If You Want to Understand America’s Gun Culture, Start by Listening

woman shooting range ar-15 rifle training practice

Shutterstock

By Mark Houser

In a recent opinion piece titled Guns and the Rural Vote, Ryan Davis offers his thoughts on what people fail to understand about American gun culture. Unfortunately, Davis himself overlooks the essential and distinguishing features of Americans’ attitudes towards firearms and the right to bear arms. In doing so, Davis misunderstands why American “gun people” (for lack of a better term) find gun control so utterly unpalatable.

Davis makes some good points — I particularly like what he had to say about the shared practice of hunting be able to bridge social divides. However, Davis’s core thesis is completely wrong. I continue to be frustrated by attempts to understand “gun people” that don’t involve listening to us. By characterizing our concerns and values as merely “symbolic,” Davis dismisses the real, substantial threats we face from politicians’ agendas and administrative agencies’ actions.

Regarding gun owners’ attitudes toward gun control, Davis says, “The offense is in what is said; not what is planned.” That is maddeningly incorrect. I oppose Biden’s gun control plan because of the material consequences it would have for me, people I love, and millions of other Americans — not because I don’t like the way he articulates it. 

Davis seems to accept the idea that talk of confiscation is “gun-lobby fearmongering.” Again, the explicit particulars of Biden’s gun control plan and his spoken rhetoric say otherwise.

I cannot express how frustrating it is to be told that gun owners’ concerns are “symbolic” when they are, for example, doing the math to figure out how much it would cost to register each of their standard-capacity magazines at $200 each — or, more likely, trying to think through what will happen if they choose not to comply with such a ridiculous scheme.

And gun people worry about what their lives would look like if the ATF decides to makes them felons overnight through one of the arbitrary regulatory decisions I’ve written so much about. In the latest instance, the ATF unilaterally and secretly abandoned its operating definition of what a firearm is and raided a business based on some new (but still unknown) definition it had invented.

To say that gun people have merely “symbolic” concerns is dismissive to the point of being offensive.

Davis is also wrong to view American gun culture primarily through the lens of hunting. In fact, this is completely backwards: a defining characteristic of American gun culture is the understanding that hunting has only an incidental relationship to the right to bear arms.

As I’ve written elsewhere, the right to bear arms and the Second Amendment aren’t about shooting ducks. The vast majority of participants in American gun culture understand this. Anyone who doesn’t gets called a “Fudd,” a derisive term for people who see the right to bear arms and gun ownership as being subordinate to or merely a corollary of the practice of hunting.

For contrast, consider New Zealand: a country with a relatively high rate of gun ownership where owning a firearm for the purpose of self-defense is generally illegal. In New Zealand, gun ownership largely is merely a function of hunting. One cannot understand American gun culture without understanding how it is distinct from a gun culture centered around hunting.

I do appreciate the effort to understand “gun people” rather than dismiss us, but I don’t appreciate having our material concerns being relegated to the province of symbolism. Listening to us would go a long way toward understanding us.

 

This article was originally published at marklivesthings.medium.com and is reprinted here with permission. 

 

 

comments

  1. avatar RedFlaggedandBagged says:

    Democrats are great listeners!

    They will listen to your screams of agony while you are dragged off into FEMA Camps!

    And they will listen to Empress KAMALA as she explains why those nasty gun people had to go!

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Their idea of a conversation or understanding is THEY talk. We shut up, listen, and OBEY without question because THEY are better.

      1. avatar Debbie W. says:

        Is that ejected brass flying around the face of the southpaw shooting the M16 lookalike in the top photo? No eye protection, at least hearing isn’t at high risk. Not happening at my range.

  2. avatar Kendahl says:

    Where I used to live, a (stupid) car jacker stepped in front of a motorist at a stop sign and pointed a handgun at him. This constituted armed robbery. The motorist’s life was in danger and he was entitled to defend himself with deadly force. He could have shot the car jacker or he could have floored his accelerator pedal and run over the car jacker. Both were legally and same and the latter made better tactical sense. Davis doesn’t understand that it’s not the gun that matters. It’s use of the gun in self defense.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Kendahl,

      Davis doesn’t understand that it’s not the gun that matters.

      You assume that Davis wants to understand. Why assume that?

      I have closely and carefully reviewed, researched, and considered hundreds/thousands of statements, pronouncements, and essays of self-defense “critics” over the last 12 years. At this point I am firmly convinced that the only concern of the overwhelming majority of self-defense “critics” is eliminating all practical, effective, and legal means of self-defense — both the tools and tactics. Their communications, therefore, are rarely genuine. Rather, the overwhelming majority of their communications are designed to erode practical, effective, and legal means of self-defense.

