America’s Gun Culture

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How about some reader mail?

Dear DR Team,

I am an Agora Reserve member and really take a great interest in your views. I love Addison’s and Bills books and am looking forward to IOUSA. However your description of Charlton Heston as great is way over the top. He was never a great actor regardless of his academy award. He was just lucky enough to star in a couple of Hollywood epics that made a lot of money. In recent years his main claim to fame was as President of the NRA. At a meeting of that despicable and powerful lobby group he stood up holding a gun and proclaimed “You can take my gun from my cold dead hands”. Overly dramatic and terrible overacting. This made many Americans sick as it did me. Americans shoot more of one another than any other comparable country on earth. Gun control is essential.

I could spend a long time compiling a list of great Americans but Heston is not one of them – not even close.

Stick to your knitting fellas, you’re really good at that.

Just for the record I’m a licensed shooter that believes in very strict gun control.

Yours faithfully

Tony

We will take your note in the spirit which it is offered Tony. But surely you know, as a long-time Daily Reckoning reader, that we rarely stick to our knitting. After all, the Daily Reckoning is free. We give ourselves permission every once in a while to write about things that are not strictly financial.

In this case, we have to respectfully disagree with you on Heston and gun rights. As a migrant to Australia, we realise this position is the one that most Australians find baffling if not irrational, offensive, and morally reprehensible. Gun rights?

We can’t really explain it. But as a libertarian from the American West, the best explanation we have to offer is that Americans have always had a deep distrust of authority. Perhaps this comes from the origins of some of the country’s first settlers, escaping religious persecution in the Old World.

What’s more, for its first 100 years, America was a frontier society. You couldn’t call the police if you were having trouble with a neighbour or wild animals attacking your livestock. You had to fend-and defend-for yourself. Guns were practical tools of personal self defense. In many places they still are.

Now we know that many of the weapons on sale at low prices in America are not “practical” in the sense that farmers and ranchers are using them as tools. You would not shoot a wolf with an armor-piercing bullet.

In fact, as America’s workforce moved off the farm and into the cities in the early half of the 19th century, having a well armed populace took on a whole new dimension. People in large cities seem to be more uncivil toward one another and more distrustful. Gun crime (much of it related to drugs) has increased.

We chalk this up to the utter stupidity of America’s drug laws, which perpetuate high drug prices and incentivize drug crime. It pays more to deal drugs in America’s inner cities than it does to work for an honest living. Decriminalise drugs and the prices fall, meaning drug lords wouldn’t be going to war to fight over falling profits.

But really, the core of America’s gun culture is both violent and fiercely independent. As Australians know, the frontier is a violent place. America was a vast frontier and its gun culture matured as that frontier was explored.

Today, the right to own a gun is a man’s only real defence against the arbitrary abuse of government power. That doesn’t mean you can go shoot your neighbour if you feel like it. But it does means-and we are merely trying to explain in to our fine Australian readers-that some Americans still have a fundamental distrust of the supposed benign nature of the coercive power of government. They see guns as their last defense against that coercive power.

In our experience, Australians are not nearly so suspicious of government power. This is a generalisation, but Australians-from our observations so far-seem to basically believe that the government is there to help you, can usually be trusted, and is more or less on your side.

Those are all alien thoughts to us. But then again, we’re a legal alien, so they would be alien wouldn’t they?

Please don’t write in telling us to see any Michael Moore movies or telling us about school shootings. We know the issue up and down and inside out. We’re just trying to give you an insight about why Americans hold on to their guns. Maybe it’s actually worth thinking about, instead of just criticising in a knee-jerk fashion.

Dan Denning
The Daily Reckoning Australia

Dan Denning
Dan Denning examines the geopolitical and economic events that can affect your investments domestically. He raises the questions you need to answer, in order to survive financially in these turbulent times.
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30 Comments on "America’s Gun Culture"

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Li
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I have to admit, there is another side to the gun control debate, that we just don’t see much in Australia, that I have come to slowly appreciate. I too used to just chalk people like Charlton Heston as further evidence of a peculiarly American insanity, without looking deeper with fresh pre-judgemental eyes. Good on Dan for standing up for his developed views here.

