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Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?

superlurker

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Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« Reply #30 on: August 12, 2018, 08:49:24 AM »
No. Just, no. 92% of Americans want gun-control. There isn't a "gun culture" in America. There is gun-manufacturer control over our politicians, leading to the greater prevalence of guns and gun-violence. Quite trying to come up with a cultural explanation when the reality is all about the money.

The very large majority of Americans are in favor of common-sense restrictions like background checks and not letting psychos have guns, yes. But there's much more to guns in the political discourse than that. And for something that supposedly doesn't exist, there's sure a lot being written about American "gun culture." Some quick Google hits:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-u-s-has-never-been-so-polarized-on-guns/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_culture_in_the_United_States
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41488081
https://www.americanheritage.com/content/america-gun-culture
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/american-gun-culture/554870/

And while I understand quite well that there's a strong economic element to explain American gun culture, it's hardly, as you claim, 100% of the reason for it. The question that PB asked initially was about how America differed from Europe in terms of attitudes towards guns. A very large part of that is bound to be cultural and historical.

While a strictly materialist Marxist-style analysis of a social issue can reveal some interesting structures, it tends to miss important elements that aren't always strictly economic in a material sense, because people are emotional, not rational actors.

Also, part of my point here is that the American gun debate serves as a proxy for other issues that can't be openly stated and likely aren't even consciously understood by most of those that hold strong pro-gun attitudes. Fundamentally, it's an issue of feeling safe in a society that feels unsafe. That can be due to living in a remote location, where you have to shoot at least three bears every day, or it can be more due to a vague sense that your position in society is threatened and guns is a source of safety -- or, perhaps rather that the idea of someone taking your guns is suspect, because what will they do next?
« Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 08:52:17 AM by superlurker »

AP

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Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« Reply #31 on: August 12, 2018, 09:26:28 AM »
And within a relatively short time frame, slave trade was outlawed across most of Europe.

Are you saying the slave trades did not exist for a long period of time?  We are talking about the beginning of European civilization all the way to the early to mid 1800’s.  That is not even counting European imperialism which, some argue, is still in effect.

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The fact that the black population was imported as slaves to begin with has had lasting consequences that aren't over with. When slavery ended, they became "free" but second-rate citizens, and still remain at a distinct socioeconomic disadvantage.

How do you think the non-white population came to Europe first?

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No, you are ignoring the specific context here.

What context?  You are downplaying European atrocities as minor and insignifant while presenting racism as something exclusive to America.

Pillow Biter

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Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« Reply #32 on: August 12, 2018, 09:45:26 AM »
Clearly culture can matter, which is not to say I'm 100% certain how different the USA is from Europe. But look at Switzerland. Easier access to guns than the USA, but way less gun crime.
I'm with lurker in that I think this is a multi-factor issue. I have a hunch that ethnic and cultural diversity has something to do with it. Homogeneous countries tend to have more social trust and less crime than those that are less so, which is not to say diversity doesn't have advantages.
Lurker, if say a Constitutional amendment were passed somehow, and guns became as illegal as in the most restrictive European countries, combined with a super-well-funded and aggressive gun buyback program, what effect do you think this would have on gun crime in the USA?

MTL76

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Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« Reply #33 on: August 12, 2018, 10:33:33 AM »
No. Just, no. 92% of Americans want gun-control. There isn't a "gun culture" in America. There is gun-manufacturer control over our politicians, leading to the greater prevalence of guns and gun-violence. Quite trying to come up with a cultural explanation when the reality is all about the money.

“Gun control” is a nebulous term and using it in polls will lead to useless data. A poll that asks “Would you rather have common sense gun control, or completely unrestricted access to all types of firearms?” will get you a majority of people choosing the former, but when you ask them what type of gun control they want, things break down. America already has gun control, the level of which varies from state to state.



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superlurker

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Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« Reply #34 on: August 12, 2018, 11:44:43 AM »
Are you saying the slave trades did not exist for a long period of time?  We are talking about the beginning of European civilization all the way to the early to mid 1800’s.  That is not even counting European imperialism which, some argue, is still in effect.

How do you think the non-white population came to Europe first?

What context?  You are downplaying European atrocities as minor and insignifant while presenting racism as something exclusive to America.

At this point, I get the feeling you've completely unraveled the thread and are playing with loose ends here. I will try to take it step by step. We're not talking about issues of guilt or atrocities, but the aftereffects of historical institutions and structures. Slavery was an established and institutionalized practice of Americans, in America, it was part of the nation as it was founded.

European nations did not have any plantations manned by black people, and European countries did not import massive numbers of slaves as labor during the period when nationalism began to be a motivating political force. The main "foreign" minority of any significant size in most European nations was Jews (besides the fact that most European states at the time tended to be multi-ethnic, multinational affairs).

In Europe, the main conflict when coming into the period of industrialization and nationalism tended to be economical, between the farmers and landowners, laborers and capitalists. The lower classes generally had shared interests. At the same time, the national narratives that were created acted as a unifying force within each nation; the national enemies were other nations (and maybe the Jews).

By contrast, in the U.S., there was another dimension to it throughout large swathes of the country. In addition to the class dimension, there was a racial dimension; even the poorest white man was still better than a black slave. This means that the lower classes did not experience their interests as universally shared, because the lower-class whites did not want to be put in the same group as the black slaves. And on a national level, that tension between slave-owning and free states eventually led to a civil war, which was followed by long-lasting resentment. It also led to a regime in the formerly slave-owning areas where blacks were second-rate citizens, which maintained the lower-class whites' ability to feel like they weren't at the bottom of the world, and impeded the growth of class-based politics of the same kind as in Europe.

