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    Understanding Guns in America: Introduction

    January 15, 2013 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap]’ve had two topics on my mind lately: Latin, and gun ownership. {No, they do not have anything to do with one another.} The former I already dealt with in one lengthy post, but the latter topic I plan to cover over a few days or even a couple weeks, as I have time. Obviously, there is a debate raging over whether Americans should be “allowed” to own guns, and though this debate comes up time and again, I feel compelled to contribute to the conversation in a way I haven’t before.

    As in: out loud and in print.

    Ahem.

    Facebook is an interesting place, and not only that, it’s a place I haven’t spent much time until this past year. What has been especially fascinating to me is the discussions between people from the United States and people from other countries, especially Western nations that ban all or most gun ownership, such as Great Britain.

    One family friend of ours was taken quite to task by his friends from the UK, who liberally sprinkled their arguments with the assertion that our {we Americans, I mean} insistence on owning guns is “stupid,” “silly,” and “dumb.” Now, though the logic behind these statements is hard to locate, I’d like to suggest that this is a sign that we have officially reached a cultural barrier. At least some of the people in other cultures are completely baffled by Americans in this area. {A few people in New England and San Francisco are, too, but I digress.}

    I’m not much for multiculturalism, and I do not think that all cultures are created equal. Therefore, I think debates like this can be quite healthy to have. I also enjoy talking to people who don’t agree with me; I think it is fun and I like being forced to think harder.

    With that said, I want to explain this series of posts. In a sentence, this is my attempt to explain why I think Americans own guns, value owning guns, and are unwilling to give up owning guns. I don’t expect all of you {not even all of you Americans} to agree, and I don’t expect to change your minds. I’m pretty sure that whatever you think about guns is what you will still think about guns when I’m done writing.

    However, comma.

    I hope that this endeavor of mine fosters an understanding that though our President likes to paint those of us who own guns as ignorant backwoodsmen clinging desperately to our barbaric “guns and religion,” there is a lot more to the issue than meets the eye. If we were to suddenly change our cultural minds about guns, it would actually mean we were changing our cultural minds about a lot of things.

    Richard Weaver told us ideas have consequences, and he was right. We — I mean Americans here, not just my personal family — own guns not because we want to kill and eat an antelope, or shoot a bad guy who tries to steal our stuff, though those are certainly ancillary benefits. We own guns because of how we have defined ourselves as a people and what we think about big things, like how government is structured, and what it means to be a free citizen of a Republic. These are the types of ideas that I hope to explore in coming posts, and I think they are important for all Americans to think about, whether they choose to own a gun or not.


    Read the Understanding Guns in America Series:
    Introduction ⇦ you are here
    The Noise that Made the Redcoats Run
    Our Inherited Rights as Free Englishmen
    Natural Rights and Legal Rights
    James Madison’s Angel Problem
    On Amendments and Ratification
    Res Publica, the Nature of a Republic

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    39 Comments

  • Reply amy in peru January 17, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    one of the things i think most amazing is that our American president doesn’t *seem* to understand two things that many would consider inherently American, “guns and religion”, let alone rights and freedom… maybe he’s just fooling… or maybe i just don’t understand him.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 17, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      He either doesn’t understand it, or he simply doesn’t respect it. Or possibly a little bit of both.

      I think that being raised in an anti-American family probably didn’t help. He doesn’t appear to have any faith background to speak of, and spent many of his formative years in another country. I think he’s probably the first American president that had a distinctly non-American upbringing.

    • Reply Anthea in UK January 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      He … spent many of his formative years in another country. I think he’s probably the first American president that had a distinctly non-American upbringing.

      … And that’s a bad thing?

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      Not necessarily. John Quincy Adams was similar, and yet a wonderful president. But Adams’ upbringing was still American and he was taught to be respectful of Western thought. Our current president does not seem to think like an American. This sort of frustration has been experienced in your country, such as when the English suffered under French kings, or a German king at least once–there was a disconnect between the people and their leader, a lack of understanding. I think it is doubtful that he was ever taught to love his country, a dangerous thing in a leader, because it is only from love that we will do or even try to do what is good for it.

    • Reply Anthea in UK January 22, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      It was rough under the Normans, but I think it’s a bit much to equate Mr Obama with William the Conqueror!

      If I’d been in your shoes, I don’t think I’d have voted for either one of the two major-party candidates. But Barack Obama is your head of state now, and I was led to believe that the office of President conferred some sort of respect, so that personal attacks fade away once the fuss of an election fight has died down.