      Act accordingly.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Completely agree.

      2. avatar A. C. says:

        This is completely true of the people leading and/or funding the anti-gun campaigns. There are lots of very naive, ignorant followers who believe that stuff; the useful idiots.

        1. avatar Victor Connolly says:

          Then again… every once in a GREAT while, one of those “very naive, ignorant followers” FINALLY wakes up and smells the bovine excrement.

          https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/11/27/21515321/pink-pistols-salt-lake-city-lgbtq-pro-gun-2nd-amendment-trans-deaths-hate-crime-southern-poverty-law

        2. avatar Alex in Oregon says:

          You know, that gal would probably shoot a lot better if she had some sights on that rifle. Mjust sayin’……

        3. avatar Bob in Calif says:

          Alex, Don’t know much about the AR platform there do you?

      3. avatar Chuckers says:

        SOUNDS LIKE ALL THESE FAT ACTORS, ACTRESSES, SINGERS, ATHLETES CURSING THE RICH AND ENTITLED BUT LOOKING FOR EVERY TAX LOP HOLE THEIR LAWYERS CAN FIND. tHEY ACT LIKE THEY HATE WHAT THEY ARE BUT IN FACT DON’T WANT YOU GETTING THEIR BECAUSE THEY WANT FEEL SO SPECIAL ANYMORE. dOES THAT SOUND RIGHT?

  3. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

    Davis’ made no attempt to understand us at all. He merely tried to find another way to talk us into agreeing to the policies he supports.

    Davis and all controllers need to understand that we will not comply and we will defend ourselves.

    1. avatar TheUnspoken says:

      Why don’t they take their usual liberal approach? How about an anything goes, no absolutes, define your own reality, “you do you” approach to guns, is that to much to ask for, Dems? If my gun identity is a full auto belt fed or a 9″ AK, can’t you accept me for who I am? Diversity and tolerance, right?

      1. avatar Dude says:

        “Why don’t they take their usual liberal approach?”

        The liberal approach is a lie because they don’t really believe in anything. It’s always a means to an end. If they really believed in the liberal approach, then substitute the War on Guns for the War on Drugs. Aren’t they always telling us that the war on drugs never curbed criminality? They don’t want to ruin someone’s life over a bag of weed, right? Then why do they want to ruin lives over sudden changes in rule interpretations involving pistol braces and 80% kits? Where are the liberals speaking out against this unfair treatment of noncriminals?

    2. avatar Debbie W. says:

      Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn what bozos understand. For 4 years and in neon lights for all to see the despicable democRat Party and their gutless media cohorts concocted slander and libel all to overthrow a dully elected POTUS. After years of investigation at taxpayer expense not one voter out of the millions who voted for DJT in 2016 could be found that was influenced by Russia, etc. Who in the hell would ever need Russian help when battleship butt pantsuit hilliary rotten clintoon has a despicable, sleazy political rap sheet 40 years long?
      Now the same bunch of slander and libel concocting democRat scumbags clearly have used election fraud to cook the books. The problem for the fraudsters and their gullible politically inept history illiterate useful idiots and Swamp RINOs is joe biden and the ho actually lost by so called “winning.” That’s all because they are not and will never be acknowledge by millions of voters as being a legitimate POTUS and VP. That’s Chiseled.

  4. avatar GS650G says:

    Firearms aren’t about rabbit hunting and target shooting. It’s about being the last line of defense when it all breaks down.

    And we got to see a preview of what that looks like right here in America this past summer.

  5. avatar Prndll says:

    If owning guns were about hunting, a great many thing would be different. Someone please find me an article somewhere that talks about hunting elk or moose in the middle of downtown anywhere, USA. The biggest portion of new gun buying has been with inner city residents. Most gun owners have never takin the life of any living creature, human or anything else (aside from bugs, rodents, and snakes that is). Many do hunt as it really is a thing. But the number of people doing that is a fraction of gun owners and is shrinking. If owning firearms were about hunting then the tremendously high gun sales in 2020 would not have happened. You can’t convince me that there were THAT many new hunters in just 2020. Where are all the trophies, skins, and meat from all that hunting? As lockdowns end up giving us lines around the block and down the street for food, where is all that extra meat?

    Hasn’t anyone noticed that 9mm and .380ACP are among the most sought after calibers? Who hunts with .380? Not that .380 wont kill but what would be the point at the scale it flew off the shelves? 350Legend was designed as a hunting round and it sits on the self. The only people buying it are those that build AR15’s chambered in that round because it’s still available. Meanwhile 270, 243, 300Win, etc. which are generally considered hunting rounds just collect dust as very few people want them (probably those that actually DO hunt).

