Gun_Culture_2_0

By Robert B. Young, MD

The concept of a “gun culture” is an interesting notion. The phrase is frequently used, most often negatively by anti-gun activists but it’s also been adopted as a positive description of values by many gun owners. What is it, and what does “culture” have to do with guns? First of all, there is certainly not a monolithic “gun culture”, because people appreciate firearms from a number of perspectives. We may be interested in different kinds of sport; that may be some form of target shooting, recreationally or competitively. We may care more about hunting, which is another personal challenge and a physically healthy pursuit that can also feed us.  We may admire their fine craftsmanship, be fascinated by the history of firearms and collect them . . .

It may be important to us to be able to protect ourselves and loved ones against assailants who can be bigger, stronger, and more brutal and opportunistic than us. I doubt that many of us see ourselves as public menaces. Most of us are quite sincere about handling such dangerous implements carefully and using them safely. But that’s just our view.

On the other hand, candidate Obama famously called out a “gun culture” in which gun owners bitterly “cling to guns or religion” as well as being xenophobic and protectionist due to economic hardship. There are many similar stereotypical anti-gun beliefs, held emotionally or with supposed objectivity.

A recent example is “Gun Owners and Social Gun Culture”, a study based on data from YouGov.com (an organization that polls self-selected panels) and policy information from the Brady Law Center and Injury Prevention and Control Center. (The full Injury Prevention journal report can be obtained via the British Medical Journal’s pay site.)

Dr. Bindu Kalesan et al. discovered that among the one-third of respondents identifying themselves as gun owners, 2-2.5 times as many join in gun-related social activities as don’t. Their declared agenda is to reduce gun ownership for “public health” reasons, which means that favorable attitudes about guns need to be changed. So that may require challenging the reinforcement for gun ownership that such social activities provide.

The authors also determined that the typical American gun owner is a high income white male over 55 years old—a profile that is unrepresentative of the increasing diversity of people who enjoy shooting.  But depicting older, well-off white guys perpetuates a popular negative image for many purposes.

Their work is fundamentally flawed, given their basic premise that injury prevention requires altering the American public’s increasingly positive attitude toward gun ownership. But how these authors and the Brady Center see “gun culture” is an example of how we can be seen in the world at large.

It’s revealing that they assume there’s something wrong with gun owners associating socially and sharing gun-related activities.  It’s hard to imagine the same point of view about American car culture.  That similarly involves appreciation of the workmanship, aesthetics, and variety of uses of vehicles that are proportionally responsible for far more injuries and deaths than firearms.

This “anti-gun culture” would be a joke, if they weren’t so convinced.  If you’ve ever “attended gun safety classes” or “advocated responsible gun ownership” (responses that indicated to the authors participation in the dangerous “gun culture”) you have been with people whose emphasis on safety and accountability is probably unequaled among amateur sportsmen.  Larry Keane, senior vice-president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, points out that Kalesan et al should say “Thank you, U.S. Gun Culture” for, yes, cultivating citizens “who are willing to take on the responsibility that comes with owning a firearm”.

A curious angle involves anti-gun allegations that gun owners are paranoid about the world, or are afflicted with subconscious or sexual inadequacies.  As a psychiatrist, I suspect this is projection.  As a physician and a human being with experience of illness, injury, death and violence, I am more inclined to empathy for the targets of such claims than for the accusers.

I like Andrew Scott’s take on this in “The Staggering Safety of Living with Concealed Carry Holders Among Us”.  He very fairly calculates the odds of the average American getting killed by someone random as about 285 times greater than by a concealed carry holder.

Concealed carriers aren’t an exact proxy for all the 30-50% of Americans who own guns, but this is hard data that should be representative given that exponential difference in risk.  There are plenty of everyday risk comparisons that favor firearms.  Scott points out, for example, that we are about 7 times more likely to get struck by lightning and twice as likely to win the Powerball jackpot as to die at the hands of a licensed handgun user.  Now who’s paranoid?

The word “culture” itself comes from the millennia old concept of “cultivation”, helping to grow things and, likewise, human accomplishment.  Per the Oxford English Dictionary, “culture” denotes collective human intellectual achievement and our “refined” understanding and appreciation of it, particularly the customs, arts, social institutions, attitudes and behaviors characteristic of a particular social group.

“Gun culture”—sounds pretty special, doesn’t it?

 

Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. 

This article originally appeared at drgo.us and is reprinted here with permission.

Recommended For You

36 Responses to There Is Such a Thing as a Gun Culture

  1. Many posters and writers here play into this negative stereotype by using descriptors like POTG. This will only serve to further marginalized people who are trying to protect not just the 2A, but what’s left of our liberties.

    • The anti-gunners try to use anything we say against us. I’ll just speak the truth, and stay with that. If you can’t handle the truth, you probably already are a liberal progressive anti-gunner.

