America's Obsession with Guns

A dramatization of a 'gun church'.
A dramatization of a 'gun church'.

There are a lot of hot button topics in the United States. Things like politics and religion tend to bring out the worst in us, spurring the most vile and harsh arguments on the internet (and in person). They are the kind of subjects that, even at the mention of them, people go into immediate defense mode and lash out at the nearest opposing viewpoint. Nowhere is this more apparent than the debate surrounding guns.

Guns = Jesus

So violently are guns defended by their supporters that they have ascended their status as inanimate objects to become religious symbols of worship. This is why a lot of gun control advocates struggle to gain any traction in the conversation. They say “background checks” and supporters hear “ban all guns”. They say “smaller magazines” and supporters hear “ban all guns”. They say “I don’t want to ban all guns” and supporters hear “I want to ban all guns”. There is such a large disconnect between what is being said versus what is being heard that one would think the two groups are speaking different languages. But I’ve tried very hard to understand why guns are worshipped today and I’ve run into a few common answers.

Guns = Freedom

The most prevalent pro-gun argument is the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment states that citizens of the United States have the right to keep and bear arms (guns). At the time the amendment was written, they didn’t have semi-automatics, automatics or a host of other very deadly guns, but ultimately they all fall under that same rule. So, because of this, owning a gun has become synonymous with freedom, in much the same way that saying whatever we want about celebrities, politicians and religion comes from our right to free speech. There are a great many freedoms outlined in the constitution, each one its own entity that can come under attack. So, if someone were suggesting that all guns be banned, it would technically be a request for less freedom. However, the constitution isn’t perfect. The fact that we have amendments at all proves that the original document was insufficient to the task; especially considering two of those amendments regard prohibition (one starting it and the other ending it).

There is also this idea that owning guns protects us from an overreaching government. When the U.S. was young, we didn’t have a standing army, so an armed population was the best protection. And, having just broken away from an overreaching government, it was an understandable fear. Say what you will about the current state of the American government, but does anyone really believe a stockpile of guns would protect them from a tank or a fighter jet? And, similarly, do they believe their fellow Americans (the soldiers) would so easily turn on them because a corrupt government asked them to?

I’ve also noticed that gun rights do get priority over other freedoms. This is most apparent during the Christmas seasons when religious displays go up on government property. Freedom of religion means our government will not endorse one over the other. But a lot of the same gun supporters get upset when Christianity is deemed inappropriate for government establishments. So it isn’t about freedom in general; some are deemed more important than others.

We can call gun worship patriotism. But we will always have to carry the weight of those who have died in gun-related deaths.
We can call gun worship patriotism. But we will always have to carry the weight of those who have died in gun-related deaths.

Guns = Protection

Another prominent argument is that guns provide protection against criminals. If a murderer breaks into your house, and you own a gun, you can shoot the criminal to save your family. If you live in a war-torn country, where this happens a lot, I can understand the logic. But if you live in the suburbs it’s harder to make the argument. There certainly are many cases of successful home defenses, using a gun, but they tend to be drowned out by nightly stories regarding gun deaths. Some say that criminals will get these weapons anyway, and that the laws only restrict law abiding citizens, but by that logic we shouldn’t have any laws at all. Just because a mentally disturbed person can steal a car, doesn’t mean we should remove all restrictions on licenses.

And, I certainly understand the logic behind ‘people killing people, not guns’. I’m a frequent defender of video games, which often get blamed for violence in our culture. But, I think the biggest difference between a video game and a gun, is that the gun is specifically designed to kill (whether it’s a deer or a criminal). No, we don’t blame spoons when people get fat, and yes, you can also kill with an everyday kitchen knife. But, nothing is quite as efficient at killing as a gun. Someone wielding a knife is restricted to their strength and can only kill so many people before they get taken down. With a semi-automatic, a weak, inexperienced individual could level an entire room in seconds. It’s the same reason we don’t give every citizen access to the nuclear launch codes. Everyday people shouldn’t have access to weapons of mass destruction. The founders used single bullet muskets; that was their point of reference for ‘arms’.

Guns = Manhood

One of the things that I’ve noticed about certain gun owners (and some hunting knife owners) is that they like to talk about their weapon, and they like to bring it out for arbitrary reasons. Similarly, there are numerous stories about gun owners bringing their weapons into public places, where they usually clash with law enforcement. I definitely think there is a difference between owning a gun for protection versus owning one to wave it around in front of people. I want to be clear that these people do not represent all gun owners. There are numerous hunters and concealed weapon holders that take the responsibility very seriously and cause no problems (the same people who wouldn't be affected by common sense gun laws). However, much like religious fanatics, the irresponsible people tend to be the loudest and, therefore, most visible to the general public.