    There are firearms designed specifically for hunting that never get a second glance while everything designed for self defense can’t be kept in stock. There is a curious lack of interest in most things with wood stocks, break open receivers, or capacity lower than about six.

    There is NOTHING about hunting that explains the ammo shortages or the that lack of primers for reloaders.

    There is still the matter of high increases of carry permits and licenses.

    People are buying based on fear and an uncertain future. The idea of the 2A is very much alive. That’s what scares the left so much.

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      Great points.

    2. avatar LampOfDiogenes says:

      ^^^^ This. ALL DAY, this!!

      Do NOT let yourself be fooled into accepting that the Left “mistakenly” conflates the 2A with hunting . . . that position is ENTIRELY intentional.

      Anyone who ever studied REAL history, read our foundational documents, and read the supporting historical record (debates of the Constitutional Convention and the state Constitutional conventions, Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, broadsheets of the time) knows EXACTLY what the 2A was actually all about.

      And that is what makes them unable to hold their water. No, not all gun owners are Constitutionalists or libertarians, although a good number are. But, having made the decision to assume responsibility for your own self-defense, how many will be willing to surrender that right to an oppressive, overreaching and tyrannical government? I suspect the answer is “few”. At most, they will stand by and watch 2A patriots do their job for them, but “progressive” gun owners, for the most part, will not be actively, physically supporting gun seizures.

      Do it, Slow Joe. Do it. Make Beto “Fake Mexican” O’Rourke your “gun czar” and “round ’em all up”. I have the talent of prophesy – cops are gonna die. LOTS of cops are gonna die.

      The ONLY question is: “Will ‘Progressives’ learn anything from it?” My guess is “no”; Progressives are stupid that way.

      1. avatar The TTAG Shadow says:

        LampOfDiogenes:
        “Do NOT let yourself be fooled into accepting that the Left “mistakenly” conflates the 2A with hunting . . . that position is ENTIRELY intentional.”

        EXACTLY!!! And don’t forget: hunting is a “privilege,” not a “right.” You are not the first one to figure that out.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Prndll,

      Where are all the trophies, skins, and meat from all that hunting [in 2020]?

      While I struck out this year, one of my children hit a proverbial grand slam which netted us about 130 pounds of pure venison (and “pure” means no bones, no tallow, no fat, no connective tissue, just pure red meat). We filled up our freezer and borrowed space in a close friend’s freezer — and still ran out of space. We ended up canning 13 QUARTS of venison with all the remaining meat which did not fit in our freezers!

      Speaking more to your point, though, we already had the rifles and appropriate hunting ammunition on hand — purchasing them some time back around 2014 or 2015.

  6. avatar Boomer expert says:

    Dear god, no, don’t *listen* to the gun culture. Yeesh. Just sniff glue if you want to kill brain cells. The gun culture is incapable of introspection or honesty so there’s no way it can explain itself.

    Fortunately it’s not that complicated. If you want to understand the gun culture, don’t overthink it. Draw a box around it and look at what goes in and out.

    A piddling flow of squalid, lower-middle-class merchandise does in. R votes and boomer chain emails come out. There you go. It’s a machine that turns ranch salad dressing and gel-print t-shirts into ostensible consent-of-the-governed. Boom, there you go.

    1. avatar Geoff "Trolls, the other white meat" PR says:

      “Dear god, no, don’t *listen* to the gun culture. Yeesh. Just sniff glue if you want to kill brain cells.”

      You must have a lot of personal experience from your glue-sniffing to come up with that screed.

      Thank goodness I’m no boomer, or I might be offended! 😉

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        I am very much a boomer, first year in fact (1946). But I could never be offended by anyone so stupid and powerless, he cannot even kiss my ass! Unworthy of my attention.

    2. avatar GS650G says:

      Actually Boom boy it is rather complicated and you don’t understand it.

    3. avatar Ing says:

      I can’t decide if you’re actually a Boomer elitist or just another Gen-Z fedora wearer thinking you’re the only one that knows what the black pill tastes like.

      Either way…

    4. avatar Tim in Texas says:

      I love posts like this. You, red wolf, Chief Censor, Miner, and enuf plus plenty of other “trolls” that say such ridiculous things that it can only drive gun owners together. It’s like a beautiful cross between satire of what the most deranged hoplophobe might say and personal attacks clearly designed to guarantee no one will ever listen to you. It’s brilliant!

    5. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      The gun culture is incapable of introspection or honesty so there’s no way it can explain itself.

