mad sonambulatory posting skillz.

    2. avatar million says:

      the Crown’s way was pillage, rape, and fire. just ask the highlanders.

      1. avatar Rokurota says:

        Excuse me, that was mostly by swords and blunt weapons, not guns. Much more civilized.

        1. avatar General Zod says:

          Mostly muskets and cannons against the Highlanders. By the 1700s only officers and cavalrymen had swords in His Majesty’s army…

      2. avatar Swilson says:

        You should also ask Indians, Irish, Native Americans, numerous sub-groups of African descent, Americans, Aborigines, Pacific Islanders, Arabs, Chinese, Afghans, First Nations, French-Canadians, Caribbean Islanders and the Burmese about the British/English propensity for violence. Sorry if I missed anyone.

        1. avatar neiowa says:

          Pretty much worked out thought to eliminate useless primitive tribalism though didn’t it?

      3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Yep. The Sassenach seem to develop a mighty convenient memory lapse when they get up on their hind legs to complain about “ethnic cleansing,” these days, don’t they?

  4. avatar LarryinTX says:

    Holy shit! Does this moron understand that if he finds a way to even imagine he can inflict this on us, we will hunt him down and kill him? That is some scary crazy he has going on.

  5. avatar IdahoPete says:

    LIBERTY is central to the American culture, and the people cannot be free from serfdom without firearms.

    From our founding document, the Declaration of Independence:
    “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their DUTY, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — ”

    That is the only DUTY mentioned in the Declaration, and that DUTY is why we have the 2nd Amendment. Free people own guns, serfs do not.

  6. avatar waffensammler98 says:

    Getting sick and tired of oh so enlightened Europeans taking pot shots at the U.S. over its “violent” history, as if it exists in a vacuum. The history of the world and all its peoples is defined by the right of conquest. Raw, naked force is the only thing that has allowed anyone to survive as a free man or woman, and private gun ownership has helped even the odds for centuries.

  7. avatar Robert T Foy says:

    When you use terminology such as “Gun culture”, you are using terms coined by the left. When in a debate of any social issue, to use the terminology of the opposing side of any issue; allows the adversary to to define the base and in turn you empower the adversary to rule the conversation or debate.

    “STOP!” using the definitions given by the left, “stop” GIVING THEM rule of the conversation by allowing the left to define the meaning of the language used. There is no culture based on guns, nor have there ever been a civilisation built upon a gun. That would be like saying new cultures will be turned out by every firearm manufacture anywhere. THEY BUILD GUNS, NOT “SOCIAL ORDERS” OF GIVEN DIRECTION.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Ridiculous assertion. Of course there is a “gun-culture”. That is, a group of people whose interests, hobbies, careers, discussions, and activities include, as a requirement, firearms.

      To say there is no gun-culture is like saying there was never a sword culture, tea culture, coffee culture, car culture, motorcycle culture, fashion culture etc. And there clearly has been and still is.

      1. avatar BLoving says:

        This.
        We are “the gun culture”, the writers and commenters of The Truth About Guns.
        We’re constantly on the lookout for new members from every demographic and welcome them with open arms.
        Nothing gives me quite as much pleasure as selling a gun to a first-time buyer who is enthusiastically jumping into our world with both feet!
        Join the club, sorry, no jackets… yet.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          No jacket? Full metal jacket, my good man…

        2. avatar Robert T Foy says:

          I see your perspective Bloving, still this is not a culture; a cohort of like minded yet differing perspectives, but not a culture. Cultures are not formed by single objects of interest; religions are formed that way.

      2. avatar Robert T Foy says:

        Nonsense Jw, your naming object of common interest is like saying the cows at the troff are a cow culture. Civilization began when we still used stone tools. So was that a stone culture? Bullshit!! a Culture is based in ideology like Stalinism, its still human culture but! You Don’t get no Gun. Human civilisation is not dependent on the gun. We existed without them, and as stated by Albert E. in the end we will kill each other with rocks and sticks once again. Don’t worry Jw we will never stop killing, we are a killing culture!!

    2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      I agree that it’s a term invented by the left, is intended to be disparaging and to incite fear, and we should not use it.

      Same with “assault weapon,” “high-powered rifle” or incorrect usage of “assault rifle.”

      1. avatar Robert T Foy says:

        Right on Curtis assault is human behavior, not an object. This is how the libs have defanged the courts by blaming victims and weapons used by criminal rather than the behavior of the criminal. You are absolutely right! “Gun culture” is a leftist term used to villainize the american gun owner. The media fan the flames with every shooting blaming the violent criminal behavior on the “gun”.

  8. avatar Paul53 says:

    Yes, guns are ingrained in our culture for an important reason. America was born from the struggle for power between the governed and the government. Those who govern America do so ONLY with the power granted them by “We the people.” Inevitably governments desire ever increasing power initially to govern, but eventually to subjugate the citizens. The 2nd Amendment is the “in your face” way of reminding the government where all power resides.

