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Why 'Gun Culture' Is Every Bit a Part of America as 'Speech Culture': Podcast

David Harsanyi's First Freedom: A Ride Through America's Enduring History with the Gun documents the unique presence of firearms in U.S. life.

"We often hear the term 'gun culture' being thrown around as invective," says David Harsanyi in his new book, First Freedom: A Ride Through America's Enduring History with the Gun. But "'gun culture' is no less part of American life than 'religious culture' or 'speech culture.' As our history unambiguously illustrates, gun culture is inextricably tied to American culture. One cannot exist without the other."

Harsanyi's meticulously documented and fluidly written history tells the story of how guns first showed up in the New World and the roles they played not just in fighting wars and settling the frontier but developing all sorts of industrial and commercial breakthroughs in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the latest Reason Podcast, I also talk with him about current battles over gun control and why calls for greater restrictions on ownership and the ability to carry often come when gun violence is ebbing rather than increasing.

Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist, a syndicated columnist, and the author of several previous books, including The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy and Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children.

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Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    Without Arms being a protected right for Americans, there would be no protect rights sooner or later.

  • Rich||

    "'gun culture' is no less part of American life than 'religious culture' or 'speech culture.' "

    What are 'horse culture' and 'hip-hop culture', chopped liver?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    'pop culture'...

  • John||

    Bingo. I don't see how gun ownership is somehow special such that it creates its own "culture" more than any other hobby or interest. The term "gun culture" is just a bullshit pajoritive term invented to imply there is something special and nasty about guns.

    The funny thing about the "gun culture" such as it is is how harmless and nerdy it is. Gun grabbers have this completely bizzare idea that people who like guns and shooting are these wild, dangerous survivalist radical right wingers. If the doofuses would ever actually go to one of the dreaded "gun shows", they would realize that they are culturally about on the level of a Star Trek convention or a Comicon. There really isn't much difference between people who sit around and argue about whether a glock or a .45 ACP make a better pistol and the people who argue about the relative merits of Klingon as a language.

  • sarcasmic||

    One of my favorite things about going to the range is the how eager people are to share their toys.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Yeah, that was my experience when I competed in outdoor pistol matches. Everybody would lay their gear out before the start of the match, and then walk up and down the line and check everybody else's gear out. A shooting match is a very social event.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    Yeah I'm not a gun owner but I took a buddy who is a gun nerd down to the Smithsonian on shrooms. Most boring trip ever cause he just wanted to look at guns, which to me were so visually unstimulating. Still cracks me up how nerdy he was over something that to me is only fun when your squeezing a few rounds down range.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Some of the nicest people I've ever known are people I met in gun clubs and at shooting matches.

  • sarcasmic||

    Same here.

  • Zeb||

    Enthusiasts about anything create sub-cultures. Guns are no different. The only problem is people seeing it as a bad thing. Star Trek nerd culture is a thing.

    There's another way to look at it too. Guns are definitely part of the American culture in a way that they aren't part of other countries' cultures. Other countries have severely restricted gun ownership and use without too much public resistance. That's just a political non-starter in the US. Outside of certain ideological enclaves, people in the US accept owning and using guns as normal and unremarkable. And I think that's a part of what distinguishes American culture from other Western cultures.

  • Ecoli||

    I prefer to call it "civil liberties culture". That is what the bill of rights is aimed at.

  • John||

    Exactly. I don't shoot much and never hunt. And I really don't have much of a need to own more than one gun for home defense. But, I make it a point to have a decent number of guns just because it is a right that needs to be used since it seems to constantly be under threat.

  • Ecoli||

    Agreed. I seldom shoot, never hunt, but I do love me some civil liberties.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>"no less part of American life"

    ninnys.

  • John||

    I like the Swiss model where everyone is required to own a rifle. In the day and age of terrorism and asymetric warfare, I think that is a very sound policy.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>the Swiss model

    we called it "the midwest" ... but agreed.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Didn't David Harsanyi used to write for Reason? If so, it's a shame he left. This sort of historical perspective and examination of long term trends is exactly what's needed for many topics that tend toward overheated debates. Thanks for doing this podcast!