Li
Guest
John
Guest

Well put, Dan. In Australia, shooting is the SAFEST sport there is. (www.abs.gov.au) Most of our gun deaths (78%) are suicides, yet only 5% of suicides here involve guns, usually after other means have failed.

Our tough new gun laws have not dropped the murder rate at all.

Democracy, meanwhile, is based on one fundamental fact: You cannot trust the government.

Kurt Amesbury
Guest
Or a simpler way to explain the difference is that Australians are subjects while Americans are citizens. It is our right to overthrow our government (as was the method of installing the current form), but a right without the power to exercise the right is meaningless. The analysis of the drug angle is spot on. The unholy alliance of drug cartels, police, political hacks, judges, lawyers, the religious right all conspire to keep drugs illegal – and drug profits high. This fuels war. We used to have alcohol prohibition. When that was in effect, we had crime syndicates, drive-by shootings,… Read more »
Patriot
Guest
A PROCLAMATION Upon this Nineteenth Day of April, Two-thousand and Eight Years A.D., We The People, Do Hereby Declare and Proclaim Ourselves; To Be in Agreement with the Spirit, Meaning and Intent of the Constitution which Established the Republic Acknowledged as that of These United States, and In General with the Spirit, Meaning and Intent of Constitutions Having Established Our Respective States within the Union. We the People, Do Hereby Declare and Proclaim Ourselves; To Be Peaceful and Law-abiding American Citizens and Hold every Honest Intent to Assent, Abide and Bind Ourselves to; All Constitutionally-Permissible, Just and Rightfully-Enacted Laws. In… Read more »
fsilber
Guest
What Australians don’t understand is that even if gun ownership is no more necessary in the U.S. than in Australia, guns are nonetheless more useful to Americans. Even if you assume that my risk of being victim of a rape, robbery, or burglary attempt were as great in Australia as in the U.S., a gun in Australia would be useless to me due to the prohibition against its use in self-defense — even Australians who have guns are allowed to use them only for sport. A gun would serve no important purpose even to an Australian who was vulnerable to… Read more »
chester arthur
Guest
Just a small comment on some of the erroneous details.Most hunting ammunition can pierce body armor,so the armor-piercing comment may be an exaageration.Also,if an inexpensive gun is all one can afford to defend the family,it’s better to have some means of self-defense than none,a lesson that the Austrailian and English population have learned in the time since they were disarmed.We had a family member,unarmed,who was killed by a drug addled,knife equipped,knuckle-dragging low life on a back country road.The police didn’t get there for over an hour.I don’t think any member of our family will make the same mistake,no matter who… Read more »
chester arthur
Guest

Somehow,the word ‘are’ slipped in instead of ‘our’ in the last sentence of the previous post.Sorry for the lack of proof-reading.

AngelDecoys
Guest
Heston was a maverick. Actor who left acting to serve his country in WWII. Returned a staff sargent, and back to acting. (He was a gunner in a bomber) Not the best actor, but took jobs that portrayed strong male role models. Aside from being married to the same woman his whole life he walked the walk, talked the talk. A man of unwavering principal. He saw the Constitution as sacred and unique. All ‘men created equal’ was his belief so much he marched, and stood next to Martin Luther King when he gave his historical speech. Who else from… Read more »
lincmercguy
Guest
There is a misconception in many countries that the US has no gun control whatsoever. That is false. We have over 22,000 laws on the federal level concerning firearms. Many people think that you can go down to the convinience store and pick up an AK-47, which is not true. Gun dealers are very strickly regulated and are held to higher standards than the agency that regulates them is. Real AK-47’s are very very expensive and difficult to get, along with all other fully-automatic firearms. Two of those lawfully held, fully-automatic firearms have ever been used in a crime in… Read more »
mike
Guest

…if you were to get the guns out of the hands of criminals…and that’s a pretty big IF….criminals would have to become more sophisticated ,educated…and does society really need more bankers….no…i think it’s best to leave well enough alone….in america the military employs a lot of people…unlike switzerland…do they have a military…i’m not sure….