      Mr Obama is brutally pro-abortion, and has other failings, too. Much of the talk on the radio today has been about how he glossed over the economic problems in his latest Inaugural address. So he’s not going to win everyone over, that’s for certain.

      However, this questioning of his national loyalty, and in some cases his very nationality, is very strange to me. There are vague accusations in your comments about his background and upbringing — can it really be because he had the temerity to have an African father? Because his mother had a boho travelling lifestyle? Is it because his policies are ones you don’t like? None of those things make you un-American or unpatriotic. Has he actually openly expressed anti-American traitorous comments? (Now that would be a hanging offence!)

      You know, all that stuff about him being asked to present his birth certificate, it didn’t look great — rather unseemly. You can tell he wasn’t British, that’s for sure. Anyone who dared to ask any PM to do that would be sent away with some choice Anglo-Saxon words! Latinate ones just won’t do when you want to pack a punch!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 22, 2013 at 9:11 pm

      “Anyone who dared to ask any PM to do that would be sent away with some choice Anglo-Saxon words! Latinate ones just won’t do when you want to pack a punch!”

      You make me laugh, Anthea! 🙂

      My comment was only in reference to why President Obama does not seem to understand Americans and the American mindset. I’m not saying this disqualifies him for the office, and obviously other Americans disagree with me, or he wouldn’t have won reelection. 🙂

    • Reply Anthea January 22, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      Thank you for your reply, especially at a busy time of day — I think it’s dinner/bath/bedtime in the US right now.

    • Reply Phyllis January 23, 2013 at 7:43 am

      He seems to understand at least the majority who elected him. 😉 I don’t follow the non-American line of thought, either. I don’t agree with him at all, and of course I wouldn’t have voted for him, but I don’t see how he’s anti-American. I echo Anthea.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      I mean his upbringing was anti-American in the sense that it was philosophically against traditional American thought. I could point to a lot of examples, but I think the most obvious would be that his grandfather believed that he needed a mentor, and chose Frank Marshall Davis, a huge communist in his day. I mean, obviously the time he spent with revolutionaries is concerning, as well as his statements while he was a professor that there were fundamental flaws with the Constitution, most notably the limits on power. But here I was referring to his socialist/communist upbringing, specifically by his mother and grandparents. A lot of folks try to point to the socialist writings of his father {like this } but it is my understanding he wasn’t really raised by his father, so the influence there was likely negligible.

      By the way, it is okay for you to disagree with me. I’ve been wrong before. 🙂

    • Reply Rahime January 25, 2013 at 9:19 am

      I agree that his upbringing did seem to be very anti-American.

      After reading “his” books, I also had the impression that he was fairly anti-Western. I think he go this mainly from his mother and her family (clearly, since his father was absent throughout his childhood). Even his Indonesian step-father seemed to be more pro-Western than his mother. Strangely, he really downplayed, in his books, the relationship with his mother and really focused on his history as it related to his father.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 25, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      I have read that the divorce from his step-father was because he had betrayed their socialist/communist leanings by becoming successful in business, but I don’t know how true that is.

  • Reply Rahime January 16, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Sounds like a fun conversation. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 16, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      Yes I need photos of your pink gun as Exhibit A, please. 😉

    • Reply Rahime January 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm

      I love my pink gun. I wish I had time to play with it more often. 🙂

  • Reply HKB January 16, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Brandy, you’re so brave!

    As an Aussie now living in the U.S. (15 years) I can see both sides. It is tough to communicate with a cultural barrier between, but I bet you’ll do it well.

  • Reply Anonymous January 16, 2013 at 3:06 am

    All cultures are not equal. According to F.A. Hyeck it wasn’t an accident that Western Civilization reigned supreme, of course that includes the U.K. It is not an accident that Muslim countries live in the 16th century and haven’t contributed to our standard of living. Yes I know that much math is ttributred to them but if you do the research it was’nt until they conquered some of India where they found the math guru’s and then the contribution was made. Western civilization gave us the concept of freedom which still doesn’t exist in many areas of the world even today but our founding fathers gave us the 2nd admendment as a way to enforce THAT FREEDOM. Without the Bill Of Rights our Constitution would never have been passed and the deleteion of those rights make the Constitution null and void.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 16, 2013 at 3:54 am

      Now, now Anonymous…don’t jump the GUN on this series. We’ll get to the Bill of Rights eventually. 🙂