  • Tony||

    The fact that schools being shot up on a regular basis is a normal part of American culture is the very problem those of us who aren't psychopaths want to fix, silly.

  • sarcasmic||

    Good point. Someone should pass a law making it illegal to shoot up a school.

  • Tony||

    And also make it more difficult to do so. One would think this would be a priority for a civilized community. Certainly more important than respecting a tiny segment of the population's weird fetish.

  • sarcasmic||

    We could declare schools to be gun free zones. That'll make it more difficult.

  • Dillinger||

    declare guns school-free to really drive it home

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Oh yeah! We could put signs up! The magical kind!

  • sarcasmic||

    Works for drugs. There aren't any drugs at schools. Should work for guns too.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>shot up on a regular basis

    miss the season opener of South Park did you?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That shit was hilarious!

  • Tony||

    Yes and you seemed to have missed the point?

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Hi NPC Tony.

  • sarcasmic||

    I finally found a Ruger Mark ii for under two hundred bucks. Wanted one for years, but I didn't want to overpay. Snatched that baby up. Taking it to the range on Sunday.

  • Bubba Jones||

    I have news but the left also hates "religious culture" and "speech culture."

  • Angelique||

    An agreement could be made if people who treat guns with respect would not provide cover for those who do not.

    Same as responsible drivers feel no sympathy for drunken drivers and dangerous drivers in general, responsible gun owners should be willing to turn on those who are not responsible.

  • Ecoli||

    I agree. If somebody commits a crime, they should be charged, tried and convicted if guilty. I thought we settled that hundreds of years ago.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    When it comes to guns, it's the anti-gun people who don't want to hold those who treat guns with respect responsible.

    Putting the responsibility entirely (or even primarily) on the human who pulled the trigger goes against the pro gun control narrative.

  • Rossami||

    Last I checked, responsible gun owners do regularly turn on those who are not responsible.

    What the responsible gun owners object to are the countless proposals to limit their rights and safety while having exactly zero effect on those who have already demonstrated their willingness to break the law.

  • Ecoli||

    I am a survivor. I survived all of the mass shootings that have occurred in my life time. I also survived all of the wars, and commie pogroms. I survived the 1968 Democratic National Convention. I survived the Obama presidency, although it was a bit dicey when they ran the fast and furious collaboration with the Mexican drug cartels.

    I attribute my survival to the bill of rights, particularly the second amendment.

    You have to believe me. I am a survivor. If it helps, I will claim that I am gender fluid tending toward sculpted femaleness, although I reserve the right to revert to my biologically determined gender at a future time if that makes me more believable.

  • Alcibiades||

    More guns, less crime.

  • HeteroPatriarch||

    The people attacking gun culture aren't real big on speech culture either.

  • vek||

    The thing about gun culture in America is that, IMO, it stems entirely from the fact that we just HAD to use and rely on guns more than people in Europe. So did Aussies and Canadians. They too had far more gun culture than France or the UK... I don't know why they cucked on stuff though. Probably the lack of 2A mostly.

    When we were going out settling the wild frontiers, you HAD TO have a gun. HAD TO. For hunting, for keeping wolves out of your cattle area, for killin' Injuns, for killin' white robbers.

    In Europe in 1850, even in rural areas, you just didn't have as much need for guns. People had them. They shot deer for kicks or food. They killed predators too. But it wasn't to the same degree. It was a necessary tool of daily life in the USA.

    IMO the main reason gun culture has died in the US (to the extend it has) is that we no longer have the practical NEED for them. People have crammed into cities where it's harder to even shoot for fun, let alone actually need to use your gun to survive. People who have no personal experience with guns are always the ones who don't get them. Urbanization is 110% what has driven anti gun sentiment to rise in the USA.

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