      • “It’s not ‘Progressive’ as in ‘Progress’ but ‘Progressive’ as in ‘Cancer’.”
        ~SteveInCO

    • I’ll use POTG. Proudly. Anti-gunners want to shame “gun culture” out of existence. The best remedy to that attack (and the best way to protect not only the 2A, but our other liberties as well) is to unashamedly own up to the fact that I own guns, that I absolutely expect myself and those around me to respect real gun safety, and that I enjoy shooting and taking people shooting. POTG is a label that means all those things to me and more.

      If anything does a disservice to spreading the acceptance of “gun culture” it’s being confrontational, rude or negligent about guns. I try not to push my views on anyone, but I do take advantage of opportunities to join in conversations about guns when the topic comes up. I also try to lean toward educating people on things that they wouldn’t know unless they were POTG–like how the wrong barrel length or a VFG on a pistol can land you in prison. Or how Hollywood gets guns wrong. Or how unusual designs like the P90 work. Simple education will erode anti-gun lies, and it tends to spread.

    • Anti-gun zealots are pseudo-intellectual and cultural bigots and that is all. They are high on their self-awarded sense of moral and ethical “superiority”.

    • What would you have us do and say, should you be granted the magical omnipotence you crave, for five minutes?

      And what else would you do? Because this could be interesting.

  2. I for one, AM proud to be associated with POTG. And I’m extremely tired of being concerned of what some undetermined group of people think of this. Being one of the POTG probably means being extremely concerned for all our other liberties. As the 2nd amendment is the bedrock for all of our other liberties. It ain’t about duck hunting.

    • Wabbit season!

      Sorry for the off-topic comment, but speaking of cultural foundations, I realize I can’t remember the last time I saw one of the original Bugs Bunny cartoons on network satellite or cable.

      • Cartoon Network had rights to the Looney Tunes library until their agreement expired in 2005. Best I know WB hasn’t sold rights to anyone since.
        Oh and…..DUCK SEASON!

  3. Good one on comparing to car culture.

    Tony Stewart killed a guy on a dirt track last year. What would happen in our circles if one of our top competitive shooters popped another competitor or target runner who was in the wrong place or because the RO made a mistake? CHAOS.

    • Unfair comparison.

      More accurate would be a night stage competition where a competitor felt aggrieved and expressed themselves by standing in front of another competitor’s target (in the dark) while the other was in the act of firing on it.

        • “We get it. You’re Tony Stewart’s personal butt boy.”

          Wrong, Chuck.

          Sian commented on someone being hurt by a simple error.

          The moron Stewart ran over was a dumbass. A dumbass with with THC in his blood.

          If I’m anyone’s racing “personal butt boy” it would be Aryton Senna. RIP

          🙂

      • Well-known champion hotshot kills someone because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

        How is that an unfair comparison?

        • “How is that an unfair comparison?”

          You asked:

          “What would happen in our circles if one of our top competitive shooters popped another competitor or target runner who was in the wrong place or because the RO made a mistake?”

          The race (shooting match) was taking place just fine and safe. The race officials (RSOs) had everything well in hand, they made no mistake. It wasn’t an issue of someone mistakenly being where they shouldn’t.

          The dumbass walked his stoned ass out on the dark track and got run over.

          There was no ‘whoops! me bad!’ error. It was deliberate, not an accident, as in the motions involved in running a shooting match.

          It was an apples ‘n oranges comparison, that’s all…

    • Already happened: a young girl accidentally machine-gunned her instructor. To death.

      I’m sure we all remember the horrendous blow to “gun culture” that followed.

      Or not.

  4. Isn’t it ironic that Gun Culture 2.0 was created not by POTG, but by the anti-gun wingnuts who hate us all. If it wasn’t for the left, we would still be hunters or target shooters or practical shooters or concealed carriers etc., minding our own business with little in common. It was our common enemy that united us and pushed us to buy more and more guns while we fight for our rights.

    That’s The Law of Unintended Consequences in operation.

  5. If enjoying target shooting to hone skills in case ever needed. If having both pistols and revolvers, shooting various calibers from .22lr to .357 magnum and understanding the virtues of each. If knowing I could put meat on the table if needed. Could defend myself against serious bodily harm, if needed – then yes, I am a member of “the gun culture”.
    A lot has to do with a sense of self sufficiency that I was raised with by a long line of farmers, ranchers and career military members. Just like LEOs are too heavy to carry, so are husbands, fathers, brothers and friends. Heard someone say “Texas women can take care of themselves” recently. Don’t remember who or where I heard it, but bet it was one of those “Gun Culture” folks.