Wendy Weinbaum
Guest

Hey, Mr. Tony Balony, who wrote the letter in Dan Denning’s column above – take it from me, a Jewess in the US: America wasn’t won with a registerd gun! And criminals are stopped by FIREARMS, not by talk. That is why all REAL Americans put our 2nd Amendment FIRST!

Doug
Guest
Charleton was a great man and one who came to see the destructive effects of socialism through his own experiences with Hollywood unions. He supported civil rights and marched with M.L. King at a time when such activism was risky. His appreciation of the Second Amendment freedoms which Americans enjoy was an extension of Heston’s great respect for civil rights. He wasn’t acting when he made the “cold dead hands” remark, and millions of Americans quite rightly agree with him. Australians, and particularly urban Australians, wish to believe that government is a benign entity and their freedom is secureed by… Read more »
justin
Guest
I’ve recently obtained a firearms licence here in Australia. It is a highly illogical system. After first applying for my licence, I receive permission to attend a firearms safety course, which costs $90. I attend the course, get my certificate, have to reapply for my licence with aformentioned certificate, wait 28 days, then receive permission to obtain a licence, costing $200. But wait there’s more, to then buy a rifle I must re-reapply for permission to buy a firearm, costing $30, waiting another 28 days, every time I wish to buy a rifle! What is the government going to do,… Read more »
Annette
Guest
I remember when the gun laws came here in Australia, a lot of people in rural areas hid their rifles in pvc piping in creeks and such. With the drought, these “hiding places” have been popping up everywhere. hahaha Having said that, I have spent a fair bit of time in Texas, USA, where guns are a standard item in the glovebox. When I compare how “safe” I felt, I must say I felt far safer here in Australia. Gun laws will never stop criminals and I support the right to bear arms, but the less of them around the… Read more »
Diggin it!
Guest
Break a bottle and put it in a idiots hands and he will kill some one! Not all Aussies dislike guns in fact us country folk still see a practical use for them and they are like tools as there is the right gun for the right use. Now i know some of the boy`s get a bit excited and have to have the V8 of there chosen toy but that is not the mentality of a country and i am sure Americans would agree!Australia is sheep country and sheep tend to follow the leader, now we dont like making… Read more »
ChrisPer
Guest
What our friend Tony misses out are a few details that spoil his picture. 1) Michael Moore completely misrepresented Heston (and most others) in Bowling for Columbine. How can Tony hate someone based on a liar’s story? 2) The Australian intelligentsia’s idea of the NRA is completely false. Our journalists ideas of them are got from the ad hominems of liberal US journalists, commentators and left-wing activists. The strawman evil that they portray is totally unrealistic. Again, Tony’s hate is based on a falsehood created by partisans. It has been claimed that Australians suffer from ‘tall poppy syndrome’. It is… Read more »
Antonio Salazar
Guest
Australia has Rebecca Peters; thankfully, the USA does not. She tried to come over here to the USA to shove her version of gun-control onto the people of the USA. Along the way, she engaged Wayne Lapierre, the Executive Vice-President of the NRA in a debate about gun control and was left looking like road kill in the middle of the Santa Monica Freeway. P.S. – The Australian government sure did a beautiful job in protecting its subjects during the Cronulla riots, didn’t it? And you wonder Down Under, why we in the USA have the right to keep and… Read more »
Pete
Guest
Compare personal safety in Australia with that of the USA? I cannot believe that people argue ‘for’ the right to own guns. Annette is correct, it is not the right to own a gun that is important, its keeping the sheer numbers of guns at a low level. Cronulla riots? Let’s just take a reality check for a second and read some reports of school kids rampaging through their schools on murder suicide rampages. Or, lets see which country has by far the highest rate of gun related crime in the world. This debate is a no brainer. Lets please… Read more »
ChrisPer
Guest

Antonio, you are wrong. Rebecca Peters is working in the USA, for IANSA. Her job is funded by George Soros. She has been there for over 10 years. For a picture of Rebecca, check out my article here: http://www.class.org.au/ideas-kill.htm .

