In the wake of America’s most recent mass shooting, America once again finds itself grappling with the issue of the right to bear arms against our country’s growing gun violence, our love for guns against our right to sense safety, and why our right country can’t seem to find a middle that works for us all.
For his part, Obama once again addressed the country after a murderous rampage, and once again he called for action. “We have to make sure that it is not easy for somebody who decides they want to harm people in this country to be able to obtain weapons to get at them,” said the President just hours after the shooting.
It’s the same script he’s presented before, but even as he speaks, the president recognizes the possibility of any real change is slim. He’s mindful of a divided Congress that’s just as divided as the country.
Like with so many things in America, there is a big divide in the feelings about gun ownership. Pro-gun advocates see guns as our best defense against armed criminals. Anti-gun advocates see the wide availability of guns as a greater threat than criminal violence. The issue seems to come down to what you fear more: criminals or guns.
Fear of the Boogey Man
The United States has the most armed civilian population on the planet, because some of its citizens have a history of confronting their fears and anxieties by “gunning up.” Americans have a long history of gun ownership that dates back before the founding fathers. Guns were a necessity for securing meat for meals, but it also protected the man and his family from the boogey man. In early days, the boogey man was the Native Americans, “wild savages” who might sneak up and harm them.
Indians may have been the initial boogey man, bu there have always been “bad guys” to fear. After the Civil War when former slaves were finally able to purchase guns, Whites purchased guns to protect themselves against “savage negroes.” Om the other side, fresh off a 400-year history that showed them just how torturous White men could be, and with limited rights and only modest expectations that the local law would protect them, former slaves purchased guns to protect themselves.
Fast forward a century and the boogy man theory lies on. In the 60s, Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader of the non-violent protest movement, owned guns. After his house was bombed, Martin reportedly kept an arsenal in his home. Somehow over the last 50 years or so, the need to possess a fire arm has diminished considerably in African-American homes, but it has increased significantly in White-American homes.