So, how do you feel about guns? Firearms are never far removed from public discourse in this country, perhaps because there are enough of them here to arm every man, woman and child.
But conversations surrounding guns were recently turned up to 10 following the accidental fatal shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of his movie Rust.
Gun enthusiasts have pointed to lax safety protocols on the set, exclaiming basic knowledge of gun safety could have prevented Halyna Hutchins’ death. Some in the film industry have since called for a total ban on real firearms during filming. “Let the computers do it,” they say of necessary muzzle flash.
The spectrum couldn’t be wider when it comes to Americans and their opinions on firearms. On one end, you have those who think guns are the worst thing since unsliced bread, that there really isn’t a need and that ALL firearms should be destroyed.
But tell that to the rancher who owns a rifle to protect their livestock, or the hunter who owns a gun so they can put food on their family’s table (often in a more humane way than the meat industry), or to the police officer who carries for their own safety and the safety of the community.
The other side of the argument, of course, is that our Founding Fathers made it one of their highest priorities to ensure we could carry loaded rifles down the street while wearing tactical gear and Hawaiian shirts… “It’s in the Constitution, ain’t it?” But is it?
The Second Amendment, unfortunately, wasn’t specific enough to peg down its intent in absolute terms. It was left to subsequent generations to crack the code — is it just about well-regulated militias, or was it about protecting every adult American’s right to own and carry a deadly weapon? These are the questions realists (we who make up the murky middle) must contend with.
Most of us live in gray areas. We know there are very few issues that break down into black and white. Would the world be a better place if there weren’t any guns? For everyone but the hunter and rancher, maybe. But if I had to guess, I’d say most people aren’t absolute about guns. Realists (liberal or conservative) see firearms as a necessary evil. Guns are real. And bad guys shouldn’t be the only ones with access to them. (And, if history is any indication, bad guys aren’t limited to burglars and rapists — ya know, like, governments can be bad too). But it’s also incredibly easy to procure a gun in this country, and most realists aren’t OK with that either.
So how to we begin to address our gun-obsessed country? I believe there’s an obvious reason so many firearms exist in the United States, and it largely has to do with our culture.
We, as Americans, have long embraced toughness, individualism and freedom as virtues. Our nation was born out of often-violent people who were no longer willing to follow the rules. But it turned out OK for them — so what’s to say it couldn’t happen again?
That violent history (and the subsequent culture we see today) is glorified in movies, in music and by the politicians we elect. It’s symbolized by the Don’t Tread on Me and Molon Labe (Come and Take It) bumper stickers that adorn the F-150 in front of you in traffic. The individualism, freedom and violence are ingrained, like genetic codes, into how many view our nation, their neighbors and the “others” they’re so afraid of.
This country holds nearly half of all civilian-owned firearms IN. THE. WORLD. So, how do we begin to address our gun culture and the destructive wake it’s left? Really, I’m asking…
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