      Translation:

      People who despise firearm ownership are unable to browbeat people who celebrate firearm ownership into submission.

    6. avatar napresto says:

      Why you gotta go baggin’ on ranch dressing like that, bro?

  7. avatar TheUnspoken says:

    Gun controllers think the second amendment needs to be repealed, replaced, or updated, so that is a problem for us.

    They also think a politician can say “I support the second amendment, I have a shotgun, I have hunted deer” and “we are coming for your AR-14s, no one should have these weapons if war, you don’t need them, you will have to register them, we will ban them, we will buy them back, we will sue gun companies when shootings happen…”, so despite media fact checkers saying “see, they aren’t coming for your guns at all, Biden and Harris do support the second amendment!”, no, we don’t agree.

    As long as they believe that the constitution allows a great amount of latitude in infringing of rights for the common good or for common sense reasons, and that we need a progressively and radically change the United States, then no, we don’t see eye to eye.

    Honestly gun owners accept a lot of crap and infringement, and would prefer to be left alone to do what we want, safely and legally, if government would say “hey we will leave you alone, we won’t infringe, we are just going to focus on criminals committing crimes, carry on” we probably wouldn’t say a whole lot else.

  8. avatar Gordon in MO says:

    When the left starts talking about “understanding” what they are really looking for is information they can use against those they are trying to “understand”. Never under estimate the perfidy of the left.

    Just because we are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get us.

    Be Prepared !

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Gordon in MO,

      You basically said what I said in reply to an earlier comment.

      I no longer assume that enemies of our inalienable right to self-defense have any interest in understanding us or coming to consensus.

      And with respect to the rare person who honestly isn’t trying to beat us into submission, we should share a simple concept with them: their failure to appreciate and respect our inalienable right to self-defense is incredibly offensive and obscene. It is just as offensive and obscene as someone advocating that we should understand and cooperate with a government mandate where women must allow a select group of male government agents to impregnate all women of childbearing age in order to boost our population and shore-up our national defense — and how we should like it since it is for our collective good.

  9. avatar Mortimer Beetroot Plimpton says:

    Now that you mention it, I would LOVE to have a heavy barreled, suppressed, bolt action .380 ACP rifle!

    1. avatar Dude says:

      It still makes a 9mm hole. Hey, if it’s good enough for NATO…

  10. avatar SK Skeeter says:

    Joe Biden this one is for you.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bsHEHSrMDU0

  11. avatar Shire-man says:

    Patronizing bullshit.
    There are only two reasons any of these fools want to “understand” gun owners.
    The first is so they’ll be looked upon by the MSM as “subject matter experts” when they push their anti talking points.
    The second is an ongoing hunt for the unified theory that would enable them to convince gun owners to give up their misguided ways.

  12. avatar MarkPA says:

    What is that “right” to “keep and bear arms” to which the 2A speaks?

    As original constructionists, it is whatever it was that the founding generation thought it was when they – their legislators – ratified the 2A.

    It is true that that “right” does trace its origin to the 16th Century and before. Perhaps the meaning was more akin to a “duty” to muster armed at order of the King for whatever purposes the King might have desired. But, then, something happened in the 18th Century. We created a 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.” The meaning of the right to arms was more-so based on recent American generations’ experiences than ancient English experiences. As just one example, hunting in England was a privilege of the aristocracy whereas it was a natural right of Americans.

    Be that as it may, the American experience certainly included: hunting; defense against hostile natives; defense against pirates who might raid coastal municipalities; mustering for militia duty; revolution against tyrannous government; self-defense against criminals; retaining treasured heirlooms (collecting); and doubtlessly other peaceable uses.

    It would be mistaken to single-out any one of the uses listed and confine the original construction of the right to arms to just that one purpose. It’s true that the Pennsylvania minority report mentioned “hunting and fowling”. And, it’s true that mustering for militia duty was regularly mentioned at the time of the founding. Yet this isn’t to exclude any of the other uses. Just because there was no mention of self-defense against black bears does not mean that that particular use was excluded. I have black bears in my neighborhood in PA and had them in my previous neighborhood in NJ.

    We should ask, for example, whether the founding generation meant to include/exclude “for the purpose of self defense against black bears” when they ratified the 2A. Or, did they intend to include/exclude armed robbery. Certainly they were familiar with both activities.

    We should ask whether they intended to protect a broad/narrow right to arms. Was it a narrow right to arms to be mustered by only Federal authorities? Or, state authorities to the exclusion of the Feds? Or, either the Feds or the states? Or, any government Federal down to municipal? Or, self-defense against any criminal attack whether it be a response by an individual householder, he and his sons, his entire family, his neighbors . . .