The social and cultural inheritance of that historical experience still persists today. The blacks are still economically worse off, there has been systematic discrimination of all sorts throughout the years.

Meanwhile, those who have historically been able to sit at the front of the bus or get the good seats in the cinemas and whatnot -- they feel threatened whenever some of their privilege is seemingly targeted. That inspires a form of siege mentality or persistent uncertainty, that the world is an unsafe place, and that the government is probably plotting to make you worse off to make someone else (blacks/immigrants) better off. (A worldview that makes sense if you're part of a culture steeped in a tradition of difference, where your kind is treated a bit better than some other kind, even if you're not materially much better off.) And if you feel that way, you'll end up feeling strongly about guns as a last line of defense.

The type of reasoning offered by the most persistent gun rights advocates I've seen tends to reflect this deep mistrust of society, of the government, and that is borne out of historical experience; a sense of former privileges slipping away at the favor of someone else. That's today's experience; historically, the institution of slavery and more institutionalized systematic racism provided strong reasons for guns to be prevalent, because there was a need to suppress blacks through the threat of force.

By contrast, in Europe, laborers and farmers were the ones at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They didn't have another significant group beneath them that they could feel simultaneously superior to and threatened by. (Of course, the American structure was a result of European decisions, but the slaves were going to plantations in the Americas; Europe had more than enough poor farmers and workers anyway.)

The point of all this is that the historical structure of slavery in the U.S. created a prevalent and persistent racial division and a culture of social mistrust that makes gun ownership seem very important to some Americans as a defensive measure. The fact that it has become such a prominent issue today is also tied to the social development where those groups feel increasingly marginalized and threatened.

There are obviously other strong reasons for a gun culture, like living in remote or rural areas where hunting is part of life, or defense against bears and burglars possibly necessary. That type of gun culture is present in parts of Europe as well.

superlurker

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Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« Reply #35 on: August 12, 2018, 11:52:51 AM »
No. Just, no. 92% of Americans want gun-control. There isn't a "gun culture" in America. There is gun-manufacturer control over our politicians, leading to the greater prevalence of guns and gun-violence. Quite trying to come up with a cultural explanation when the reality is all about the money.

“Gun control” is a nebulous term and using it in polls will lead to useless data. A poll that asks “Would you rather have common sense gun control, or completely unrestricted access to all types of firearms?” will get you a majority of people choosing the former, but when you ask them what type of gun control they want, things break down. America already has gun control, the level of which varies from state to state.

Yes. If asked a question from the opposite direction, like "should gun ownership be a constitutional right?" or some variation thereof I think you'd get more illuminating replies. And you'd get a different set of responses again if you ask things like "would you feel safer if your crazy neighbor owned a self-defense railgun?" When asking people about common sense measures like background checks, they'll obviously be cool with it, because no one thinks of themselves as actually being the nutcase that won't be able to buy a gun. That's everyone else.

superlurker

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Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« Reply #36 on: August 12, 2018, 12:13:13 PM »
Clearly culture can matter, which is not to say I'm 100% certain how different the USA is from Europe. But look at Switzerland. Easier access to guns than the USA, but way less gun crime.

For Switzerland, there's some interesting history to look at there as a contrast to the U.S. Switzerland once had a very strong martial culture and was a major source of mercenaries (hence the Pope's Swiss Guard). However, while Switzerland has had its share of political turmoil and conflicts, it's never had an institutionalized slave caste. On the contrary, Switzerland has been fairly egalitarian by European standards. It is also similar to the U.S. in being a federation of smaller states, and in being of a multicultural nature, albeit on a much smaller scale.

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I'm with lurker in that I think this is a multi-factor issue. I have a hunch that ethnic and cultural diversity has something to do with it. Homogeneous countries tend to have more social trust and less crime than those that are less so, which is not to say diversity doesn't have advantages.

This also ties in with the problems related to migration to Europe. European countries are overall becoming more diverse, but this also leads to problems with loss of social trust and coherence. Social programs that are fine and economically productive are becoming suspect and made more restrictive out of fear that immigrants will abuse them, for example. A lot of the European political elites ignored the potential problems and conflicts until it was too late.

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Lurker, if say a Constitutional amendment were passed somehow, and guns became as illegal as in the most restrictive European countries, combined with a super-well-funded and aggressive gun buyback program, what effect do you think this would have on gun crime in the USA?

Obviously, the number of shootings and killings would go down. People would still be getting killed, and there'd still be massive social problems, but the most efficient weapons would not be as easily available.

Wyntyr

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Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« Reply #37 on: August 12, 2018, 03:06:16 PM »
Gun control is fundamentally racist, but we'll have to wait for Jelly to return from exile to understand why
The tree grows high but the oxygen fails to reach all the branches


Pillow Biter

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Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« Reply #38 on: August 12, 2018, 04:57:33 PM »
Obviously, the number of shootings and killings would go down. People would still be getting killed, and there'd still be massive social problems, but the most efficient weapons would not be as easily available.

While obviously highly speculative, this is really the critical question in terms of gaming out whether increased gun control would be worthwhile, and thus requires further elucidation, in my opinion. Would gun violence decline as much as it would in European countries? Would criminal gun violence stay at a similar rate, and just self-defense shootings drop, etc.?