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American gun culture is based on frontier mythology – but ignores how common gun restrictions were in the Old West

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By Pierre M. Atlas
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Of course there were gun restrictions in the Old West. Buster Scruggs had to leave his gun at the door of the saloon and did not mind as long as everyone else was similarly disadvantaged.

But these restrictions were often violated. That is why Joe was able to draw and point at Buster Scruggs to force him to play the dead mans hand.

This is an important point that this ‘opinion piece’ does not cover. That if one outlaw violates the gun restrictions every law abiding person is put at a disadvantage.

As they say - If guns are outlawed only outlaws will own guns.

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

in the "Wild West," guns were common, but once cities came along, guns could not be carried within the city limits.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

America is a guns country. They never give up/change guns culture. Tragedies never end as long as guns are there.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

About 21,000 people were killed by guns in the USA in 2021, not counting suicides, about as many civilians as have been killed in the first four months of Putin's war against Ukraine.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

The solution would be to ban all movies, dramas and anime with guns.

It's the responsible thing to do.

Rainbows, unicorns and pumpkin spice, YES! Guns, NO!

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

My analysis finds that gun culture in the U.S. derives largely from its frontier past and the mythology of the “Wild West,” which romanticizes guns, outlaws, rugged individualism and the inevitability of gun violence. This culture ignores the fact that gun control was widespread and common in the Old West.

Well, then your analysis contradicts other studies that show gun culture in the US os a leftover of the UK gun culture dating back to the pre-colonial period.

 “Guns were widespread on the frontier, but so was gun regulation. … Wild West lawmen took gun control seriously and frequently arrested people who violated their town’s gun control laws.”

Absolutely more gun laws on the books today than in the Wild West period.

In 2020, 44% of American households reported owning at least one firearm. According to the 2018 international study Small Arms Survey, there were approximately 393 million firearms in civilian hands in the U.S., or 120.5 firearms per 100 people. 

Incredible how few acts of gun violence are committed with such a huge proliferation of firearms along eith a large number of non-law abiding people.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

To have a pistol in Texas, a person used to have to get permission from a judge.

Remember people, toasters don't toast toast, toast toasts toast.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Gun ownership varies by state. The highest rates of gun ownership are in states that have higher rates of hunters. Highest rates being Wyoming, Montana, Alaska etc. The converse is true as well. Lowest rates are in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island etc where there are fewer hunters per capita. This is just a data point. As far as the fascination goes, to an extent every person's or culture's ethos is based on myth..

0 ( +5 / -5 )

A land where guns have rights but not little school children.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

@Kwatt

Tragedies never end as long as guns are there

There are countless tragedies that have happened recently where guns weren't used or involved.

The 9-11 high jacking of an aircraft with box cutters is just one example.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

Well, then your analysis contradicts other studies that show gun culture in the US os a leftover of the UK gun culture dating back to the pre-colonial period.

As, I suppose, the gun cultures in all present and former British colonies. The quote was "...derives largely..." as opposed to in full. But can you link to your other studies? I'd like to read them.

Incredible how few acts of gun violence are committed with such a huge proliferation of firearms along eith a large number of non-law abiding people.

How many guns do you need to hold up a liquor store or shoot at parade-goers from a rooftop?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Jeans and T-shirtToday  01:35 pm JST

As, I suppose, the gun cultures in all present and former British colonies. The quote was "...derives largely..." as opposed to in full. But can you link to your other studies? I'd like to read them. 

Well, if US gun culture comes from the UK, then "deriving largely" would be a contradiction anyway. I am from the US, and can tell you gun culture is not based in frontier mythology in at least the 30 states with which I am thoroughly familiar with.

But sure, will look up the link.

How many guns do you need to hold up a liquor store or shoot at parade-goers from a rooftop?

The answer to the first part of your question could be zero, because you can hold up a liquor store with a knife, a brown paper bag with just one's hand inside pretending to hold a weapon. And to shoot from a rooftop, I would say you only need one criminal.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

RedstormToday  11:45 am JST

A land where guns have rights but not little school children.

Where is such land? Very interested.

Not in America, you must be acknowledging, because inanimate objects such as guns do not have rights, while living beings such as children do.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

Well, if US gun culture comes from the UK, then "deriving largely" would be a contradiction anyway. I am from the US, and can tell you gun culture is not based in frontier mythology in at least the 30 states with which I am thoroughly familiar with.

"If" it does, but as far as I know, the Brits were hell bent on preventing firearms from reaching the colonies in America.

"King George III of England) and others sought to prevent arms from coming to America."

"The British government required a permit to export arms from Great Britain to America – at the time the 13 Colonies. The British government simply did not issue ANY permits to export arms to America, effectively creating a gun ban in America."

www.netadvisor.org/2019/09/22/some-key-points-to-how-british-gun-control-launched-the-american-revolution/

I am from the US, and can tell you gun culture is not based in frontier mythology in at least the 30 states with which I am thoroughly familiar with.

Anecdotes aren't evidence but I'll take your word for it.

The answer to the first part of your question could be zero, because you can hold up a liquor store with a knife, a brown paper bag with just one's hand inside pretending to hold a weapon. And to shoot from a rooftop, I would say you only need one criminal.

We playing dodgeball now?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Well, if US gun culture comes from the UK, then "deriving largely" would be a contradiction anyway

No, modern American gun culture has certainly evolved and changed in the last 200 years. For one thing, now black people are allowed to own guns. Also, Constitution era America had gun regulations that would be unheard of in the states now, such as firearm inspection and registration. Do you know how time works?

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Jeans and T-shirtToday  02:11 pm JST

No, modern American gun culture has certainly evolved and changed in the last 200 years. For one thing, now black people are allowed to own guns. Also, Constitution era America had gun regulations that would be unheard of in the states now, such as firearm inspection and registration. Do you know how time works?

Oh, so you are saying the Wild West mythology doesn't work because blacks couldn't own guns; got it.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Jeans and T-shirtToday  02:07 pm JST

"The British government required a permit to export arms from Great Britain to America – at the time the 13 Colonies. The British government simply did not issue ANY permits to export arms to America, effectively creating a gun ban in America."

Well, there were American domestic manufacturers of firearms, so I guess the import permits were meaningless.

I wasn't there, but I can see how if the colonists felt threatened by the Brits, who had firearms, then they would want to produce their own; so it makes sense this aspect of culture could have begun from that.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

The American gun plague with mass shootings and gun homicides is 100% the responsibility of the country and nothing to do with Britain and its colonies or slave trade.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

The second amendment is necessary so that well regulated militias like the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers are able to overthrow the government when they don't like the results of an election. It's right there in the constitution.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Oh, so you are saying the Wild West mythology doesn't work because blacks couldn't own guns; got it.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a classic example of a straw man. I gave that as an example of how gun culture changes over time, time being a concept you seem unable to grasp.

Well, there were American domestic manufacturers of firearms, so I guess the import permits were meaningless.

So nothing to do with the Brits, then. I see.

I wasn't there, but I can see how if the colonists felt threatened by the Brits, who had firearms, then they would want to produce their own; so it makes sense this aspect of culture could have begun from that.

Or, you know, to make money. That is definitely one of the driving forces behind the US' moronic gun culture.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I wasn't there, but I can see how if the colonists felt threatened by the Brits, who had firearms, then they would want to produce their own; so it makes sense this aspect of culture could have begun from that.

Firearm production being very important to the frontier. Winchester and Mr Colt did 'win the west' as they say. Oh, is that another example of the Wild West mythology informing modern gun culture? Oops.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

About 21,000 people were killed by guns in the USA in 2021, not counting suicides, about as many civilians as have been killed in the first four months of Putin's war against Ukraine.

Nope, there have been way more killed in four months in Putin's invasion. When both sides are included the figure could be as high as 100,000 or more.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a classic example of a straw man. I gave that as an example of how gun culture changes over time, time being a concept you seem unable to grasp.

Oh, you can bring up British colonialism was 200 years ago, and blacks in America are now allowed to own guns, as a way to deny the British influence or whatever, but I can't bring up the Wild West being about 150 years ago, and blacks being able to own guns now as a way to deny that influence?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we bring the argument back to point.

So nothing to do with the Brits, then. I see.

Colonialists in a British colony, governed by gun-toting Brits who, according to you, cannot import firearms, resort to manufacturing their own?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a classic example of a straw man.

Or, you know, to make money. That is definitely one of the driving forces behind the US' moronic gun culture.

Interestingly, the UK firearms industry was very much money motivated.

Look--another common aspect of UK culture seeping into the US.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Jeans and T-shirtToday  02:36 pm JST

Firearm production being very important to the frontier. Winchester and Mr Colt did 'win the west' as they say. Oh, is that another example of the Wild West mythology informing modern gun culture? Oops.

Winchester and Mr Colt manufacturing firearms domestically; a practice that began during colonial times.

It looks like that aspect of British influence was still predominant during the Wild West.

Ooops!

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

The problem is that America is trying to create a stable society, with a constitution that ensconces the right of the people to destabilize civilization by overthrowing the government with their constitutional right to bear arms in order to be able to do so.

These two things are fundamentally at odds. If you provide the right to overthrow society, you remove the security provided by society. This is an irreconcilable conflict.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Oh, you can bring up British colonialism was 200 years ago, and blacks in America are now allowed to own guns, as a way to deny the British influence or whatever, but I can't bring up the Wild West being about 150 years ago, and blacks being able to own guns now as a way to deny that influence?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we bring the argument back to point.

Things changing over time means they can be influenced by different things. The point being, modern gun culture "derives largely" (the phrase you take issue with) from Wild West mythology, leaving room for other influences, such as pre-Colonial Britain. Although I've proved that that didn't have as much of an influence as you say it did.

Colonialists in a British colony, governed by gun-toting Brits who, according to you, cannot import firearms, resort to manufacturing their own?

Americans who couldn't buy or import firearms stole or made them. Or bought them from France, Spain, Portugal and Sweden. Yeah, Brits had a pretty small role in arming the Colonists. Or, are we going to say that France had a bigger influence on American gun culture than...America?

Interestingly, the UK firearms industry was very much money motivated.

Look--another common aspect of UK culture seeping into the US.

All industry is money motivated. That certainly didn't start with the British. What a weak argument.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Winchester and Mr Colt manufacturing firearms domestically; a practice that began during colonial times.

It looks like that aspect of British influence was still predominant during the Wild West.

I'm sure domestic firearm production started well before Colonial times. How far do you want to go? Gunpowder was invented in China. I suppose China had the most influence on American gun culture, then.

We are talking about the Wild West mythology. Is Samuel Colt's "Gun that Won the West" not part of that?

I am from the US, and can tell you gun culture is not based in frontier mythology in at least the 30 states with which I am thoroughly familiar with.

No one in any of those 30 states watched a Western movie, TV show or read a Western novel?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Jeans and T-shirtToday  03:47 pm JST

Things changing over time means they can be influenced by different things. The point being, modern gun culture "derives largely" (the phrase you take issue with) from Wild West mythology, leaving room for other influences, such as pre-Colonial Britain. Although I've proved that that didn't have as much of an influence as you say it did.

DIdn't prove anything and sticking to the "derives largely" argument doesn't work because it derives largely from colonial times. As I and others proved.

What’s interesting is in this 18th-century period, when guns were being manufactured in enormous quantities and sold all over the world, one of the reasons that they’re sold all over the world is because British gun-makers don’t have a really big market in Britain itself.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/04/where-americas-gun-culture-comes-from.html

Americans who couldn't buy or import firearms stole or made them.

As I noted, they manufactured them. And you noted because import permits were forbidden or something.

Or bought them from France, Spain, Portugal and Sweden.

Wait--you made the big deal of firearms not being able to be imported into America, and now all of a sudden they are importing them from everyone and their sister in Europe!

Yeah, Brits had a pretty small role in arming the Colonists.

Oh--a new argument; ok, gave up with gun culture "being based on" or "influenced by".

Or, are we going to say that France had a bigger influence on American gun culture than...America?

Don't know--are you going to present an entirely new issue again????

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

Wait--you made the big deal of firearms not being able to be imported into America, 

From Britain. Keep up. Or are you straw manning again.

DIdn't prove anything and sticking to the "derives largely" argument doesn't work because it derives largely from colonial times

Oh, you don't know what 'largely' means. Now I get it.

Yeah, Brits had a pretty small role in arming the Colonists.

Oh--a new argument; ok, gave up with gun culture "being based on" or "influenced by".

Um, having a role in, being based on, and influencing are the same thing.

Basically your argument boils down to: Colonial was earlier than Frontier so everything is Colonial. I wonder if that's why entertainment based on the Wild West is far more numerous and popular than that based on Colonial America.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

But sure, will look up the link.

Still waiting. Your slate article established one possible area, gun sales - which isn't particularly "culture" related, and as stated in the article, not specific to the States, but also negated another, that Brits were supposedly heavily armed. Which is very pertinent in a discussion about modern American gun culture. What else you got?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

From Britain. Keep up. Or are you straw manning again.

Oh, changing the argument again to fit your claim.

Oh, you don't know what 'largely' means. Now I get it

Not in the way you're using it.

Basically your argument boils down to: Colonial was earlier than Frontier so everything is Colonial. I wonder if that's why entertainment based on the Wild West is far more numerous and popular than that based on Colonial America.

You gotta stay on topic, as I have. So back to the point I am arguing:

 gun culture in the US os a leftover of the UK gun culture dating back to the pre-colonial period.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

The gun homicide mass shootings are very much an American one. Just compare it with gun violence in the UK, America is off the charts. More than 200 mass shootings just his year, it's only July.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

From Britain. Keep up. Or are you straw manning again.

Oh, changing the argument again to fit your claim

The British government required a permit to export arms from Great Britain to America – at the time the 13 Colonies. The British government simply did not issue ANY permits to export arms to America, effectively creating a gun ban in America."

Yeah, nice try.

gun culture in the US os a leftover of the UK gun culture dating back to the pre-colonial period.

Which I've demonstrated to be false, as, as your article states, pre-Colonial Britain didn't have much of a gun culture. British civilians were mostly unarmed. Their Bill of Rights allowed for any kind of gun control they wanted.

Sales and industry? That can be applied to any culture, anywhere, at any time.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Jeans and T-shirtToday  04:59 pm JST

Which I've demonstrated to be false, as, as your article states, pre-Colonial Britain didn't have much of a gun culture. British civilians were mostly unarmed. Their Bill of Rights allowed for any kind of gun control they wanted.

Sales and industry? That can be applied to any culture, anywhere, at any time.

No, you didn't.

And back to my original point, if you can stay on it.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Not in the way you're using it.

Fair enough. It's closer to 100% than I thought it was. My bad. We just disagree on from which element, pre-Colonial Britain or Wild West Mythology - i.e. the false ideas about the Wild West portrayed in media and entertainment - modern American gun culture derives from more.

I don't think the fact that Britain wanted to sell guns in America contributes more than the thousands of movies, tv shows and books about the frontier did to modern American society. Thanks for the discussion. You make some good points.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

The British army did not use guns until 1776. The first British rifle was the Baker rifle made in 1800. America was formed in 1776 and Britain gave up its 13 colonies. All were located on the east coast.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

And back to my original point, if you can stay on it

I will do it again:

Remember, this was your main point, as you said: *gun culture in the US os a leftover of the UK gun culture dating back to the pre-colonial period.*

"Which I've demonstrated to be false, as, as your article states, pre-Colonial Britain didn't have much of a gun culture. British civilians were mostly unarmed. Their Bill of Rights allowed for any kind of gun control they wanted."

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Gun culture in the US can be divided into two distinct groups...

Responsible firearms owners, which I am a member, who own their weapons for lawful recreational activities; hunting, shooting competitions, etc. We believe that firearms are dangerous instruments that should be controlled with common-sense measures. In that sense, these US firearm owners are not much different from those in other countries...

Then you have the gun fascists. They own their guns for only one reason - it gives them a sense of power. They are mostly under-educated, insecure, scared, driven by fear, and easily manipulated and outraged. These are the folks that want everyone in the US to have concealed carry with no background check or training. So when you have a fender bender or someone refuses to move over on the sidewalk, you can resolve that confrontation with your Glock...

For them, it's not about 2nd Amendment rights - it's about power and self-worth...

And they are destroying America...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It is a American legal right to protect themselves from rioting slaves. Then they had the War of Independence and change that law and the wording into a constitution right and call it the 2nd Amendment.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

lincolnmanToday  05:40 pm JST

Gun culture in the US can be divided into two distinct groups...

You are missing the ONE distinct group that is, as you are saying,

destroying America...*

The people accessing firearms and committing crimes; i.e., criminals.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

gun culture in the US os a leftover of the UK gun culture dating back to the pre-colonial period

It's too bad the native American Indians could not have access to guns to defend themselves against the white Europeans. Also, Trump people back then used guns to keep the slaves in control.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Responsible firearms owners, which I am a member, who own their weapons for lawful recreational activities; hunting, shooting competitions, etc. We believe that firearms are dangerous instruments that should be controlled with common-sense measures. In that sense, these US firearm owners are not much different from those in other countries...

I agree with the exception there are millions of farm owners like myself don’t want the Federal government anywhere telling me what I can and cannot own especially when I am law-abiding

Then you have the gun fascists. They own their guns for only one reason - it gives them a sense of power. They are mostly under-educated, insecure, scared, driven by fear, and easily manipulated and outraged.

That is not necessarily true.

These are the folks that want everyone in the US to have concealed carry with no background check or training.

You wouldn’t know that because there are no stats that quantify as to how many would or would not support it especially in rural areas.

So when you have a fender bender or someone refuses to move over on the sidewalk, you can resolve that confrontation with your Glock...

Which doesn’t happen often

For them, it's not about 2nd Amendment rights - it's about power and self-worth...

Well, you don’t know that verbatim

And they are destroying America...

No, what’s destroying America are the liberal leftist policies that are making it harder for people to defend themselves and by limiting the powers of the police and the less police you have, the more crime will be on the rise and more people have less option except to protect themselves and that’s why gun sales are up.

https://www.personaldefenseworld.com/2020/08/black-gun-ownership-defunding-police/

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Responsible firearms owners, which I am a member, who own their weapons for lawful recreational activities; hunting, shooting competitions, etc. We believe that firearms are dangerous instruments that should be controlled with common-sense measures. In that sense, these US firearm owners are not much different from those in other countries...

I agree with the exception there are millions of farm owners like myself don’t want the Federal government anywhere telling me what I can and cannot own especially when I am law-abiding

Sorry, you're not a member of this group - keep reading....

Then you have the gun fascists. They own their guns for only one reason - it gives them a sense of power. They are mostly under-educated, insecure, scared, driven by fear, and easily manipulated and outraged.

That is not necessarily true.

BINGO! Your group...

These are the folks that want everyone in the US to have concealed carry with no background check or training.

You wouldn’t know that because there are no stats that quantify as to how many would or would not support it especially in rural areas.

Bunk. Ohio just passed a concealed carry law with no training or background check.

So when you have a fender bender or someone refuses to move over on the sidewalk, you can resolve that confrontation with your Glock...

Which doesn’t happen often

It shouldn't happen at all - but does - and will increase with these lax laws...

For them, it's not about 2nd Amendment rights - it's about power and self-worth...

Well, you don’t know that verbatim

It's obvious - and you've admitted it in many of your posts.

And they are destroying America...

No,

Yes...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I agree with the exception there are millions of farm owners like myself don’t want the Federal government anywhere telling me what I can and cannot own especially when I am law-abiding

Exactly and on my large Texas farm I keep the wild pigs under control with my M134 mounted on my pickup truck. My son drives and I shoot and the best time to pick them off is at night. M134 beats the AR any day for taking care of wild pigs.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Look, he made a funny.

Can you be specific? What is funny about 2A and We the People

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Can you be specific?

Sure, you don’t “pick them off” with a rotary machine gun. Now if you had made your funny using a sniper rifle, then that fits. I do find it interesting that you chose a US NATO weapon.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

 I do find it interesting that you chose a US NATO weapon.

What's wrong with that?

you don’t “pick them off”

Yes, you do. I pick "them" off by the group with this powerful gun. What's the problem. When there are a bunch of pigs together that rapid fire gets all of them at once. It works well and the AR is a child's toy as I mentioned.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

nishikatToday  07:30 am JST

It's too bad the native American Indians could not have access to guns to defend themselves against the white Europeans.

Agree--the Brits, French, Dutch--all took advantage of the poorly armed American Indians.

Also, Trump people back then used guns to keep the slaves in control.

Lost me with this one. It was the Brits who instituted the guns and slavery culture in America---was Trump part of British Royalty?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

It was the Brits who instituted the guns and slavery culture in America---was Trump part of British Royalty?

We no longer have Dem vs. Republican. It's Hillary people and Trump people. Lincoln would be a Hillary person and Jefferson Davis would be a Trump person.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I wasn't there, but I can see how if the colonists felt threatened by the Brits, who had firearms, then they would want to produce their own; so it makes sense this aspect of culture could have begun from that.

Why are you speculating? You said you had studies. Link to them.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Express sisterToday  12:18 pm JST

Why are you speculating?

Why not? You disagree with that premise? The Ukraine is begging the world for weapons, as it is outgunned by Russia.

You think it is not an accurate assumption that the colonists, who were not able to import legally firearms, would resort to manufacturing their own, as they feel increasingly repressed by their British rulers?

You said you had studies. Link to them.

Sure will.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

as they feel increasingly repressed by their British rulers?

The American revolution was stupid. Proof: Look at NZ, Canada, and Australia. Was it really worth losing your legs or even your life over........drum roll......TAXES?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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