The Left Just Doesn't Get Gun Culture

One of the more shocking moments in my abrupt transition from the New England coast to a perennial Red State came when I was introduced to how a new friend had received his name. Remington, as he affectionately told me, was named after "granddaddy's shotgun,” an object which had apparently inspired some strange reverence that I, the tweed-loving yankee, could not understand. 

And who could? Naming your child after an inanimate object, even the family heirloom, seems absurd. Guns, at their best, are tools. My friend may as well have been named after Great Auntie's shovel, or Uncle John's pruning shears, as far as I was concerned. The rest of my family had a similar awakening to gun culture during a Sunday morning service at a conservative, Baptist Church in Appalachia. Conservative enough that the Pastor kindly asked the congregation to, in the event of a gunman entering the sanctuary, "please don't all start shooting at once." 

This idea was totally foreign to me. It isn't as if I had never known anyone who owned a gun. On the contrary, I had friends in the Northeast who shot pheasant, turkey, and deer quite often. But that's a far cry from the gun culture of middle and southern America, a culture which most coastal American's haven't scratched the surface of understanding. 

When people talk about guns, it's often saturated in the language of individual rights—personal responsibility, self preservation, or home defense. But there is a distinctly communal aspect to a large portion of a church carrying a pistol that goes mostly unmentioned in the gun debate. Although individual liberty serves as the philosophical grounding for many American's gun ownership, it is only a community entirely devoted to the concept of bearing arms that warrants naming your son after the family shotgun, and prompts you to assume that a significant portion of the churchgoers have some type of handgun in their waistband or purse. 

This is a meaningful departure from the experience of liberal Americans living on the coasts, and a cautionary tale for those pushing certain gun control measures. After the mass shootings this past weekend, most of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls have promised sweeping legislation to outlaw assault rifles, ban all semi automatic weapons, or introduce massive gun buyback programs. The functional inefficacy of these proposals cannot be understated. 

The candidates should understand what they're up against, and what such programs would take. Liberals know the strength that culture and community hold over individuals in virtually every other circumstance, ("it takes a village", remember?) yet, in their firearm policy prescriptions, they dismiss it, as if with the wag of a finger they can change the minds of millions of gun owners. 

The man who names his son after grandaddy's shotgun is not going to willingly give back grandaddy's shotgun, no matter how much you offer to pay him for it, and even if owning it is illegal. The churchgoer in the congregation that concealed carries won't care that their Glock holds fifteen rounds when the state limit is nine. The left ought not to pretend that broad gun control would be easy, and they ought not to insinuate that many of the recent proposals could be done without a massive use of force. In reality, the solutions are much more complex than that, and understanding gun ownership as both an individual choice and a cultural institution is an important first step towards determining effective policy.