  9. avatar John says:

    It’s the Liberty that’s baked into our culture that makes us exceptional.

    Each individual feeling empowered and capable to act in his own behalf and not expect government – or anyone else – to provide for his well-being just makes us different. Voluntary association for the purpose of cooperation is the essence of the American Experiment vs a long history of coerced collectivism in other parts of the world.

    I’m sure the author of the tome just can’t understand why we don’t see the brilliance of his proposal. It’s because it’s the complete antithesis of the ‘Leave me and mine alone. We can handle this.” that permeates the American Psyche in the vast majority of the country.

    My recommendation to Mr Epstein is to bugger off!

  10. avatar samuraichatter says:

    “benign intervention”

    Did anyone else have a WTF moment when they heard that?

    1. avatar Mr. AR says:

      Like “The Lancet’s” publication of the XYY chromosome ~= serial killer theory.

      They thought Richard Speck might be XYY because of acne, height, lower iQ ( he wasn’t ).

      We just need to start monitoring neo-nazi, racist website views to catch (and cauterize) the budding Roof’s. The press reported that Primary Election support for Trump correlated closely with racist website clicks (and lower education levels) so it is only one more step to collect names/addresses.

      While we are at it, let’s look for radicalized Jihadist spouses of American husbands….

  11. avatar David says:

    The only people’s around the world who maintain their identity are those who fought for it. The only way to keep it is to continually reinforce the mindset of righteous use of force. The U.S. is one of the few remaining countries that hasn’t gone insane with policies guaranteed to end their identity. I wasn’t raised with that mindset but I’ve developed it and I won’t be giving it up! So, YES!, is the answer to that question. We need to promulgate it more and more!

  12. avatar Paul53 says:

    Yes, guns are ingrained in American society. Those who govern America have only as much power as the citizens give them. The 2nd Amendment is an “in your face” reminder to those who govern that they are powerless without the permission of the governed.

  13. avatar Norincojay says:

    Black Americans do. They commit 51% of our homicides but are only 13% of our population. Gun crime is more of a black problem. I don’t blame them the history of violence thrust upon them caused it.

    1. avatar Scoutino says:

      I do. I blame every single murderer personally, no matter what his color or what his great great grand parrents history was.
      The “How can you expect anything better from them?” is the worst kind of racism.

  14. avatar former water walker says:

    Yes…next question?

  15. avatar Wiregrass says:

    If Americans are so damn traumatized by our history, addiction and infatuation with firearms, and if that is a bad thing, then why does everyone want to keep coming here?

    1. avatar Red in CO says:

      This dumbass would probably say Stockholm Syndrome. You know, because modern America is so awful that we oppress every single individual in the entire world…. /sarc

  16. avatar rt66paul says:

    It does not define our culture, it allows it, just as all of our rights, as the BOR defines them. While there are many more rights our creator endowed, these are specifically mentioned. Sadly, many other countries have put thier citizens into further slavery by denying those rights.

  17. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    To address the problem of “gun violence,” Mr. Epstein recommends creating committees at the state and local levels tasked with examining anonymized records of children …

    Thus Mr. Epstein’s plan requires real-life demi-gods who can:
    (1) Compile highly accurate and complete reports of children.
    (2) Determine which children are definitely going to be violent attackers based on those reports.

    And his plan will require tens of thousands of demi-gods to compile reports for and evaluate those reports for something like 100 million children.

    Where are these tens of thousands of demi-gods going to come from?

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      It is this sort of highly delusional thinking from Mr. Epstein that reminds me why I INSIST on having firearms.

    2. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      Indeed. Not to mention that if they can be “de-anonymized” then they were NEVER ANONYMOUS in the first place.

    3. avatar Herb Allen says:

      Amitai Etzioni, the guru of “communitarianism” wants gun ownership ended. In his ideal society, EVERYONE becomes a snitch & rats out their neighbors who have firearms. Might look him up.

      Meanwhile, yet another stinking Brit from the disarmed UK where they are up to their @zzes in Muslims, presumes to dictate enlightenment to us troglidytic Yanks. Disgusting.

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8739712
        No where in his diatribe does he suggest what we do to defend ourselves during or after the disarmament. In his utopia we wake up like we are in Japan without a bullet in sight.
        He’s called a top intellectual but even a dummy like me can see the problems in his idea.

        1. avatar Red in CO says:

          I actually read that article, and the author was SO. CLOSE. To seeing the fallacy of gun control. Frankly, most of his arguments mirror my own (and those of many of us here) regarding the uselessness of gun control. And then, somehow, that train if thought is violently thrown from its logical conclusion into the realm of pure fantasy. That actually seems to be a semi-recurring theme among liberals who have even an ounce of intellectual honesty (intellectual honesty as in the capacity for mild skepticism of Democrat party lines; which unfortunately seems to be quite a rarity among the left).