Are you in favor of gun control?

  • Yes, all guns should be banned.
  • Yes, we can make reasonable laws to reduce gun deaths.
  • No, there are already enough gun laws.
  • No, gun control means the end of freedom.
See results without voting

Gun Control = Slippery Slope

If you’ve been paying attention, then you’ll notice that I’ve never said that I think all guns should be banned. But, as I mentioned above, there is a disconnect in the conversation. Part of that disconnect comes from the fanatics and part of it comes from the gun lobbies who are making billions off of America’s obsession. But there is also the argument that any amount of gun control will start a domino effect that leads to bans. And, maybe it’s true. However, I don’t think that potential solutions, for today, should be denied because of what might happen down the road. Similarly, we have the benefit of looking to other countries that have enacted similar gun control laws. Did it make the country safer? Did it reduce deaths? If not, what did they do wrong? How can we improve upon it?

For me, the most frustrating part of the gun debate is the lack of compromise. The all-or-nothing approach does not work in real life and it doesn’t work in a civilized society. If we don’t do something soon, then the multitude of gun deaths in this country will only continue to rise. And, blaming things like a lack of prayer in schools, or proactive criminals, is nothing more than a scapegoat.

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Comments 12 comments

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest

This is indeed a polarizing issue and for the life of me I cannot understand why. I grew up in a house full of guns - with a dad who was a responsible gun owner. As adamant as he is about the right to bear arms, he still understands the need to tighten up on background checks, to hold people accountable for their responsible use and to do everything to ensure that the mentally unstable are not able to acquire them.

The worship of guns in this country points to a larger problem for sure - fear based thought and paranoia and that in itself is dangerous with or without the guns. Great hub with great points.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

I forget the exact percentage, but it's above 80 - how many americans want expanded background checks. the hold up is that the NRA (which no longer supports gun owners but gun manufacturers) will pour thousands of dollars into your opponent's race if you are a congressman who tries in any way to limit gun sales.


Borsia profile image

Borsia 2 years ago from Currently, Philippines

Though I haven't kept up my membership since I left the US you could call me a lifelong member of the NRA and the ILA (the political action wing of the NRA).

The biggest problem with those pushing for greater gun control is that say what they may, while individuals may not want gun bans, the ultimate goal of the gun control crowd is the outright banning of guns for everyone.

The resistance to registration and excessive licensing is that it gives the government a list of who owns what. That is, of course, the first thing needed to confiscate guns.

The next thing is that there are already something like 25,000 gun laws already on the books that cover just about every aspect of guns. So we say enforce the existing laws rather than waste time on new ones.

Then there is the problem with the anti-gun government using licensing and what should be reasonable requirements as tools to ban guns. Once you have a set of checks (background, etc) what is to stop them from expanding them until virtually nobody qualifies to own a gun?

While it is true that America isn't a 3rd world country in turmoil we do have some of the highest crime rates. I carried a gun full time for over 30 years as a businessman in a semi-rough city in CA. That gun saved my bacon 5 times, I might well not be here to write this had I not had it.

Guns are used by private citizens over 1 million times every year to thwart crimes yet it is very rare for a shot to be fired.

The regions with the lowest crime rates have the most liberal CCW laws and despite claims by anti-gun groups and government that everything will turn into the wild west it has never happened. Legally carried guns are involved in a microscopic number of incidents. In most of those it turns out that they were used within the law. Even the recent big press case in Fl. the final verdict was that the shooting was legal & justified.

That said even I believe in some restrictions that the NRA doesn't support.

However the biggest thing we could do to reduce crime would be to eliminate parole and reduce time for all violent criminals rather than impose restrictions on honest gun owners.


Jed Fisher profile image

Jed Fisher 2 years ago from Oklahoma

The ‘Gun Obsession’ in America today is a direct result of the inaction of the Federal Government as it proves itself negligent in its duties to protect the citizenry. The 9/11 attacks were preventable. The hordes of illegal immigrants given a free pass, that’s another reason. The permission given to Islamic immigrants to establish little Islamic enclaves, that’s another. The maleficent negligence of federal law enforcement as it pertains to international criminal cartels and their connections to street gangs in America, it all adds up to me needing to protect myself from evil because clearly, my government won’t.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

please get help, jed.


gregas profile image

gregas 2 years ago from Corona, California.

Hi M.T., Well written and explained hub. You have touched on a lot of very good points.