    • Reply Jeanne January 16, 2013 at 4:09 am

      Why does deleting the second amendment make the whole Constitution any the less? I hope you’ll cover this later, Brandy. To me deleting a clause that is obsolete or deleterious makes the whole stronger, not weaker. This is fascinating already!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 16, 2013 at 5:49 am

      I could answer this right now, but I think it is better done in a post I’m currently writing in my head. But Anonymous is correct that there is a sense in which tampering with the Bill of Rights nullifies the entire document…I’ll try to explain! 🙂

    • Reply Mystie January 16, 2013 at 6:29 am

      And here I thought Anonymous was *always* joking. 😉

      I’m looking forward to this, Brandy! Good for – and brave of – you!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 16, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Perhaps Anonymous lost his sense of humor last night. His high blood pressure has been bothering him, I suppose. That’d make me grumpy, too. 😉

      I don’t know if I’d call me brave. Perhaps foolhardy?

  • Reply Jeanne January 16, 2013 at 12:47 am

    “I’m not much for multiculturalism, and I do not think that all cultures are created equal.”

    I find this an interesting comment, Brandy, especially when you’re talking about the UK as one of those other cultures. I’d like to hear more about your thought on this. Sometimes I really do feel that Americans believe that they are better than the rest of us. Is that what you mean here?

    I will be really interested to read your series of posts. The discussions I had with you and our mutual friend about gun control on FB were the most beneficial I’ve ever had. I respect you both as highly intelligent Christian ladies with whom I have much in common. Except guns, of course. I also loved it that we were able to ‘keep ourselves nice’. I do hope your commenters here are able to do the same.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 16, 2013 at 2:00 am

      I don’t think that America has the corner on culture, if that is what you were afraid I meant. 🙂 What I *do* mean–and I’m not sure if I phrased it quite right–is that because all cultures are not equal–and because some aspects of my culture might be superior to yours *as well as* some aspects of yours to mine, for example–these sorts of conversations can have a real value in an iron-sharpening-iron sort of way.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 16, 2013 at 2:41 am

      Goodness! I’m now obsessing over that sentence and wish I’d left it out. You know why? Because, first of all, I think it makes it sound as if I think that *everything* in culture is an absolute, and it isn’t. There are basic universal principles against which all of our cultures ought to be judged, but then they is also the wonderful variety that God has made and I think when Scripture says the nations will bow to Him in the end, those are unique, wonderful nations, all expressing the variety of God’s creativity.

      Also, I know there is opinion. I personally *love* the Republic. But God’s kingdom is just that: a kingdom. So I am hard pressed to say that a republic is objectively superior to a kingdom, if that makes sense.

      Drat. I am literally going to think about this all night!

    • Reply Jeanne January 16, 2013 at 4:06 am

      I’m thinking about it too. Melbourne where I live is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. I have always thought of that as a wonderful thing. We can have the best of so many places without leaving home – great cuisine, great music, great arts… But you see, I am looking at the best of each culture, where I think you are looking at the worst. I do not like it at all when immigrants refuse to give up the parts of their culture that I find unsettling. I don’t like it even Muslims want to be governed by Sharia law, for example. Then again, I don’t particularly like the idea of tribal laws for our Aborigines either! I personally love other cultures. I’m glad I was born here, but I love to visit!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 16, 2013 at 6:00 am

      Here’s where I’m going in my mind, and this may or may not help…Food, art, music–these are the trappings of culture, but not really things I would call absolute. Underlying principles whereby we might judge those things–especially the latter two–would be objective standards of beauty, rules of harmonics, etc. I’m not thinking of these sorts of things when I talk about judging a culture or say I believe that one culture can be superior to another. I’m thinking more about the intangible aspects of a culture–what value do they place upon life? How do they define justice? Liberty? Freedom? Governance? I’m not saying that I personally am qualified to make those judgment calls–I don’t consider myself well read or well thought enough to do that! But I like to think about them, and I think we are all improved by a conversation about ideals.

      Which has very little to do with guns, but it’s an interesting topic. 🙂

      Just to clarify: When I say “multiculturalism” or “multiculturalism” I do *not* mean people living near each other and appreciating each other’s different idiosyncrasies or cultural trappings or whatever. I mean the teaching that I have heard here in the United States that everything is equal in cultures, regardless of what god is served, how the government treats its people, or how citizens conduct their lives. It is the idea that there are no absolute standards whereby we can judge culture–or anything else. Essentially, it is a type of relativism that begins with culture and works out from there. So I mean here the ideology, not diversity in and of itself.

      I hope this comment comes out okay. My screen is all wonky!