    It certainly was not intended to be so narrow as to encompass merely hunting and fowling and zeroing-in a rifle before hunting season. That would be the most absurd intention of all the foregoing.

  13. avatar Bemused Berserker says:

    A large part of the problem, in my opinion, is a complete lack of understanding about why the Right of the People To Keep and Bear Arms, was of importance to begin with. The so called “textbooks” used in the study of our history, diminish or outright avoid the many events that caused the Founders to believe in enumerating the Right. The “Crown” perpetrated the seizure of firearms many times in the years leading up to the Declaration of Independence, yet eccept for Lexington and Concord, the incidents of abuse are absent from the textbooks. There’s much ado over the Tea x and other abuses, but either very little or no reference to gun confiscation. In truth that tyrannical action by the Crown drove the coming fight more than any of the other abuses that were inflicted.
    The Anti-Gun crowd is ignorant of this and/or participates in the whitewashing/obfuscation of history,, and can’t accept that the historical need for the enumeration of the 2nd Amendment still has any relevance in our world today.
    Arguably the potential inauguration of an incoming President, who has vowed to infringe upon that right at first opportunity, is a just and legitimate cause for the activation of the 2nd Amendment, and its use to remove a illegitimate despot promising Tyrannical actions.
    I’ve yet to read any argument/theory from the Anti-Gun crowd, that has more holes in its logic and suppositions than a block of very holy Swiss Cheese.

    1. avatar DinWA says:

      *fewer holes ?

  14. avatar Pete says:

    The Left has already articulated their desire for Gun control and camps for Trump supporters.
    The difference is that we were listening and know what they want.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      “The Left has already articulated their desire for Gun control and camps for Trump supporters.”

      Saw an article a short while back with a title of something like “What shall we do about all those Trump supporters?”…

      1. avatar Seentoomuch says:

        The phrase in the 2nd Amendment: ” The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” seems to have lost its meaning in today’s society. This is plain English. Why the hell is it that so-called educated people do not understand plain English? The problem it seems is not understanding, but being indoctrinated. This country won’t be destroyed by enemies from the outside, but by fools on the inside.

  15. avatar earl hickey says:

    Good article and comments.

  16. avatar former water walker says:

    The leftards spelled out their plans…it behooves us to take the diatribe’s SERIOUSLY!

  17. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    Good column, Mark.

  18. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    This was in Newsweek! I didn’t realize that a “news” magazine that threw gun owners under the bus with “Machine Gun USA” back in ’85 was still in existence. Losers.

  19. avatar MLee says:

    They always say there needs to be a discussion. What a joke. The discussion they want is we STFU, listen, obey they lay down and let them _________ ◄ guess

  20. avatar Seentoomuch says:

    The far-left gun grabbers will take away our firearms by going after one type of firearm at a time. Today, it is semi-automatic assault rifles. Tomorrow it will be another type and so on and so forth. Also, there is nothing in the Constitution that protects ammunition manufacturers or ammunition component manufacturers from being put out of business. Therefore, we must be constantly vigilant about who we vote for and who we give our support to. The stakes are too damn high to do otherwise.

    1. avatar DinWA says:

      In Washington, “semi-automatic assault rifle” is *any* semi-automatic rifle.
      Yep, stormin’ the hill with my Marlin 60.

  21. Several reasons the left continues to link the Second Amendment with hunting are:
    1) They are not self-read students of the events and causes leading up to the reasons for addition of the Second Amendment into our American Constitution, and as such, they believe that recent US Supreme Court decisions have it all wrong, and their liberal professors know much more about the true meaning of the Second Amendment than our current Supreme Court Justices.
    2) This is a not often spoken but well thought out tactic to help eliminate personal possession of firearms. First, make it about hunting, to allow them to eliminate the use of firearms for personal protection, then, go after the hunters, because after all “it’s cruel and mean to animals and should be abolished”. Note that some hunters would go along with the first step, and some who do not hunt would go along with the second step.
    3) It is an amazingly effective indoctrination tactic, that if a lie is repeated often enough, some will begin to believe it.
    Modern “liberals” are an extremely self-righteous, virtuous-signaling group that just knows they’re right, you’re wrong and if they continue to tell us long enough, we’ll begin to see their wisdom.

    1. avatar Seentoomuch says:

      Destroy this country’s electrical power grid and all these modern super-intelligent Liberals would all die of hunger and exposure to the elements. They take so much for granted and don’t realize that they are just one catastrophe away from extinction.

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