Gun culture: the worship of a work tool

Shooting a bullet from this sculpture would have more range than most comments from pro-gun advocates. Maria Lysenko via Unsplash

Freedom is more than owning a gun

by ayodipupo adetola, contributor

As of the time of writing, the most recent gun tragedy (most of which come exclusively from our neighbours to the south) is the Uvalde mass shooting. This case was unique in that, despite gulping 40 per cent of the town’s yearly funding and having done shooting drills in Robb Elementary School less than a year previous, the police force somehow managed to do less than nothing and actively prevented stopping the shooter – or at least, not until 21 lives (19 children and 2 adults) were taken, countless others fractured in the aftermath.

In short, the “good guys with guns” failed.

One could ponder the reasons for this devastation: mental illness, terrorist plots, internet radicalism, too many doors, or not enough Jesus. But the most practical is this: a man with a history of instability and violent urges was able to purchase a gun. He shot his grandmother, went to a school filled with children, and shot 21 people until they were dead, injuring another 17.

Despite this, it is unlikely that much will change. Thoughts and prayers, maybe. But nothing tangible that might possibly prevent another such occurrence. In fact, after these events, Republican states are 115% more likely to loosen gun laws.[1] There is a peculiarity to the American psyche when it comes to guns; they symbolize freedom. I have always pondered this. Why do guns have this particular chokehold on Americans?

Indeed, guns are mentioned in the American Constitution, but that is in the 2nd Amendment which states “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”[2] For context, that means that this was not even in the original Constitution. It was added in and could, in theory, be amended right out. The likelihood of that is near to nil, but I digress. In the end, there is only one reason to buy a gun: to destroy something. Be that a target, a deer, or a six year old.

Some pontificate that more guns are needed to protect the citizenry from crazed shooters. The United States is the only country in the world with more guns than people. There are an estimated 393 million guns in the US, compared to their population of 330 million. That’s about 120 guns for every 100 people in the country.[3] Interestingly enough, data shows that in the US, “two-thirds of gun owners own more than one gun, and nearly a third own five or more guns.”[4] Perhaps if each American owned at least five guns, the good guys could suppress school shooters by sheer numbers. It has already been suggested to arm teachers, which is…certainly an opinion. In the end, the defense of gun ownership is in the name of some nebulous concept of freedom, which in the US apparently means it doesn’t matter if kindergarteners are mowed down in their classrooms so long as it means it is possible to have n+1 guns in one’s possession.

In contrast, Canada has considerably stricter gun laws, and 35 guns per 100 people. This is the fifth highest rate of guns per person in the world. There may well be a correlation, but I am no statistician. There is no provision in our Charter of Rights for guns nor their ownership. When 22 people were murdered in Nova Scotia in 2020, the government took the opportunity to toughen laws against assault-style weapons in order to reduce such incidents.[5] Our gun laws prohibit automatic weapons and sawed off shotguns, save for the police and militia. Handguns are restricted in that one needs both a registration and a permit. Felons who commit serious or violent crimes, or people with mental disorders, are prohibited from receiving permits. Third-party character witness statements are taken. Finally, there is a 28-day waiting period to receive a permit.[6] This is not terribly restrictive. But I suppose anything that resembles regulation of a deadly weapon stinks of communism, which must be battled against at all times.

From responses to events and general sentiment, it seems that the difference between Canada and the US is how guns are viewed. In Canada, they are seen as a tool of sorts; for hunting, for a job, for entertainment, or even for self-defense. In the US, they are seen as an inalienable right; a symbol of their country and its freedoms.

The gun in American culture is a sort of holy totem that differentiates them from other, lesser countries that lack the “freedoms” that they have. In Canada, it is necessary to have a license to buy and own firearms and ammunition. Comparatively, in over 80 per cent of states it is unnecessary to have a license to own or purchase a firearm – which puts into question the common argument that only illegally-obtained guns are used in crimes, seeing as it is easier to buy one legally. Which freedoms they have that guns provide, I am yet to personally witness, but I’m sure they exist, at least in some people’s minds.

If freedom means being 25 times more likely to be murdered by a gun[7] than in countries of comparable income, knowing at least one victim of gun violence in my lifetime[8], or possibly being one of 110 people in a day (41,000 in a year) to be killed by gun violence[9], then I’ll pass.







[7] Erin Grinshteyn and David Hemenway, “Violent Death Rates in the US Compared to Those of the Other High-Income Countries, 2015,” Preventive Medicine 123, (2019): 20–26.

[8] Bindu Kalesan, Janice Weinberg, and Sandro Galea, “Gun Violence in Americans’ Social Network During Their Lifetime,” Preventive Medicine 93 (2016): 53–56. See also, K Parker, et al., “America’s Complex Relationship with Guns: An In-depth Look at the Attitudes and Experiences of U.S. Adults,” Pew Research Center’s Social & Democratic Trends Project, June 22, 2017,



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