    • Reply Phyllis January 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      “I mean the teaching that I have heard here in the United States that everything is equal in cultures, regardless of what god is served, how the government treats its people, or how citizens conduct their lives.”

      I’d like to hear more along these lines, please. I get the idea that it’s the other way around. Sometimes it seems like Americans think that an American-style republic (although they say democracy) is what every country in the world needs, like that’s the only right option. And I disagree with that. Of course, my thoughts here are colored by Russia. I have heard and read too many opinions saying that Russia needs an open democracy…. Oops. I’m going way off on a rabbit trail here.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 17, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      I wouldn’t wish an open democracy on any nation, personally. That system is basically based upon a Darwinian worldview that humans are constantly improving ourselves and that there are no absolutes–about man or about reality–no norms essentially, but rather change is the only constant about our existence. Pure democracy has its problems, which de Tocqueville explained wonderfully in his writings, but *open* democracy adds in a whole other element. It is chronological snobbery at its worst, trapped in the tragedy of present-tense thinking.

      With that said, multiculturalism is the teaching pushed on students by public school curriculum. Everything must be seen as equal. It matters who the teachers are, though, as far as whether children are actually receiving this instruction or not. I experienced that pressure a *lot* in my own education.

      There are definitely two schools of thought here, though. There is the “American exceptionalism” portion of our country that really thinks that we have made ourselves by virtue of our very wonderfulness {and that is probably what you have noticed}, also a dangerous thought because it, too, fails to acknowledge {1} Providence and {2} history. To say nothing of its abject pride.

      I disagree with both sides in that debate, but then again I’m a patriot, not a jingoist and not a self-loather. This is where a nice dose of the Golden Mean would come in handy.

    • Reply Rahime January 17, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      “I get the idea that it’s the other way around. Sometimes it seems like Americans think that an American-style republic (although they say democracy) is what every country in the world needs, like that’s the only right option. And I disagree with that.”

      Phyllis, I agree with you, I don’t think that a republic is the right form of government for every culture/country. I don’t think an open democracy is a good choice for anyone, least of all Russia. I do think that America’s history gave the Founding Fathers a relatively ideal ground for forming a republic. Sadly, I have heard a number of middle school *history* teachers teaching their students that a pure democracy would be better for America too. 🙁 Yikes, you’d think they’d know better.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 17, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      Rahime and Phyllis! It just dawned on me that the two of you should meet each other. Phyllis, Rahime has spent quite a bit of time in Russia, at least compare to most Americans. 🙂

    • Reply Phyllis January 18, 2013 at 6:51 am

      Fun! I just clicked on her blog link, and I already love the name of it. I’ll go read as soon as I’m done here.

      And I was getting my terms mixed up. I don’t necessarily mean “open” democracy. Whatever it is that America seems to want for Russia is what I mean. There are cries for “democracy in Russia.” I look at it, and I see that Russia has a democracy: Russian-style and still in development. It seems like what America is yelling is that they want to set up an American-style government in Russia, like that’s the only valid form of government.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      What has been interesting to me is that the type of government that has been set up by our government in other countries is *not* a republic, but democracy, which tend to be the most unstable form of government. Open or not, I’d never wish that on Russia, or anywhere else!

    • Reply Rahime January 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      One of these days I should get back to my blog. 🙁

      I’m not completely sure even a republic would be best for Russia. I can’t say I know what would though. I’ve been a bit out of touch with Russian politics for the last 10 years or so, but it does seem like it has been pretty messy.

      I think different cultures/countries have different–I’m not sure what the right word for this would be–temperaments or spirits maybe? And because of that a form of government that works well in one place or at one time might not at in another. I think that any government should respect and honor basic human rights, and some are inherently better than others (i.e. need to stay away from the extremes on the anarchy-tyranny spectrum), but beyond that I’m not sure we can say that This government or That one is best.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 18, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      You really should get back to your blog. 🙂

      I completely agree with you, Rahime. I *love* being a citizen of a republic. But I think that in one of my other comments I said–and still agree with myself 🙂 –that God’s kingdom is exactly that: a kingdom. He did not choose a republic. Because of this, even though I love a republic, I can’t elevate it and call it best because it isn’t ultimate, if that makes sense.

      I am very ignorant about Russia outside of reading a number of very long Russian novels (in English). 🙂 I don’t even know what style of government they have, or why anyone thinks it *should* be changed. Character, I think, can make up for a lot of flaws in organizational details. 🙂

  • Reply Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life January 16, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Fire away! 😉

  • Reply sara January 15, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Looking forward to the series.

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