Disarming a Gun Culture

Shoot a few, knock ‘em down, cost you half a buck now
Guns, guns, guns

Every time there’s a mass shooting in America, which is unfortunately pretty often these days, I see a lot of people on Twitter feeling angry and hopeless. They’re angry because guns are dangerous, guns kill people far more often than they save them (almost never), and there’s a whole culture in America devoted to keeping their guns. More frustrating still, it seems impossible to change this in America. The best Americans are asked to expect from serious gun reform is fewer guns, not 0 guns.

The discussions on Twitter often seem useless: you’re either preaching to the choir of your followers who agree, guns are bad. Or you’re in a shouting match with someone who wants to keep their guns, thank you very much. And it’s not just Twitter where this happens, it seems to be everywhere the topic of guns comes up, everybody already has their mind made up. So how do we change this?

Babe give you kisses if you hit a rubber duck now
Guns, guns, guns

I think the first step is to try to understand where everyone is coming from. I think broadly speaking, whether you like guns or not, nobody wants to see anyone die. People who oppose guns (like me) want to get rid of them all because guns are designed to kill, end of story. People who want to keep their guns think guns will keep them safe from intruders or other violence.

Second, everyone thinks they’re right. Anti-gun people think they’re right because ultimately guns are made to harm, and harm is bad. Pro-gun people in America argue not only are they right, they literally have a right to guns. My point here isn’t so much both sides think they’re right, it’s that this polarizing thinking is part of the problem: we’ve created two “sides” here. You either agree with me or you’re a “gun nut,” a phrase which just serves to other the pro-gun group, which helps nobody.

Third, these two sides each pro- and anti-gun cultures, more than the sum of their individual members. I think this is the big part we miss in most discussions about guns. It’s not so useful to convince an individual to get rid of their guns, you need to dismantle the whole of gun culture to see real change. Gun culture isn’t just someone who thinks guns are a good idea. Gun culture is that someone, and all of their friends who also like guns. It’s a set of values and a way to fit in with a group (same goes for the anti-gun culture).

You be the red king, I’ll be the yellow pawn
Guns, guns, guns

I’m not a sociologist and I don’t know a whole ton about changing cultures, but it seems like if you want to disarm gun culture, you’ve got to do more than just complain on Twitter. Read up on activism, learn how cultures have changed for the better in the past (Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights movements spring to mind). It won’t be easy, but it is possible.

Eagle all gone, and no more caribou
Guns, guns, guns

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