The American Gun Culture And The Stereotypes It Battles
Our Youth Are The Key To A Positive Understanding Of The American Gun Culture
Children as young as nine years old can enter into some junior shooting matches. Many people who did not grow up with guns in their households would cringe if they heard that gun enthusiasts encourage their children to shoot guns. The 4-H has a youth shooting program, and on their website they explain the reasons why they have the program:
4-H uses shooting sports to teach youth development. Our programs are valuable for helping young people develop self-confidence, personal discipline, responsibility, teamwork, self-esteem and sportsmanship. The discipline and self-control required for responsible firearms use carries over into many other aspects of life.
4-H programs provide a positive experience for youth and promote the safe and ethical use of firearms.
It is our belief that firearms education reduces gun accidents.
Hunting and Shooting are rich American traditions. 4-H shooting sports programs help continue this tradition through involvement of the total family: youth, teens, parents, grandparents, etc.
Children who participate in shooting sports are eligible for scholarships just as children in any other sport are. Tens of thousands of dollars are given out every year by many shooting organizations to help teenagers with their college expenses.
In conclusion, the United States of America has a rich history of gun ownership and culture beginning as far back as the 17th century. It is a right Americans are guaranteed by one of the few documents that cannot be changed: the Bill of Rights. The Americans within the gun culture have created organizations like the NRA and the NSSF to help keep this unique subculture from fading into history. People within the gun culture will probably continue to deal with negative stereotypes just as other subcultures do. As long as gun enthusiasts continue to set a good example of their culture, maybe one day other Americans and the world will see the vast difference between them and criminals.
Women Shooters Have Skills With Handguns, Rifles, And Shotguns, And Are Breaking Down Stereotypes
Another stereotype that runs rampant outside and inside the gun culture is that women have no business shooting firearms. As was mentioned earlier, 35% of gun owners are women. There are many families that are headed by a woman who wants to protect her family. Women are more at risk to attacks from violent men who see them as smaller and weaker. Women who train with and carry guns for protection generally exude a more confident attitude and therefore are at a lower risk for a violent attack. Many women also enjoy the sport of target shooting. There are men even within the gun culture that believe that women cannot shoot as well as men. This stereotype is slowly crumbling. Massad Ayoob, a well-respected national firearms instructor, said about his female students:
Most firearms instructors agree that women have a faster learning curve than men in this discipline. They tend to have better fine motor coordination, as a rule, and pulling a trigger without deviating the muzzle off target is most definitely a fine motor skill. Their biggest advantage is that they are not born believing that because of their gender, they automatically know how to do something masculine.
Those men who still buy into the stereotype have never been to an International Defensive Pistol Association match and seen some of the women out-shoot the men. Those men also did not see Kim Rhode break a world record for winning gold medals in five consecutive Olympic Games in Skeet.
Another aspect of the gun culture that is commonly overlooked is the sport of shooting. The actual act of target shooting takes stamina, concentration, and an immense amount of skill. There are fifteen shooting events in the Olympic Games, and even the USA Shooting team recognizes the gun culture’s reputation: “Misunderstood, under-recognized and somewhat ill-perceived, USA Shooting’s top stars clamor for their rightful place among the attention-grabbing headliners of Team USA.” Besides the Olympics, there are many other mostly unknown sports competitions related to shooting.
There are multiple disciplines related to the three major fields of shooting: handgun, rifle, and shotgun. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there are more than 19 million Americans that participate in these sports. It is these sports where USA Shooting finds America’s next Olympic athletes.
As with most subcultures, there are many negative stereotypes associated with the American gun culture. The most common stereotypes are that all gun owners are white men, Republican, violent, Southern or “red-neck,” and uneducated. Like most stereotypes, this is not true. In fact, according to a 2010 Gallup poll, gun owners consist of 43% men, 35% women, 44% white, 27% non-white, and 27% black. 50% of gun owners do live in the South, but 39% live in the Mid-West, 37% in the West, and 22% live in the East.
In terms of political party lines, it is true that the Republican Party is mainly pro-gun and the Democratic Party is mostly pro-gun control, but the actual statistics show a different story. 49% of gun owners are Republican, 35% are Democrat, and 35% are Independent. It is possible that the reason the numbers don’t add up to 100% is that some people who are registered Independents may also claim leanings towards one of the other two main parties.
The statistics show that you cannot lump gun owners into one classification of people. If those people who assume the stereotypes are true would go into a busy gun store and talk to the people waiting in line, they would see that these Americans are more polite, kind, and considerate than other people waiting in line at any other store.
The United States is very polarized when it comes to the issue of gun control. Americans are usually on one side of the issue or the other, with very little gray area. People who are in favor of more gun control generally do not understand the gun culture. The anti-gun people think regulating guns more will decrease gun violence, when just the opposite is true. Gun violence actually decreases when more law-abiding people are allowed to have guns.
Just like the founding fathers said that an armed population will keep tyranny in check, it also keeps criminals from victimizing individual people, because there is the possibility that the person they are about to rob might have a gun too. For example, Florida created its right-to-carry law that went into effect October 1, 1987. Since then the murder rate in that state has averaged 36% lower than before the law was enacted.
This has happened in other states as well, such as Texas. After Texas’s right-to-carry law was enacted in January, 1996 the murder rate has averaged 30% lower. In fact, according to the U.S. Census, in 2008 and 2009 Washington D.C. had the highest amount of violent crimes of any other, and coincidentally has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country.