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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Gun Culture: From Tools to Toys

Author: Matt N.

To own or not to own is really the question. The topic of firearms and gun control has to be one of the most hotly debated, sometimes fierce discussions in modern politics. Quite ironic when you consider the content of what is being discussed. Both sides of the issue have their extremes, from civilians better equipped than a small military, to those who would make slingshot licenses mandatory: if they could. As is the case in most issues that arise, some sort of balance needs to be found. Both sides will have to compromise, but who should give up ground?
One of the most substantial factors to gun related issues is culture. There are many places in the world that guns are strictly controlled and others that you would think they were party favors, given away at social gatherings. Countries like Australia and Japan have very strict gun laws, whereas the United States and Canada are more lenient. Now don’t believe that I am saying that the US and Canada have similar guns laws (trust me, we don’t) but considering that the average citizen can obtain access to firearms from shotguns to handguns, I consider that lenient. In Canadian culture, it is not unusual to know at least one person who has several firearms. I can’t speak for Americans, but I imagine it is the same case there. Difference being is that in Canada, those firearms are more hunting focused, whereas south of the border, it ranges more from hunting to defense. Personally, I prefer to have a variety of guns for a variety of purposes. A small rifle (.22) for grouse or vermin, a larger one (30-6) for big game, and a shotgun or two (12 and/or 10 gauge) for waterfowl, trap shooting or possible animal defense. Any guns after these are great, but I don’t feel that I need anymore. If I saw one I liked and had the money sure I would buy more, but these would be add-ons (Like a guitars players 4th, 5th and 6th guitar). In America though, more people put focus on  defensive guns than in Canada.
Canada, due it its more restrictive laws, classifies guns as either restricted or prohibited.  firearms in the US. This is largely in part because of the Second Amendment, which states their right to bare arms. I would love to be allowed to have a side arm on my hip while hunting, but unfortunately that is quite illegal here in the great white north. Handguns (Which fall under Restricted firearms) are only allowed to be worn with a special license, which is incredibly difficult to obtain outside of the military and police. In a general sense, gun ownership is seen more as part of being an American than it is being a Canadian.
 I treat my guns as I believe guns should be treated. All of my firearms have lockable cases, trigger locks and are never left around the house. They do not get lent out to buddies or put away dirty, and definitely are not left loaded. I follow the rules when it comes to firearms, but I know plenty who don’t. More often than not it is the ones who do not follow the rules whose weapons are the central focus when an accident or tragedy takes place. This gives all gun owners a bad image and suddenly the media is blaming the gun itself instead of the person behind it. By that logic, Louisville Slugger should hold home run titles, not Barry Bonds. We refuse to take responsibility for ourselves and shift the blame to the object and not the user.
If we are to preserve our right of gun ownership, education on the subject must be improved. I believe that a knowledge on proper gun safety and maintenance at a younger age helps to develop more responsible gun owning adults. Children who were raised in a home where the gun was a tool that was dangerous if misused continue to have that attitude as they grow older and can obtain their own. This attitude gets past on, and what you have is traditions which bond the family bonding traditions like someone’s first successful hunt. The hunt itself teaches quite a lot to the people involved. Patience, remaining calm in all kinds of situations and a respect for what you are hunting develop, as you become a regular hunter.
Gun culture is at a point of substantial change. Washington Post writer Christopher Ingraham’s article on the change in gun ownership  points out that even though gun manufacturing is up, the amount of people holding them is down. A pattern where higher income families are more likely to own firearms has emerged, and builds on to the gap between the income classes as this frequency becomes more relevant. Other sources however, state that the findings are misleading, as research was done with door-to-door polling, and plenty of people wouldn’t feel comfortable telling a stranger at their door how many guns they have. A study performed by Gallup has support for firearms up, while ownership has remained fairly the same over the past handful of years. 
 So no matter whose research you find to be more accurate, there is one thing that does not change between the two of them, and that is that people own guns. The reasons for their ownership can largely vary, from the rancher who needs to shoot predators, to the homeowner who wants to defend his family. Firearms can be part of a healthy, well functioning home if treated properly; comprehensive work is needed to create stability in the home, rather than scapegoating an inanimate object.