I think of the old excuse of "guns don't kill people" as "Guns don't kill people, people kill people WITH GUNS".

Also there are two incidents in Florida, one a few years ago and one recent, well publicized with no need to explain. But these two incidents prove my point that no one other than law officers have a nee to carry guns in public. Two people might still be alive in those two cases if they just ended up in a fist fight. But having the gun at hand made it easy to KILL.

Also the point about self protection is a flawed excuse for a reason to own a gun. If someone breaks into your house they will probably just steal your gun and use it later for another crime or killing, or maybe even kill you with your own gun.

And if anyone needs an automatic or semi-automatic gun to bring down a deer or goose is a very poor excuse for a hunter and shouldn't be allowed to hunt anyway. I can't see any reason or excuse for those kinds of guns OR larger magazines for them.

Don't get me wrong, I am for the right to own guns. But, they have got to make gun owners more responsible. Plus, they need to have a stronger background check. If you have the right to own a gun and nothing to hide, what is wrong with a very strict background check? Just my opinion, Greg.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 2 years ago from United States Author

ChristinS - I completely agree; fear and paranoia are the root of the problem. That and the people who push that fear and paranoia onto unsuspecting people. Thank you for the comment!

cathylynn99 - It's true that the majority of American's support sensible reform. Unfortunately the extremists are better at getting out to vote. The lobbyists know how to whip up their base. Thanks for the comment!

Borsia - As I said in the article, I do believe in the proper use of weapons by responsible citizens. But I stand by my statement that we shouldn't deny all reform because of what might happen down the road. If we established gun control laws that were overreaching (or that were pushed to expand later) a large force of citizens would stand up to oppose it. Unlike now when it seems to be a small group backed by wealthy gun stock owners.

Jed Fisher - 9/11 was a failure to act on intelligence, not a lack of firepower. And citizens (armed or not) had no defense against it. If the government is failing to protect, then shouldn't we search for ways to make it better, rather than just adding more weapons on top of a volatile system?

gregas - You touch on my biggest concern about guns. Two people may have no desire to shoot one another, but when both are armed, and things get heated, the results are considerably more damaging. A crowd full of people with guns is a massacre waiting to happen. Thanks for the comment!


Sanctuary 2 years ago

There are plenty of reasons for gun responsibility and keeping guns out of the hands of people who abuse the privilege of owning one. Oddly, even placing locks on the triggers or holding people responsible is even hotly contested. You would be more concerned if a sexual predator lived next door and you would not give that person a victim. Still we are opposed to back ground checks and more then willing to give a violent criminal a gun. The big issues are gun purchases involving the mentally ill or what we call people who may pose a threat. Your depressed do we refuse to allow you to purchase a weapon because you got help and medication? Your ex whatever makes the claim you threaten them, do you take their weapons? It is a normal tendency to take someone's civil rights but in reality it is only a guessing game. The harder it is to own a gun the more expensive it becomes. The result is a armed population that is only rich and getting a way with murder. Most crimes are committed by Godless, immoral people who lack any compassion for humanity. Because this is our social norm and status, what guarantees do the people have to give up there rights to own a gun? If anything we are opposed to any ethical or moral codes and the crime rates in this country proves that we our not about to solve social issues that continue the violence we see. Our humanity is in decline and when society fails to protect one another those with guns usually win. Until we can build a society that embraces the majority of people and their desires to benefit all people this argument will continue to take sides.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 2 years ago from northeastern US

actually, Christians far outnumber the "godless" in prisons.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 2 years ago from United States Author

Sanctuary - I wouldn't say that humanity is in decline (our history suggests we've always been violent) but I do think that solving the problem will come more from responsibility and respect than blind gun laws. However, that isn't to say that the current gun deaths cant be curbed with sensible laws that the majority agree upon.

cathylynn99 - Thank you for pointing that out. As I said at the end of the article, blaming something like 'godlessness' is nothing more than a scapegoat.


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 2 years ago from California

Always a pleasure to read your articles! You're one of the best writers I've encountered on HP, just reading you makes me a better writer. And this is one of the most eloquent gun rights discussions I've ever read. Nicely done!

I am not a gun proponent in any conceivable way, but I do have serious concerns about the American government and who runs it (considering its track record). Perhaps it's true of any government. I just don't believe that a gun is going to protect me (or anybody for that matter) if we were in some kind of end of the world scenario....


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 2 years ago from United States Author

kalinin1158 - Thank you for the compliment and the comment! The best weapons against an oppressor are words and ideals. Things that can rally the masses behind a common cause. Guns can stop a few people from trying to get into your house, but words and ideals can change the world.

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