The Cult of American Gun Ownership Must End

A Tale of Two Gun Toters

James Finn
Aug 6 · 6 min read

Gun ownership has become an American cult

Victims are sacrificed every day at its altar. Over the weekend, mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio claimed the lives of at least 31 people. The week before, another mass shooting killed 3 children at a popular food festival in Santa Clara County, California.

Mass shootings are increasingly common

As of August 5, 2019, the Gun Violence Archive counted 255 U.S. mass shootings in the United States, defining mass shooting as incidents where four or more people were shot by one shooter.

That’s 255 mass shootings in 216 days. But the problem doesn’t stop there. Gun violence is endemic in the US.

U.S. Statistics on Gun Deaths & Injuries

(Data from National Physicians Alliance)

  • In 2010, gun violence took the lives of 31,076 Americans. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. Rates have climbed every year since.
  • 73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in 2010.
  • Firearms were the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide in 2010, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents.
  • Between 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers — less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the U.S. in an average two-year period.
  • In the first seven years of the U.S.-Iraq War, over 4,400 American soldiers were killed. Almost as many civilians are killed with guns in the U.S., however, every seven weeks.

Gun violence takes a massive toll on American children

  • An average of eight children and teens are killed by guns every day.
  • American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
  • Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1–19 in the U.S.
  • In 2007, more pre-school-aged children (85) were killed by guns than police officers were killed in the line of duty.

Americans are arming themselves to the teeth

I’ve seen incredible change with my own eyes during my lifetime. Things have changed a lot since I was a gun-owning, gun-shooting kid. Guns have turned into something of a cult among many conservative people.

People at the church in the country village where I live bring handguns into the sanctuary on Sunday. Our village hasn’t experienced a violent crime in living memory. Literally. And with a population of under 300 people, the idea that the church will become a target of violence is, to put it kindly, wildly unlikely.

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

But most of the men in the church insist that openly packing in the sanctuary is vitally important, both practically and on principle.

This is new. This is different. It’s not American tradition rooted in any sort of historic practice. Their fathers didn’t bring guns to church, nor did their grandfathers, or any of their ancestors. This new practice isn’t conservative.

It’s radical.

I sometimes get very nervous around gun owners these days, even though I grew up with guns and have a healthy, but respectful appreciation for them as tools.

I owned my first shotgun when I was 12 and my first rifle when I was 13. Let me tell you two stories about guns. In one case, I didn’t get nervous at all. In the other, I got nervous as all bloody hell.

It was a blustery Saturday morning in North Dakota. I’d been on horseback all week watching my bird dogs run in a field trial. I had a long drive ahead of me, and I stopped at a country diner for breakfast.

2010 National Field Trial Championship, personal photo

Just as a I was walking in, a pickup truck swarming with kids pulled into the parking lot. They trooped into the restaurant as I went in, maybe 9 or 10 of them from about 13 at the youngest to 18 at the oldest.

They were all camo clad in knee-high rubber boots — mostly boys, with two or three girls.

Each one of them carried a shotgun. A big 12-gauge shotgun. I watched them as they laughed, joked, chattered in excited voices with the cook, marched into a back room to store their weapons, then devoured enormous stacks of pancakes with sausage.

They’d been out duck hunting.

I gathered that their ducks were on the menu that night.

Was I nervous? Not in the least. The kids were happy, obviously not the least bit dangerous, and before they stored their weapons, they carried them carefully and respectfully, muzzles pointed at the ground.

They weren’t carrying their shotguns around for “protection” or because they hoped to foil some hypothetical bad guy.

I drove away wishing I had time to wait around for the duck roast that night.

A year or so later at the plastic recycling plant I managed, the midnight shift leader came in one night “packing.”

He had a nine millimeter holstered on his hip and a license that said he had the right to carry it. He sat at the foreman’s desk and showed off his “piece” to every worker clocking in. He canted it at various angles and let the harsh office lighting glint off the barrel’s bluing.

I wasn’t sure what I thought.

But the more he talked about how he’d “take care” of any troublemaker who might enter the plant, the more nervous I got.

Take care of a troublemaker?

We were inside double fences with locked gates. There was no history of violence at the factory. Ever. What was the gun even for? Would he feel tempted to use it if a fight broke out? Did he want people to feel intimidated by him?

It was just senseless.

The guy was apparently getting off having a powerful weapon strapped to his hip. It evidently made him feel big and tough.

His attitude made me nervous. I told him not to bring it to work again. He was offended. He thought I was wrong to restrict his “right” to bear arms. He was an American, damn it, and Americans carry guns.


Once again, not conservative. I’m not saying American factory foremen have never packed pistols before, but it’s neither normal nor traditional. Carry a gun openly to work and wear it on your hip?

Are you kidding me? That’s not conservative.

It’s radical.

I don’t want to live in a world where a casual dispute or tussle can turn instantly deadly because people are toting around weapons they don’t need for anything.

I don’t want to live in a world where firearms are so ordinary that obtaining one is trivial, where anyone with a beef can go on a tear and shoot up a school, a Walmart, or a club.

I’m not saying we need to stop rural people and hunters from buying shotguns. I‘m saying no to people walking around with rapid-fire assault rifles and 200-round drum magazines. I’m saying no to people walking around urban areas with automatic pistols.

The National Rifle Association say no to any kind of sensible gun regulation. Gun ownership has become a cult among conservative Americans, with no discussion of limiting arms even possible.

When I was a kid, people didn’t shoot up schools and clubs. When I was a kid, people didn’t carry automatic weapons around either. Nor did powerful lobbying organizations push for their right to do so. That’s all changed. Today, the NRA and Republican politicians fight for weapons of war to be easily and almost instantly available to just about any American.

That’s radical, and it has to change. The cult of gun ownership must end.

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

James Finn

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot.

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

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