Las Vegas Attack: America's love affair with guns isn't ending anytime soon

On Sunday night, 59 people were killed and over 500 injured in a shooting in Las Vegas.

When it comes to America and guns, the statistics are mind numbing: It was the 273rd mass shooting in America in 275 days, America has 310 million guns, 40 percent of US households own guns, despite making up only 4.4 percent of the world's population, the US accounts for almost half of its civilian-owned guns, the US has 16 times more gun-related homicide cases than Germany and 6 times more than Canada.

Most rational people, looking at this mountain of evidence might reach this conclusion: America has a gun problem.

But most Americans don't see it that way.

A police personnel during the shooting attack in Las Vegas. AP

Police during the Las Vegas attack. AP

Love at first fight

To examine the origins of the US love affair with guns, one only needs to pick up a history book and look up the chapter on American independence.

Indeed, most "gun enthusiasts" have taken a father-knows-best strategy, arguing that the wise men who wrote the US Constitution — the ones that wrote all men are created equal (except women, Native Americans, blacks and non-landowners, of course) — knew best.

They argue that the US would have never thrown off the tyranny of King George III and won their freedom if not for their precious guns.

The Founding Fathers recognised this, they argue and that is exactly why the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was added: A well regulated militia, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Those in favour of guns argue that they need weapons in case another King George-type figure pops up or in case a tyrannical government ever takes over. Seriously.

As if Jim and Billy Bob from Oklahoma are going to go up against Seal Team Six or the Pentagon's latest fighter jets.

But even that Second Amendment fetish doesn't fully explain the pervasiveness of guns in American culture.

For that, you have to look at American culture and more specifically, popular culture.

Gun culture run amock

The American public — on whom no one ever went broke when betting against their intelligence, according to one wiseacre — has been fed a steady diet of guns solving problems through television, movies and popular culture.

American children still play Cowboys and Indians. They used to watch Dirty Harry, or the Man Without a Name, the movies of Sergio Leone. Then came Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.

They still read stories of the Wild West.

They once looked to Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne as their heroes. Then Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme and a host of others.

Now come Vin Diesel, The Rock, Jason Statham and most recently, Keanu Reeves. Their movies aren't exactly famed for rigorous intellectual debate or nuance.

The lesson they preach is simple: All of life's problems can be solved through the butt of a gun.

File image of Stephen Craig Paddock. Twitter

File image of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Craig Paddock. Twitter

The power of the NRA

I'll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

If there ever was a phrase to sum up America's illogical and almost fanatical obsession with guns and the second amendment, one only need to look to those words, popularised by America's powerful National Rifle Association and faithfully echoed by then NRA president Charlton Heston at its 129th convention in May 2000.

Another popular NRA adage: Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.

According to reports, at least one of the musicians—who, for the sake of argument, let's classify as "a good guy"—was armed.

He ran. He was afraid of being mistaken for the shooter and gunned down by the cops. 

No one blames him.  Most of us would have run. Which also lays to rest the whole "good guy with a gun" theory.

That musician has since penned a heartfelt letter stating why he was so wrong about the Second Amendment and why gun control is necessary.


Which sadly, also exposes another uniquely American way of looking at things: When something goes wrong for someone else, it's an unfortunate incident. But when something goes wrong for me, it's a damned tragedy that could and should have been avoided.

A way of life

Guns aren't just beloved in popular culture.

In many states, particularly 'Red states', guns are a part of life.

Handed down from generation to generation. From father to son. They're a rite of passage.

In many families, you only become a man after you've had your first hunt. Made your first kill.

And in the states that haven't received the benefits of globalisation, former president Barack Obama, once playing sociologist instead of politician, actually said what he felt: These people are bitter. They feel forgotten. They cling to their guns and religion.

But the question remains: Why would anyone need a semi-automatic weapon? For self-protection? To hunt animals?

The truth is that one doesn't. The truth is that Americans just love their guns. They think guns are fun.

And the heart wants what the heart wants.

Why nothing will change

Something else occurred in 2000.

There was an infamous election, which ended with (spoiler alert!) George W Bush taking the Oval Office and Al Gore turning his attention to philanthropy and trying to educate people about climate change

Looking back on that election, most people focus on Florida and the shenanigans involved—both on the behalf of activists and the regrettable intrusion of the United States Supreme Court on a democratic process—but forget that Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee, which cost him the presidency.

But the politicians haven't forgotten. They haven't forgotten that some believe it was the NRAwhich boasts of a membership of 5 million people — consistently hammering Al Gore on his position on gun control that seemingly cost him a victory in his home state and thus the election.

The NRA also donated $30 million to the presidential campaign of one Donald J Trump and have poured in many hundreds of thousands of dollars into the coffers of their  flunkies  honourable members of Congress.

Coincidentally, the White House said Monday it would be "premature" to reopen the US debate on tighter gun controls.

"There's a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country," Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the daily White House briefing.

Purely coincidental, of course.

So when you read the heartfelt words tributes to those who died on Sunday from the politicians, keep in mind these lines from the great George RR Martin: "Men are men, vows are words, and words are wind."

And if you're feeling naught but despair, here are some more words from another great man named George to cheer you up:

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 04, 2017 13:57 PM

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