People from other countries have a fascination with America’s gun culture. It would be interesting to quantify this, but in my own experience and the experiences of other supporters of gun rights, I’ve found that many who are active in social media and spend time mocking the idea of owning guns and using them, especially in self-defense, are not people who live here. A majority of those — again anecdotally, my own experience — are Australians or British.
An illustration of this is to be found in the British magazine The Economist‘s article, “Barrel of deaths: Why Americans love guns.” This is a review of three books, Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives, by Gary Younge, Rampage Nation: Securing America from Mass Shootings, by Louis Klarevas, and Come and Take It: The Gun Printer’s Guide to Thinking Free, by Cody Wilson. The first two deal with gun deaths of children and youths and mass shootings respectively, while the third is an account of the efforts to make a gun with a 3-D printer.
The take that The Economist has is clear from the start. “Many Americans have come to embrace a novel political ideology, concocted by pro-gun lobbying groups, which holds that firearms are the cornerstone of political liberty and that restricting them would cause more crime. Other Americans find such reasoning absurd.” The article claims that for people who regard our nation’s high rate of gun ownership as the problem, despair is the understandable response, dealt with by refusing to think about what’s going on.
Are there people who don’t pay attention? Undoubtedly. The response to Younge’s book, giving case studies of ten youths who died by gunfire, is a fine example of the faulty emotional appeal. The number of children under twelve who die by gunshot each year runs less than two hundred each year. Teens add somewhat to that figure, but The Economist doesn’t put things into perspective. Adults are the most common victims. The deaths of teens, fifteen to nineteen peaked in the early 90s and dropped to a constant low level in this century — in the years when gun control has been loosening on the federal level and in most states.
Speaking of loosening gun laws, as the article discusses, the Assault Weapons Ban ended in 2004. The Economist states that there were no mass shootings in America in the four years after the ban was enacted. It seems that the venerable British magazine doesn’t have access to a search engine, since “mass shootings by year” yields a list provided by Mother Jones, by no means a source in favor of gun rights, that gives seven during the time between 1995 and 1998. And the reason for cutting off the supposedly peaceful period of four years is suspicious, considering the fact that the infamous Columbine shooting came in 1999. There has been an increase in the rate of mass shootings over the last ten years, but while we’re told that the sunsetting of the Assault Weapons Ban is the cause, the economic stresses of the Great Recession — something The Economist ought to understand — and years of war, along with a president who has faced stiff opposition may also have had influence. And since so called “assault weapons” are used in about a quarter of overall mass shootings, the conclusion of Michael S. Rosenwald of The Washington Post that “if they can’t get an AR-15, they get a Glock” sounds right.
The article sneers at Cody Wilson. That isn’t surprising. Wilson has taken on the goal of making gun manufacture something for the masses. The Economist characterizes his position as “masculine power and violent freedom.” Whereas Younge and Klarevas are presented as seeing guns as “public-health threats or devices of pointless tragedy.” And herein I’m left to speculate about the divergent views between England and America — at least the part of America that supports gun rights.
The United States comes out of the English tradition of the people being the ultimate defenders of liberty. As I’ve suggested before, 3-D printing offers the potentiality of distributed power. And it may be that this is what disturbs our English cousins — at least the ones in a traditional print magazine, historically the gatekeepers of information.
What ultimately are the causes of the difference in attitude between foreign opponents of guns and American supporters of gun rights is a complex subject, but the facts are nothing that we have to hide from.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.
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