The Culture of the Gun
A culture is defined by a common language and a sense of community of shared values. This community is often reinforced through a sense of victimization, both real and imagined.
“There are barbarians at the gates! Our way of life is threatened by them! We have an existential threat! If we don’t hold them back, they will destroy us for the need to destroy us… our freedom, our values, our culture represents a threat to them!”
Delusions of grandeur, and the politics of victimization often coalesce to form a powerful psychic boundary between “us” and “them.”
This, in a sense, defines and reinforces the culture.
When there is no threat to the culture, there is oftentimes… well… not a culture per se.
We don’t think of the “doing the laundry” culture because we all do the laundry. There is no group of people putting our ability to do the laundry at risk, and really no unique common language associated with laundry.
Now… dry cleaners may legitimately have a culture. They have a common industry vernacular and they see the technological developments of home washers and dryers that have ever-increasing applications for sensitive clothing and steam-cleaning as a threat to their very business. Thus, within that sub-community, there may very well be a culture.
There are also the stereotypes generated by those outside of the culture. These stereotypes, ironically, serve two diametrically opposed purposes: They strengthens the culture of the outsiders since they are creating a caricature of the target culture that dehumanizes them as the “others” (see the barbarians at the gates above). They also strengthens the target culture as well since the caricature bears little resemblance to the actual members of the culture, but reinforces the belief that the culture is being assaulted from beyond the walls. For if the enemies do not want to extinguish us, why would they create characterizations that are so dehumanizing… or, at the very least, offensive?
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Our culture, the gun culture, suffers and benefits from such a dichotomy. Those forces marshaled against us malign us with characterizations that are misguided at best, racially bigoted and sexist at worst.
“You are a gun owner? I thought all gun owners were southern rednecks! Gun owners are Bible-thumping homophobes embracing their own white ethnicity and basking in their fragile masculinity.”
And who can forget a former President opining that we were voting against our own economic interests because…“it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them…”
Yet, the archetype of the member of the gun culture is literally the exact opposite of what the proponents would proffer.
Piper Smith of Armed Equality is a fierce advocate for the Second Amendment, and Constitutional rights generally, and is a member of the LGBTQ community. She sees the gun for what is really is: A tool that allows the individual to defend against tyranny of other individuals, and marshaled together, the fundamental building blocks of a militia that keeps the tyranny of the government in check. In the final analysis, it is the ultimate guardian against the tyranny that comes in the form of a foreign occupying power.
The culture that comes from the use and training of the gun is made up of other people devoted to the ideals of individual freedom, classical liberalism, and a healthy distaste of state-mandated collectivism.
She is not a “Bible-thumping redneck from the south.” She is a lesbian, former Air Force officer living with her fiancé in San Diego.
She is also embraced by the gun community. Neither her sexual orientation nor her gender are utterly irrelevant to the culture… it is her passion for freedom that serves as her membership card.
Colin Noir, the NRA commentator, is African American. His zealous articulation of the philosophy behind the Second Amendment, and the logic of his reasoning have made him a darling of the “gun culture”… not because he is black. Again, the color of his skin is completely immaterial to his message. His value, his gift to our community, is the message itself.
The other day I was talking to a new client at Artemis who had just completed Pistol 2. She is an academic and was utterly beside herself on how “nice and helpful” everyone at Artemis was. Not our instructors per se… rather our members. She also was surprised at the lack of monochromatic people hanging out in our lab.
“Were you expecting something else?”
“Well, I don’t know… I just expected to see a bunch of older white males.”
“Well, I don’t know… it’s just, well… that is what people from my world just assume gun people are like.”
“So, tell me… I’m curious, are you enjoying this?”
“Yes… surprisingly, yes. I love the people here, and learning about shooting is really fun. I can’t believe it, but I’m seriously considering getting a CCW.”
…And so it begins. Our “culture” can grow by incorporating subsequent generations to be sure, but it is so much more fun to recruit members from the other side of the wall!