  6. If enjoying target shooting to hone skills in case ever needed. If having both pistols and revolvers, shooting various calibers from .22lr to .357 magnum and understanding the virtues of each. If knowing I could put meat on the table if needed. Could defend myself against serious bodily harm, if needed – then yes, I am a member of “the gun culture”.
    A lot has to do with a sense of self sufficiency that I was raised with by a long line of farmers, ranchers and career military members. Just like LEOs are too heavy to carry, so are husbands, fathers, brothers and friends. Heard someone say “Texas women can take care of themselves” recently. Don’t remember who or where I heard it, but bet it was one of those “Gun Culture” folks.

  7. Does anyone remember how we came to this point in our National History? I don’t, and Im just a bit concerned that I can’t.
    Where did this split in our verious cultural identies become so great that there is no longer a center ground where debate, discussion and the ability to find solutions that serve our national identity and culture.
    What became so frightening to some in our diverse culture, or what had to be hidden from “we the people” that the vechical of “being a firearms owner” became an anti-social, anit-cultural, anti-government position to redirect and deflect our focus?
    I’m a firearms owner, I believe that my oath of service did not end when I was honorably discharged. As a US citizian I am privileged to live in a nation of basically fair laws built upon a foundation carved from the stone of revolution by those who not only demanded self determination but we’re willing and able to sacrifice for that National ideal. In doing so set the cultural bar by which we have always tried to reach and maintain.
    What happened to that? How did we allow ourselves to be devided by a minority or an idea who or what apperently sees our national foundation, our streanths as a people, a culture and nation as dangerous to whatever plan or agenda that seemingly can not be successful without our nation being fractured.
    If there is a tip of the iceberg. It’s the national debate concerning firearms. It’s brought out at will, it’s used to deflect our attention and focus, and has become a smokescreen to the actual plight and issues of our National body and its soul.
    I don’t we should fear the person or persons who believe in conspericy agendas or theory’s. I think we should pay attention to the person or persons who have developed a conspericy or theory and believe in it strongly enough to attempt to implement it at any cost. After all, if it was the 1770’s, and I was English, this would be the way I’d be looking at those upstart colonies in the New World, wouldn’t I?
    It’s time to break this circular thought process we have been herded into, find again were and how this began and why. Only then can we as part of this American culture and current national devision find the solutions that the we a a strong nation require to continue to exist and be effective both internally and externally on the world stage.
    How my comment here is received by that community is of less importance if just one other person breaks from the circle.
    This POV is a struggle every day. It’s that struggle that keeps my focus. Seems we, the so called “firearm culture”, need to break open and out of the box that’ we have bern defined as. Put another way, we have to stop thinking defensively.
    If I’m off thread here I’m sorry, however the content seems to speak within the envelope of the discussion.

      • Yup, just about the response I expected. It’s always easer to make the joke than actually think an original thought. Thanks for skimming the comment though.

      • No, it was present during the Bush years. The rabid Bush haters were unwilling to listen to any dissenting points of view (prove to me those WMDs weren’t in the trucks that went into Syria or acknowledge the uncertainty) as far as there being no middle ground in which to debate. But an R was in office. Once a D was elected I think many felt it gave them license to stop pretending to be nice and things got much worse.

    • FACT: The term “conspiracy theory” was invented by the CIA to denigrate those engaged in honest scholarship and investigation into the Cryptocracy.

  8. Proud to be an over 55 white male “bitter clinger”…Now if only I had the well-heeled OFWG thing going.

    • Yes, but those damn anti’s just disenfranchised this middle class, old asian-american guy YET AGAIN. I just hate it when you tall white folk speak over our (lower) heads. They also disenfranchised every single gun owning and loving member of my extended (and mostly) mono-ethnic family. And don’t get me started on the Koreans and Chinese…

  9. On the other hand, candidate Obama famously called out a “gun culture” in which gun owners bitterly “cling to guns or religion” as well as being xenophobic and protectionist due to economic hardship.

    I am not religious, my wife is of a difference race than myself, and we make good money. Suck it, Obama.

  10. It is a scary thing to some people when young people of different skin colors come together with guns for fellowship and pleasure. The future looks very good.

  11. The culture to protect yourself.
    Some of the disarmed people murdered by the governments of the world, Christians Rome, Jews Nazi Germany, Aztecs Spanish, Maori of NZ and Aboriginals Australia, Scottish William Wallace, the Irish, Welsh by English and the Native America by the US government. THIS is why we need guns to protect ourselves from those who would subject us to their whim and if this is not enough just google dictators.
    There are over 400 gun laws on the books and they have done nothing to stop the violence. Because of the winey few we are chastised for wanting to protect ourselves. We NEED guns to protect ourselves from criminals in and out of the government. I deserve the right to protect myself and if you don’t like it tough shit. mrpresident2016.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *