Members of the great American gun culture who actively enjoyed their sport
and celebrated their firearms heritage were once considered the backbone of
America, both for their militarily valuable shooting skills and for their
patriotism. Decades of deliberate attacks by politicians and the media
have slowly relegated this important group to the status of a subculture that
now feels out of place and at war with its own government.
Prior to 1934 there were no federal gun control laws. There was only an odd
assortment of gun laws in various states and cities which were intended to
disarm racial minorities and
immigrants. As far as the federal government was concerned, anyone was free to
buy a machine gun or even a cannon, and the level of gun crime was relatively
low. Since the National Firearms Act was signed into law in 1934, the number of
gun control laws at all levels of government have multiplied exponentially. So
has the overall crime rate, which some argue is a direct result of gun control
laws that discourage self-defense.
Although none of these laws reduced crime, each new law creates another way
that a well intentioned gun owner can inadvertently end up in prison or ruined
by legal costs. Some have been killed in raids by government agents. Much like
laws passed to promote the failed war on drugs, each new gun law gives the
police additional powers that threaten basic constitutional rights.
America's lawful gun owners are painfully aware of these facts. Since gun
laws don't reduce crime, they wonder, what is the real purpose? This question
has led to numerous theories that attempt to explain why the "ruling
elite", which includes the media
and many politicians, would
want to eliminate civilian gun ownership in America.
American gun owners feel as if they are being slowly crushed. One writer
recently described this decades-long campaign as a slow motion hate crime.
Frustration has been building in the gun culture for thirty years and has
been accelerating with the faster pace of anti-gun attacks and the dramatic
improvement in communications. Stories of outrageous persecution by government
agencies now circulate like wildfire via the internet. Anti-gun bills introduced
in any legislature are instantly made known to millions. Gun owners know the
major players in the anti-gun lobby as well as they know the villains in their
Several successful novels have tapped into this frustration. The best known
Consequences" by John Ross. This popular 861 page semi-fictional work
details the noble history of the gun culture and how it has been attacked. The
hero, Henry Bowman, is a talented engineer, gifted marksman, and gun collector
who holds his temper for years in the face of growing bureaucratic oppression.
He is finally forced to kill a team of heavily armed federal firearms agents who
are planting evidence to incriminate a fellow gun collector. At this point, in
the best cowboy tradition, Bowman leads a bloody covert revolution against the
"jackbooted thugs" of the federal bureaucracy.
Ross uses the old stereotype of the American cowboy who is slow to anger and
just wants to be left alone. This highlights the way in which the old fashioned
values of the gun culture (truth, honor, tolerance, and personal responsibility)
are in conflict with our current government. He also offers a scenario that
holds great fascination for many gun owners who pass his book from hand to hand
saying, "You've got to read this book."
Some observers of this cultural war wonder why large numbers of gun owners
have not yet resorted to violence to preserve their way of life. Civil wars have
started over less. Almost every gathering of lawful gun owners has a deep
undercurrent of anger. They see each new gun law as a way to harass them and
make it more difficult for everyone except criminals
and the government to own guns. Solid, productive citizens complain bitterly
about how good people have been
arrested for unintentional violations of the myriad of gun laws. Each
wonders if he could be next.
Although this group has been involuntarily radicalized, there are several
things holding back a violent response. One is the fact that gun owners are a
very law abiding group of people. They have a deep faith in the Constitution and
are willing to give the political process a chance to balance itself. The second
is that leaders of gun rights organizations, such as the NRA, are promising
relief through the political system. The third reason is that the leaders of the
anti-gun lobby are masters of propaganda and would gleefully exploit any minor
incidents to further harm gun rights. It would take a massive wave of violent
protests to affect any positive change.
Nobody knows if, when or how this group will reach its breaking point, but
one must question the wisdom of infuriating millions of armed citizens.
Dr. Brown is an optometrist in Washington state and may be