Gun culture in the US explained — Washington Wednesday
Similar to apple pie, hot dogs, and baseball, guns have become engrained in the psyche and culture of modern-day America. In 2016, the number of guns per 100 residents reached 112. Simple mathematics will tell you that the total number of guns circulating the United States right now is more than the population. Close competition from other countries maybe? No. Yemen is ranked second with 54, less than half. So the question arises: “Why are guns everywhere in the US?” Well, I am going to attempt to elucidate a few matters and emphasize some key variables that arguably created the contemporary culture.
The four biggest arms producers in the US depended heavily on international exports for their very survival. Smith & Wesson’s contract with the Russian Empire in the 1870’s allowed the company to cover costs and maintain its existence. Americans at this point are not focussing on guns as consumer goods. The idea that the gun culture is as old as American history is frankly misleading.
The phase of western conquest had come to an end, and urbanization was becoming a profound force. In the early 1900’s is when the tone of the gun industry changed, in line with what it is today. Guns were treated as any other product; they were heavily marketed, innovated every few years, and cleverly sold. Winchester executives were a driving force approaching the gun market in two ways: sell people an object of luxury and sell people a key to “manhood.” The market flipped. It went from consumers who needed guns but did not necessarily want them to customers who wanted guns but did not necessarily need them.
Unregulated private gun commerce in the 1920’s and 1930’s in my mind allowed the culture to become so large and forceful that there may never be a chance to impose proper controls without serious resistance from gun owners. The reason it was allowed to flow so freely was the belief that if private gun businesses could not find markets in peacetime, they would not be ready to produce for the public in war-time.
In short, the culture that exists today is a result of two profound forces: smart marketing and lack of legislation. These forces were able to create the traction in the market in the early 1900’s and ultimately formed the foundation of the current gun-craze.