Columbine, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Buffalo, Uvalde...where does it end?
Will America’s “frontiersman” myth spread to other societies, especially those where democracy is in trouble? Currently, there is a gun for every resident of the United States, and that is unusable. However, the tensions between Rightists and Leftists are not limited to the United States. The weakening of democratic states and the de facto failure of many societies is leading people to arm themselves worldwide, as evidenced by such horrors as the recent murders of scores of people worshiping in a church in Nigeria on June 5th. Armed militias operating with a high level of autonomy and gangs with guns are prevalent in many societies. America gaining some control over the proliferation of guns everywhere would have some impact on the spread of this phenomenon elsewhere. Conversely, the growing acceptance of mass killings and gunplay in the United States as “the price of liberty” will further green light “solving” problems via violence everywhere. Will the future be even more brutal or will the better angels of our nature start to become more prevalent?
Here are a few statistics:
Private owners in the United possess about 420,000,000 guns. That’s about 120 guns for every 100 residents. Gun owners tend to be white men without higher educational degrees. “Three-in-ten adults with a high school diploma or less (31%) and 34% of those with some college education say they own a gun; a quarter of those with a bachelor’s degree or more say the same. Among whites, about four in ten of those with a high school diploma or less (40%) or with some college (42%) are gun owners, compared with roughly a quarter of white college graduates (26%). There is no significant difference in the rate of gun ownership across educational attainment among nonwhites.
Regionally, Northeasterners stand out as the least likely to own guns: 16% of adults who live in the Northeast say they own a gun, about half the share who say this in the South (36%), Midwest (32%), and West (31%).
44 percent of Americans say that they know someone who has been shot, and another 23 percent report that a gun has been used to threaten or intimidate them or a family member. 6 in 10 Americans fear that a mass shooting will occur in their community… 53 percent of young people between the ages of 13 and 17 identified gun violence as a “major worry”—outranking all other concerns listed in the poll.
3% of American adults own a collective 133,000,000 firearms – half of America’s total gun stock. These owners have collections that range from eight to 140 guns, the 2015 study found. Their average collection: is 17 guns each.
In the two-day period between 6/3-6/5/22, at least 15 people were shot dead and more than 60 others wounded in eight states.
So, here’s a hypothesis:
There are a lot of people — with relatively uneducated white men, particularly in the South in the lead — that are scared about something and maybe angry about something as well.
Given the chaotic nature of the Anthropocene, being afraid and irritable is understandable. Many things are changing very rapidly. I remember when I was in a strange bedroom and a bat went whizzing over my head. Scared the hell out of me! There are a lot of “bats” flying around in the Anthropocene, particularly when one’s interior space is dark and bleak.
Let’s look at the dynamics of interracial marriage as an instance of rapid change that could be threatening to people with an affinity for guns.
Jack Johnson, the world boxing champion about 100 years ago. He married two white women and had affairs with others. This drove the racists nuts! One prominent Georgian Congressman compared interracial love to “the enslavement of white women.” In a frenzy of fear, 19 states quickly adopted miscegenation laws. Most were in the South. I haven’t researched the topic in any depth, but I’m confident the punishments were severe. In 1967, when miscegenation laws were overturned in the United States, only 3% of all newlyweds were married to someone of a different race or ethnicity. Since then, intermarriage rates have steadily climbed. By 1980, the share of intermarried newlyweds had about doubled to 7%. By 2015 the number had risen to 17%.
One imagines that many white men with a high school education or less living in Alabama would find this pretty upsetting. I say this because Alabama didn’t stop banning interracial marriage until 2020. According to polls taken at that time, about 65% of the nation as a totality disapproved of interracial marriage, and one suspects that would be a lot higher in places like Alabama, where the last stand against that kind of love was made.
Everyone has issues with the Anthropocene. I bet even Elon is taking antacids. The more issues you have, the more concerning the era is, the more you feel vulnerable, and the more you need protection. But, asking for protection and being vulnerable are macho no-no’s.
Nope, you need a gun.
The Pew Center’s The Demographics of Gun Ownership
“The gun numbers: just 3% of American adults own a collective 133m firearms”, The Guardian, Nov.15, 2017
The Pew Center’s Trends and Patterns in Interracial Marriage, 2017
Gallup poll: “Do you approve or disapprove of racial intermarriage?” [ND]
The Great White Hope (1970) [Magnifique!]
The Zombie Named Dixie (2021)