Social Paranoia Feeds U.S. Gun Culture

Social Paranoia Feeds U.S. Gun Culture

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The gun has an indelible presence in America’s popular consciousness. The myth-making entertainment industry has embellished and magnified the gun’s prominent role in the narrative of the nation’s founding and rapid expansion across the continent over Indian lands and trackless wilds.

But reverence for history isn’t what’s really driving the soaring rate of gun ownership among Americans.

Today something stronger than the hunting culture or nostalgia for an adventure-filled frontier past is keeping gun fetishism alive -- social paranoia. A dread of unseen threats against one’s personal safety feeds the demand for automatic assault rifles and handguns, much to the delight of obliging firearm manufacturers.

Up to 47 percent of Americans reported owning firearms in 2011, according to the Gallup Poll. Consequently, the U.S. has the highest rate of gun-related homicides among the industrialized countries. Changing these statistics is a formidable challenge.

Widespread anxiety over perceived impending violence explains why there are 89 guns for every 100 American civilians, as reported in last year’s Small Arms Survey; that’s some 270 million guns nationwide, the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.

Many believe the high-caliber handgun or automatic rifle is their best defense against crime. Someone may want to invade your home, rape your wife and kill your children. A gun would enable you to “stand your ground,” many are convinced.

The gun is also a tool for projecting personal power. This function has even spawned an “open-carry” movement that would allow men and women — who no one should try to “mess with” -- to walk around like gunslingers of the old West.

And while no one really believes the United States is in danger of a military invasion by any foreign power, a good many gun worshipers believe that they need to be prepared for a social cataclysm of sorts, like mass unrest or a catastrophe that ultimately leads to widespread looting and depredation.

At its core, then, is a lack of confidence that the state can provide sufficient protection to its citizens. Tied to this is a profound sense of individualism, of a deeply held belief that only the individual, not the community or its laws, is the real guarantor of one’s safety.

Thus, while liberals may share some of these same insecurities, the cult of gun ownership is, as most observers already know, conservative at heart.

Writing in the New York Times, number cruncher Nate Silver draws the link between politics and gun ownership: White Republicans are more likely to own guns than white Democrats; by 2010 gun ownership among Democrats dropped to 22 percent but remained at 50 percent among Republican adults.

In its extreme form, gun worship is xenophobic and racist. Self-proclaimed militias and many so-called doomsday “preppers” fear a creeping United Nations “takeover” of the U.S. They also warn of an impending race war in which one must be prepared to defend one’s home and family against marauding and rapacious black and brown hordes.

This likely explains why whites are more likely to own guns than blacks or Hispanics and why gun ownership is higher among middle class households than poorer ones, according to Silver’s findings. And while most gun-related homicides occur in urban areas, gun ownership is higher in rural and suburban areas.

While owning a gun is indeed as American as cherry pie, it need not remain part of this country’s traditions. Owning a broadsword is not as British as steak and kidney pie, despite the prominent role of bladed weapons in British history.

It is admittedly not going to be easy to erase the prevalent social delusions that fuel gun ownership in America, but stricter laws and regulations can and should start preventing its lethal consequences. The law of the jungle through the proliferation of guns has no place in civilized life.


Anonymous User

Posted Dec 27 2012

The fact that guns played a prominent role in our country's founding is indisputably true. While I agree to some extent that this may have been "embellished" or "magnified", it is far from "myth." Guns protected the early settlers from dangerous wildlife and other hostile threats such as violent criminals. They are also what repelled the invading British troops during the American Revolutionary War. Without guns, the free country of the United States of America as we know it today simply wouldn't exist.

Reverence for history is not necessarily the primary driving force of gun ownership in America today. However, it remains an important part of America's history. The founding fathers created the 2nd amendment for the specific purpose of enabling the people to defend themselves from all threats, foreign and domestic. This right remains as relevant and important today (if not more) as it was when it was first written into the Bill of Rights.

You state that the driving force behind gun ownership today is paranoia. I agree. People are paranoid that their government, growing increasingly oppressive over time, will turn on them, and want to be as prepared as they can be to resist such oppression. Governmental oppression is nothing new and has been a recurring issue throughout history. It would be ignorant and historically inconsistent to state that such oppression does not exist or pose a threat to the American people today. This threat has existed since the earliest days of human civilization, and will continue to exist as long as greed remains an element of human psychology.

George Orwell's famous novel "1984", written in 1948, depicted a dystopian society in the future, dominated through misinformation and constant surveillance. Not all too surprisingly, the world we live in today bears a striking resemblance to the one depicted in Orwell's book. This novel would have perhaps been more appropriately titled "2013." The 2nd amendment is one of the few rights that we as Americans have, when compared to many other countries with horrifyingly oppressed and submissive societies, that prevents such fascist totalitarianism from sprouting in our country and stripping us of the very liberties that our founding fathers bestowed upon us.

You claim that the high gun-related homicide rates in our country is a consequence of the fact that 47% of Americans own firearms, yet fail to cite any valid sources to support this wild claim. You conveniently neglect to mention that those 47% are all law-abiding citizens who own firearms legally and do not use them to commit crime.

