Gun ownership in America

Here at WikiTribune we pondered how and even whether to cover the latest school shooting in the United States. How does one present a reasoned perspective on incidents that occur with such frequency that the idea of a gunman entering a school and taking the lives of students and staff seems almost commonplace?

When viewed from outside the prism of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the historic importance of weapons and their association with a particular vision of individual freedom, it’s often hard for non-Americans to comprehend the kind of debates which follow an incident like the latest shooting in Florida. It is hard to understand the idea of arming teachers when you’re living in a place where your neighbor would never own an AR-15 rifle.

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So, help us. Please. You tell us the story of American gun ownership and why little has changed following the Florida shooting, the Las Vegas massacre, or Sandy Hook.

Questions we wonder about include:
– What is the price Americans are prepared to pay for the historic right of gun ownership?
– On the other hand, is a knee-jerk political reaction likely to lead to poorly thought out regulation such as the assault weapons ban which some say was about “cosmetic” features rather than addressing who can own guns and what their functions are?
– It’s often said the National Rifle Association is the most successful civil rights group in the United States. Why is that?
– What are the statistics that justify a belief that gun ownership makes you safer? Or the reverse?
– Given the polarization of American politics right now, what might be achievable in gun control after Florida?
– Is the Florida school shooting a turning point?

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Reading list

Tell us what you think the essential – or perhaps quirky – reading is on this. Give the title, author, and a summary of why you think it’s worth taking the time to read. Bookworms of the community, unite!

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Another day in the death of AmericaA Chronicle of Ten Short Lives – Gary Younge (2016)

The premise of this book is deceptively simple: Younge chooses 10 cases where minors died from a gunshot wound in the space of 24 hours in the U.S. He then investigates the circumstances surrounding the child’s death, and tells the harrowing stories of those left behind trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches From America’s Class War – Joe Bageant (2007)

This book doesn’t deal specifically with gun culture in the United States. Its broad focus is on income inequality, the struggles of the working poor, and the intensifying “class war” in the United States. However, it’s also a terrific portrayal of the cultural divide in America. It provides firsthand background explanation for the emotion that fuels debates about gun culture and gun laws in the United States. Bageant was a Vietnam vet and a Southerner (Virginia) and a self-described “redneck,” who at the same time had plenty of empathy for both liberal ideology and conservative culture – a genuine independent thinker who got both (all) sides of the gun debate. As one 2017 reviewer on Amazon put it: “If you’re one of those people who were surprised by the election of Donald Trump, you owe it to yourself to read this book.” You could substitute “election of Donald Trump” for “influence of the NRA” in that sentence and have the same effect.

The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture – Pamela Haag (2016)

In this book, the author, a historian from Yale University, argues that the idea that America loves guns was carefully crafted over decades, rather than Americans having a long-standing and expectional relationship with guns. As the book flap reads: “Haag fundamentally revises the history of arms in America, and in so doing explodes the clichés that have created and sustain lethal gun culture.”

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