Pete, my sympathy on having to deal with no-brainers. It must like totally kill you. Just remember, it isn’t facts or evidence that matter but moral righteousness. You go guy.

Li
Guest

I can understand your disbelief Pete, I used to share it. There is more to the issue than can be resolved with a simple reduction, as attractive as that may be, as:

“Compare personal safety in Australia with that of the USA”

Correlation ain’t causation. The Swiss experience is particularly telling. If you want to see how intelligent and moral people can indeed argue against gun control, may I suggest you look put down your preconceptions first.

william
Guest
some of us Aussies hold that we have rights, our government disagrees, and we exercise our rights in their ignorance.anyone who trusts the government/s in aus is a sheep.actually, sheep are quite smart by comparison.The Americans look at us and wonder how we tolerate the jackboot, we look at them and wonder why they dont apreciate the freedom they have.its illegal to kill and harm people, making laws wich adversely affect thousands of people, just to make a political point, in the aftermath of a crime, is patently wrong and abuse of office. the fact that the “majority” of australians… Read more »
John
Guest

Pete, how many guns were used at the Cronulla riots?

How much has British gun crime INCREASED since their total ban on handguns?

fsilber
Guest
Pete: “I cannot believe that people argue ‘for’ the right to own guns. Annette is correct, it is not the right to own a gun that is important, its keeping the sheer numbers of guns at a low level.” One way you could minimize the number of guns being carried is to reduce the number of policemen. Would that make you safer? Obviously not. If guns can be used in self-defense, the what is important is ensuring that a great many good people in every place are carrying them — to increase the chances that someone violently abusing his possession… Read more »
BRIAN
Guest

So many religious people should have a concept of how to live. The right to kill your neihbour is not acceptable. Question the society you live in that drives him to want to harm you.

BRIAN
Guest

And if Jesus had a gun he would not have suffered the same fate. The master choses his own fate.

John
Guest
“Let’s just take a reality check for a second and read some reports of school kids rampaging through their schools on murder suicide rampages. Or, lets see which country has by far the highest rate of gun related crime in the world. ” I love when anti-gun people name the school rampages as their evidence, because it is the perfect example for the pro-gun people. Why? Because those kids shooting up schools are under 18, which means they got their guns illegally anyway! Gun laws didn’t stop them! The right to own a firearm is completely irrelevant to the subject,… Read more »
justin
Guest

William is on the money. I see most of the issues in the USA right now as affecting Australia too. A central bank, fiat money and inflation, huge foreign debt, ridiculous bank profits and so on.

I’m holding my gun close!

fsilber
Guest
BRIAN wrote: “The right to kill your neighbour is not acceptable. Question the society you live in that drives him to want to harm you.” Then why do you find it acceptable for a policeman to have a right to kill your neighbor? Besides, it’s not my neighbor that I have a right to kill, it’s the rapist, burglar or mugger who might be criminally putting my neighbor in a fear for his life after he gets done with me that I have a right to kill. And no, society isn’t driving the criminal to want to rape or rob;… Read more »
Chris
Guest

Anti-gun activists and journalists caused most of the mass killings, especially Port Arthur, by their salivating news and current affairs reports. Their reports unwittingly recruited deviants to imitate, taught them how to do it, offered the equivalent of millions of dollars worht of publicity as a reward for doing it, and showed how to escape consequences.

Criminal gangsters get guns freely in Australia, but gun laws are targeted in moralistic condemnation of the ordinary responsible people who own them legally.

They are laws founded in hate, the hate of self-righteous ‘progressive’ people against their fantasised strawman ‘gun lobby’.

wpDiscuz
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