A brief rationale on why Americans are so smitten with guns
America's love affair with guns is one of the most difficult aspects of American culture to explain to the rest of the world. As the world witnessed yet another massacre at the hands of a madman a few weeks ago, people here in Munich and the rest of Europe believed that finally the USA would look at their liberal laws for gun ownership, and begin to try and take some of these weapons off the streets. But it will not happen. America is a land of guns. Even for a more liberal, progressive president like Obama, gun ownership is one of the few areas that no politician will touch because it is so deeply ingrained on the American public.
The Constitution's 2nd Amendment is often recited by Americans, and is one of the really unique laws that make America free. It was so important for those early architects of the constitution of the USA, that the only thing that they believed was more important was the right to free speech. The reason that they saw it as so important has to do with the fact that their former oppressors, the British, and some of the laws that they used in colonial America and elsewhere on British soil.
Press ganged, or impressments, was the practice of armed gangs of men basically kidnapping young men from taverns, pubs, weddings, wherever, and putting them into service in His or Her Majesty's Royal Navy. Needless to say, most of these new sailors were in no way interested in joining this service. The term 'son of a gun' refers to when ships that had these 'drafted' sailors on them returned to port, the only way they could have a carnal encounter with a woman was between the big guns on the gun deck of a ship of the line. If the woman became pregnant with a boy, and the parentage was unsure, he was a son of a gun. America,where many men feel compelled to own at least a pistol-like the many generations before them, comprises a different sort of a son of a gun.
To stop the American government from at some point copying such draconian measures Britain had used, congress enacted this law that said all men had the 'right to bear arms', and that each state or community could and should have a 'well-regulated militia'. Many think it is past its time for such a law, but to justify it today most Americans simply look at the rise of Nazism here in Bavaria a few scant years ago, as an example of how this right to own weapons may have stopped a tyrant from taking power. Each house in essence becomes a pillbox, where the agents of such a tyrant must go from door to door. The same could be said for any invading power. They would have a hell of a fight on their hands for each family's homestead.
The final reason why Americans feel the need to own guns deals with the American psyche. In Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine", there is a scene where Brian Hugh Warner, aka Marilyn Manson, is interviewed. Mr. Warner is very articulate and perceptive in his response. He says that America is obsessed with two things, consumption and fear. We fear everything and to overcome this we consume as much as possible. To prove this, after September 11th one of the first things George W. Bush said to the American public was in order to get over our grief, and to show the world that we would not be cowed, he encouraged everyone to go shopping. The fears of a Muslim fifth column followed soon afterwards, and continue to this day.
When one looks at the statistics by the FBI on violent crime in America, violent crime is at its lowest levels in decades. The thought of an authoritarian government led by the likes of George W. Bush (some Germans even thought he might try and remain president for a third term), or Barack Obama (conspirator theory advocates have a blast with his birth certificate and 'unknown' religion) are inconceivable. Neither China nor Russia are in any hurry to wash up on America's shores, yet the fear persists. And as long as Americans are consumed with these fears, do not expect the gun laws to change very much in the foreseeable future. In fact, America being what it is, the laws may even become laxer as more and more Americans entertain the idea of buying a gun. Just in case.