  18. avatar W says:

    The United States is solidly mid-pack in the world’s intentional homicide rates. So, while the Brit thinks our gun violence rate is high, our homicide rate is not.

    Maybe someone should ask him which country kills the most people with beer mugs and what should be done about it. Or, what should be done about Britain’s alcoholism rates (among the highest in the world)? If he is so smart, then perhaps he should get his house in order.

    1. avatar Swilson says:

      Ah yes, it would seem that Britain’s pub culture is at the root of much of its violence.

  19. avatar Chip in Florida says:

    Question of the Day: Are Guns Central to the American Culture?

    Only in so much as we use the guns to protect our culture.

    Liberty and freedom are much easier to protect using guns than by using committees or ‘benign intervention.’

  20. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Francis Galton much Mr. Epstein?

  21. avatar Swilson says:

    Got to love how a Brit thinks his opinion matters in this country. If you are not American, then whatever you think about American firearm ownership is invalid, I would say that goes double for just about any European.

    Fixing perceived ills within a certain culture, necessarily entails having a thorough understanding of that culture. Mr. Epstein has absolutely proven that he hasn’t the foggiest understanding of Americans and their culture.

    Oh yea, where does Mr. Epstein think the tradition of firearm ownership in American history and culture come from…? I believe it comes from Jolly Ol’.

  22. avatar GS650G says:

    Start with kids attending the progressive rallies and demonstrations. Those people are scary enough without indoctrination of their children.

  23. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    Less than 75 years ago, European nations were slaughtering each other wholesale in WW II. A hundred years ago the same nations, with slightly different leadership, were doing it in WW I. Their history before that is an unending story of war and slaughter via revolution, conquest and civil war stretching out thousands of years. They don’t have a leg to stand on when accusing U.S. citizens of any special relationship with or propensity violence, ballistic or otherwise.

  24. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    “America has a unique propensity to use guns and inflict large-scale violence.”

    He has apparently confused the words “America” and “Islam.”

  25. avatar TheUnspoken says:

    Making sweeping generalizations about culture and their propensity for violence is difficult. I suspect if he could identify “gun culture”, eg those who like guns, buy them, go to NRA conventions, etc, and compare to those individuals who regularly engage in violent episodes probably don’t have much overlap. I like guns as a hobby, but don’t go shootin’ up the town or settling scores with my rivals, I don’t have scores or rivals, manifest destiny or not. And even within gun culture itself you can find lots of different groups represented. Hunting only types, Tactical operators and wannabes, internet denizens, fanboys, people who truly love their weapons and just-a-tool sorts. And apparently all those “I own a gun and of course support the second amendment, but…” types who I claim to represent gun culture but have some how remained unsoiled by its violent tendencies.

    But then this is the usual. Somehow I am responsible for Chicago, though I swear I only ever went there once, and shot no one. Didn’t even smuggle any weapons in. Went to a wedding, complained of excessive sales tax rate, and went home.

    1. avatar Red in CO says:

      Hell, most criminals honestly don’t have any special affections for or enjoyment of guns for their own sake. By and large, that culture takes an EXTREMELY utilitarian view of firearms, seeing them solely as a means to an end, rather than items to be enjoyed for their own sake.

  26. avatar Paul53 says:

    Are “Butt Hurt Reports caused by The American Revolution” an integral part of British society? Listening Pearce Morgan?

  27. avatar neiowa says:

    #1 progressive a bit like a minor case of the clap?

    1. avatar Johannes Paulsen says:

      Like being the best darned latrine digger in the whole Mississippi National Guard.

  28. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    There was a movie titled “1776” that I saw at Radio City Music Hall in 1976. It was a wonderfully funny portrayal of the struggle to declare independence from the UK, the efforts and compromises required by the Founding Fathers, and while taking liberties with actual dialogue in the script, was a pretty accurate portrayal of the struggles surrounding the Declaration.

    The character of Ben Franklin was played wonderfully well by Howard Da Silva,and in a conversation with the character of John Dickinson, Franklin’s character said the following of American and Americans:

    “Never was such a valuable possession so stupidly and recklessly managed, than this entire continent by the British crown. Our industry discouraged, our resouces pillaged… worst of all our very character stifled. We’ve spawned a new race here, Mr. Dickinson. Rougher, simpler; more violent, more enterprising; less refined. We’re a new nationality. We require a new nation. ”

    And we are rougher and more violent than those popinjays and pantywaists of Europe. Take away all our gun crime, and look only at physical assaults, and you quickly come to the conclusion PJ O’Rourke did:

    “I was having dinner…in London…when eventually he got, as the Europeans always do, to the part about “Your country’s never been invaded.” And so I said, “Let me tell you who those bad guys are. They’re us. WE BE BAD. We’re the baddest-assed sons of bitches that ever jogged in Reeboks. We’re three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock market crash on our mother’s side. You take your Germany, France, and Spain, roll them all together and it wouldn’t give us room to park our cars. We’re the big boys, Jack, the original, giant, economy-sized, new and improved butt kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap d’Antibes. And we’ve got an American Express card credit limit higher than your piss-ant metric numbers go. You say our country’s never been invaded? You’re right, little buddy. Because I’d like to see the needle-dicked foreigners who’d have the guts to try. We drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying ‘Cheerio.’ Hell can’t hold our sock-hops.

    We walk taller, talk louder, spit further, fuck longer and buy more things than you know the names of. I’d rather be a junkie in a New York City jail than king, queen, and jack of all Europeans. We eat little countries like this for breakfast and shit them out before lunch.”

    And this, I believe, has some bearing on why the Europeans are always whinging and crying about everything we do. They’re jealous as well as contemptuous. I’m sorry these Europeans had the misfortune to be born in (or worse) immigrate to countries where they still have inbred cousin-humpers as the highest employees on the public payroll. It sucks to be you. But son, don’t expect us to listen to you with anything more than polite indifference… because you still voluntarily suffer the expense of inbred cousin-humpers on your payrolls.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “There was a movie titled “1776” that I saw at Radio City Music Hall in 1976.”

      I found a movie called ‘1776’, made in 1972, starring among others, Howard Da Silva.

      It’s a musical. There’s a really crappy quality one on YouTube, and a nice quality one can be found on the ‘Pirate Bay’. If you use Firefox, install a torrent plug-in from the addons menu…

  29. avatar Brian says:

    Epstein is an utter thundering moron, and that’s the nicest phrase I can come up with today.

    He should remember that archaeologists have found shot and gun parts during excavations of Colonial-era slave cabin sites. That’s how ‘baked in’ firearms are to American culture… and for how long!

  30. avatar Ralph says:

    Brothers and sisters, I implore you to be kind to the poor British twit. He’s still in mourning over Brexit.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      If they’re whinging about Brexit, they’ll lose their minds when France eventually pulls out of the EU.

  31. avatar Johannes Paulsen says:

    I’d never put Brussels sprouts in a smoothie. Kale, however, surprisingly a works. As long as there’s other stuff that tastes good in there.

  32. avatar BlackRipleyDog says:

    Deep down we are a warrior society. How many movies extol the virtues of an armed and trained population? Shaka Zula and 300 come to mind. Why are we demonized now but the Spartan’s history is not being rewritten?
    I guess it is too much to ask that we in the 21st Century defend our way of life from 8th Century savages.

  33. avatar Charlie says:

    So the little British ponce is an expert on American culture and firearms. Well, he wrote a book about it, didn’t he? lol

    See also: Notes from the Olive Garden by James Lileks. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/fr/637482/posts

    Charlie

  34. avatar jwm says:

    Gun culture? Our movies are awash in guns. Same with our video games. Fastest growing segment of the American population is new gun owners. We got at least five hundred million guns in nation of 320 million.

    So yeah, it’s a gun culture. And happy it makes me.

  35. avatar JDS says:

    Given the opportunity almost all people would choose to own firearms. If any European countries put a second amendment into force the enlightened ones would find out just how quickly their “gun culture” looked like ours. The reason they don’t is they are afraid to find out just how hated they are by the serfs they control.

  36. avatar Ozzallos says:

    “Are Guns Central to the American Culture?”

    Every movie ever made by Hollywood seems to think so. In fact, it’s hard to name one movie made that wouldn’t have turned out better with a gun, and don’t forget to substitute hero powers for guns, because that’s what they are– Equalizers.

    Victims of the heroes family got killed by mobsters? Gun woulda been nice there. Going out for revenge on said mobsters with super powers? Congratulations, you own a gun! Rescuing your kidnapped daughter because she was… Taken? I’ll bet a gun would be useful to get her back.

    The Gun™.
    It’s like Bacon.

  37. avatar Roymond says:

    There is a social difference between America and nations which have been accustomed to regarding people as subjects for generation on end, and it’s that we tend to be more antagonistic. It shows in many areas of our society, such as unions v corporations, and inevitably it means a slightly higher use of guns to settle disputes. But those guns are not the problem, else the substantial increase in both the numbers of people owning guns and the number of guns owned would have resulted in a related substantial increase in the use of guns to settle disputes. That it has not done so indicates that however much we may be more antagonistic, we are not in general inclined to take our antagonism to the level of lethal force.

    In summary, he’s full of excrement, pinning the blame for a more general phenomenon on a minor symptom.

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