It seems to be that Americans are obsessed with high powered weapons in today’s society. Perhaps it is attached to a degree of pride that one feels, a maximal mode of protection, or ultimately, because they can. Although there are many ethical questions that surface with gun control in mind, this essay aims to analyze whether it is in the best interest that guns be a part of mainstream American culture.
Dating back to the American Revolutionary War, American society have expressed an obsession over guns. There are famous paintings of generals with guns by their side and soldiers shooting in action. Later, a huge attraction toward gun use was during the era of cowboys. How has gun usage made its way into today’s American culture? According to The History Cooperative’s, the Westward Expansion has been a precursor for most of gun use today because of its “exciting yet dangerous place” and to survive they needed to have the utmost protection: guns. (History Cooperative) The intention of heading west in pursuit of new contingencies became an important symbol of the American dream, and “through film and television, this moment in American history became strongly linked with guns.” (History Cooperative) Although the Western expansion and cowboys have passed, guns have earned its status as a “protector of the American dream.” (History Cooperative)
In addition, Industrialization had an immense impact on the economy and how guns impacted the way American industries administered itself. This initial advance in manufacturing paved way to gun manufacturing. Serving as a “major sector in the US economy”, numerous studies support “the firearm industry to be worth over $30 billion, which is roughly equivalent to the national budget of Nigeria.” (History Cooperative) However, on a more uplifting note, guns have estimated over 200,000 job opportunities. (History Cooperative) As the manufacturing industries are advancing and expanding it can either be a leading leverage in government policies or a flourishing factor of the nation’s economy, which both heavily steer the cultural norms of society.
As Americans have had a deep history and connection with guns, the majority of Americans agree that gun ownership encompass the traditions and values of society. In Michael Kocsis’ philosophical essay, Gun Ownership and Gun Culture in the United States of America, he examines particular topics pertaining to gun control that do not receive enough attention. Kocsis defines ‘culture’ as the “collective way of life, those practices and institutions a people have created by processes largely of their own making” and acknowledges that gun ownership is implanted in American politics. (Kocsis, 158) He argues that gun ownership is “enshrined constitutionally based on a certain interpretation of American values of liberty and property” meaning that popular (widely accepted) ideas or practices influence the interpretation of the constitution. Although it can be argued whether they had a positive influence, many influential figures such as Daniel Boone, John Wayne, and Colonel Kurtz have helped shape these traditions. Their influences have evolved into subcultures that imply a “dangerous new evolution of guns in American culture”, a term Kocsis refers to as “gangsterism”. (Kocsis, 168) He offers important insights on how “the prevalence of fear is likely the most significant rationale for gun ownership.” and to back himself up he adds theories from a philosopher, Will Hauser, whom has determined that “guns and fear are related asymmetrically” meaning that there is an automatic persuasion for those who do not already own guns to get them out of fear. (Kocsis, 168) Therefore, from a societal aspect, guns have the ability to pose some sort of solution.
In modern day society, wider issues have surfaced from the negative impacts of gun ownership. In Peter Squires book, Gun Culture or Gun Control?: Firearms, Violence, and Safety, Squires explores the different attitudes toward firearms and their control in the US. Armed violence has creeped its way from liberal politics into domestic policy. Squires mentions “firearms manufacturers liked to present their weapons as adjuncts to the democratic and civilizing process, firearms were equalizers or peacemakers” making them seem like an easy fix toward fear. (Squires) In other words, if one does not have this advantage over other citizens then they are considered a cultural taboo. He also argues that the “criminally inclined find a use for firearms just as military technologies come to be employed in the developing ‘war’ against crime” offering a mode of power and freedom. (Squires) This has been grounded by historical eras and/or figures when America was initially founded that continues to ignite sharp debates in American society.
Current day gun policies have been mostly driven by political party identification; republicans being for gun ownership and democrats being for no gun ownership however, both parties support restriction on gun laws. Ruth Igielnik and Anna Brown from the Pew Research Center are recognized by their ability to look at political dilemmas through a societal lens through their publication Key Takeaways on Americans’ Views of Guns and Gun Ownership. One of their key takeaways from their national survey include that protection is the top reason for owning a gun (67%). According to Igielnik and Brown, “Majorities of gun owners who live in cities, suburbs and rural areas say protection is a major reason they own firearms. But owners who live in rural areas are significantly more likely to cite hunting as a major reason for owning a gun.” agreeing that gun ownership is a societal norm. (Igielnik and Brown) There is also a partisan dividing views on gun policy for example, “Republican gun owners are much more resistant than Democratic owners to banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as creating a database to track gun sales.” (Igielnik and Brown) This is only one debate that has recently surfaced due to mass shootings, school shootings, and gun crimes.
As far as the gun conversation goes, there’s no way to really tell whether someone that gets their hands on a gun will use it with the ethical intent. Along with other prevalent political issues, gun control isn’t mainly focused on until someone gets shot or lives are stripped, and the aftermath causes emotions to run too high for an ethical debate over this controversy. From a historical standpoint and since the US was born, guns were raised to be a means of protection and economical boost. A cultural norm has risen that the majority of US citizens do own a gun that can either be argued as beneficial or dangerous to society. Now, battling between gun ownerships are leading political parties that steer policies on current gun laws. Many view guns as ‘an easy way out’ and much controversy still stands on gun control such as, being to own or not to own guns, and if one can, who is eligible?, and what precautions should be taken under laws, beliefs, or identities? All of these questions can be aimed at the central debate over the interest that guns be a part of mainstream American culture.
Igielnik, Ruth, and Anna Brown. “Key Takeaways on Americans’ Views of Guns and Gun Ownership.” Pew Research Center, 22 June 2017,
“A Brief Introduction to Guns in American Culture.” History Cooperative, 23 Oct. 2017, historycooperative.org/brief-introduction-guns-american-culture/.
Squires, Peter. Gun Culture or Gun Control?: Firearms, Violence and Society. Routledge, 2000.
Kocsis, Michael (2015) “Gun Ownership and Gun Culture in the United States of America,” Essays in Philosophy: Vol. 16: Iss. 2, Article 2. h p://dx.doi.org/10.7710/1526-0569.1530