Guns are so woven in the fabric of this nation that on the 4th floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History there is a vault of thousands of various guns used in this country throughout the past 200 years. Americans have used guns of all shapes and sizes and calibers and everyone has a historic reason for being here. The Musket is in every history book and sculpture symbolizing freedom and independence even on Broadway in that new musical called Hamilton. Were we born a gun culture? Pamela Haag wrote a book called The Gunning of America where guns are described as tools to convey thoughts. Point a gun in the face of someone and they will listen carefully.
At the start of the Revolutionary War we didn’t even have enough guns to outfit the continental Army. Today we have more guns than people. According to a Congressional Research Service we have 357 Million guns in America to 317 Million people. How did the gun industry get so big? They keep making guns and don’t even care who the hell has this lethal weapon. The original gun manufactures like Oliver Winchester and Samuel Colt did their best to create a market for their guns. Do we really need a weapon to live? They had factories in Connecticut that became known as gun valley. Soon they were producing so many guns with more speed than Henry Ford could produce cheap cars. The best known guns were a long barrel handgun called the Winchester 73 and a riffle called the Colt single action Army revolver. They were the 2 guns that won the West.
As the frontier disappeared, so did the desire of many Americans to own a gun. Peaceful civilized people do not need guns. So to increase sales the gun makers were marketing the guns as a toy for sportsmanship and fun. I grew up with all the toy guns anyone could have. We all played cowboys and Indians with our cap guns. Good guys and mobsters with long guns. Then we gave our kids all kinds of long range water guns. Guns were everywhere in entertainment. In TV shows like The Searchers in 1956, movies like True Grit in 1968. Winchester in ’73 with Jimmy Stewart pulling the trigger in that movie western in 1950. As the mobsters came to America so did the change in guns. But TV still immortalized the entire hate concept. There was the movie called Scarface in 1983. Al Pacino says, “Go ahead and say hello to my little friend” as he kills everyone in the room with a weapon. In the movie called Sudden Impact made in 1983 there is Clint Eastwood saying, “Go ahead, make my day “ as he points a gun at someone.
Now we do take our guns seriously. Owning a gun is a Constitutional right. We also try to legislate how to control them. President FDR signed the first gun legislation in 1934 hoping to reduce the number of bootlegging gangsters all over the streets of America. Then 30 years later President Kennedy is shot. Now they won’t open any windows in the White House. Robert Kennedy and Martin King Jr. dead from guns. That made President Johnson push the Gun Control Act of 1968. There was too much anguish then. But what about now? People say “ pow pow “in airports and create mass hysteria In LA and New York.