You also contradict your own claim by stating "...while most gun-related homicides occur in urban areas, gun ownership is higher in rural and suburban areas." Most urban areas in this country are notorious for having the strictest gun control laws. California has the strictest firearms regulations and restrictions on gun ownership in the entire country, and yet has the highest number of gun-related homicides in the nation. The vast majority of these gun-related homicides are committed by criminals who are in possession of firearms illegally, and many of the firearms used to commit these homicides are not legally sold in gun shops, but rather purchased from black market arms dealers who specialize in supplying the automatic weapons that you claim American citizens are purchasing.

You fail to mention the fact that purchasing a fully automatic weapon is nothing like purchasing an ordinary semi-automatic weapon at a gun shop. No gun shop in the United States sells such weapons to any individuals without them first undergoing an extremely extensive background check, ATF investigation and obtaining special permit. Furthermore, shops that sell fully automatic weapons tend to be very hard to find and these automatic weapons are in the price range of $10,000 to $50,000. Most Americans simply cannot afford such automatic weapons, and they tend to be reserved almost exclusively for military and law enforcement use. All of these are verifiable facts that your incredibly flawed attack on gun ownership fails to take into account.

Your claim that the United States is amongst the list of nations with the highest number of gun-related homicides also fails to take into account that the U.S. is ranked 5th in the list, superseded by Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. According to the 2012 UNODC and Small Arms Survey, Brazil, ranked as #1 in the list, has 34,678 gun-related homicides. This greatly dwarfs the 9,146 gun-related homicides in the U.S. Furthermore, in terms of actual percentage of gun-related homicides based on the total number of registered firearm owners, the U.S. ranks 28th in the list. Far from being "among the highest." The top 3 countries for highest percentage of gun-related homicides are actually Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. Source:

It should also be noted that Brazil has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. All firearms are required to be registered with the state, the minimum age requirement for owning a firearm is 25, "and although it is legal to carry a gun outside a residence, extremely severe restrictions were made by the federal government since 2002 making it virtually impossible to obtain a carry permit." Source:

You state in an almost mocking, sarcastic context that "Many believe the high-caliber handgun or automatic rifle is their best defense against crime." This is absolutely true, and why shouldn't someone believe that? If I were a criminal, I certainly wouldn't attempt to victimize an individual who I knew to be armed. I would much rather take my chances with an unarmed victim instead.

Unfortunately, as I stated before, "automatic rifles" are extremely difficult and expensive for the average American to obtain, and such weapons are generally reserved exclusively for law enforcement and military use. "Automatic rifles" being common and easy to obtain in America is an utterly false misconception, and despite having been thoroughly debunked through verifiable facts and credible studies, continues to be used as an argument (albeit being totally invalid) in cheap, liberal assaults on the 2nd amendment such as yours. This can be readily verified by doing a quick Google search on automatic weapon laws in the US.

"It has been unlawful since 1934 (The National Firearms Act) for civilians to own machine guns without special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department. Machine guns are subject to a $200 tax every time their ownership changes from one federally registered owner to another, and each new weapon is subject to a manufacturing tax when it is made, and it must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in its National Firearms Registry." Source:

You proceed to mock individuals for exercising their constitutional right to bear arms by accusing them of "projecting personal power." Exercising one's personal rights is not "projecting" anything. It is simply that, exercising one's rights. The fact that you use this to belittle people in your article is nothing short of naive and immature behavior.

As far as racism and xenophobia goes, I couldn't be more disgusted with the way you used these baseless remarks to downplay gun ownership. Whether someone is white, black or any other race should not be a factor in gun ownership, and the fact remains that you can own a firearm legally in this country regardless of your race.

The fact that more white people own firearms than blacks does not mean that they are racist. They are simply exercising a right that blacks are not exercising to the same degree. Perhaps it is due to society's stigma of seeing a black person in possession of a firearm. Such stigmas are reinforced by paranoid liberals who impose harsh gun control laws. It might also be that blacks are much more prominent in urban areas, where gun control is likewise much more prominent. While I'm sure there are many racist and xenophobic people out there, this most certainly does not encompass all or even a majority of the gun owners in America.

Your final comments stating that gun ownership "need not remain part of this country's traditions" and that "stricter laws and regulations can and should start preventing its lethal consequences" are totally false, as I have thoroughly debunked earlier.

To conclude, your article has been yet another cheap, pathetic and totally baseless attack on the 2nd amendment and those who honor and practice the right to bear arms. It is an incredibly important right which should by all means be preserved and cherished by the American people. If you genuinely believe the garbage you write about gun ownership and gun control, then I truly feel sorry for how ignorant and misguided you are.

Good day!

Anonymous User

Posted Dec 27 2012

I made a mistake in my previous comment where I stated "...percentage of gun-related homicides based on the total number of registered firearm owners..."

This percentage is actually based on the total number of homicides, not number of gun owners. This does not, however, invalidate my point in any way.

Just wanted to add this correction for accuracy's sake.

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