Growing up in Arizona before the Phoenix valley was paved to within an inch of the mountains around, it meant I grew up in a "well armed society". People hunted, though I never saw any hunters brandishing machine guns at deer. You kept one handy for "varmints" as my grandpa used to call the rattlers in the cotton gin yard. And, if kids were around, they went to "gun school" given by the local NRA. I can still recite with accuracy what I learned at age 6. 1. If you see a gun, don't touch it, get an adult and show them where it is. 2. Only pick up a gun if you intend to use it. 3. Don't point a gun at a living thing unless you plan on firing it. 4. If you fire a gun, know that you will likely maim or kill a person. All the rest was target practice.
The I spent 20+years in Alaska, where, in many areas, the varmints are huge, hairy or ill tempered and that's just the wildlife. In both of these heavily armed states, there was murder and other crimes committed, but it was fairly rare for folks to have actual gunfights over things except for maybe a few claim jumpers.
Now, with my current state of Illinois being the final state passing the "concealed carry" law. I fear that the chance for a "polite society" once hoped for in the U.S. has become another myth. Within the last 48 hours, two high profile shootings took place. One in a movie theater over a phone call to a babysitter and one in a junior high in the rural Southwest. On the face of it, they look radically different. Shooter 1 was a retired policeman and shooter 2 was a Seventh Grader but, the things that motivated them were probably very similar. (Below the fold for more)
Bear with me please. We'll start with the proposition that "guns don't kill people, people kill people". I, myself, don't believe this, but we can use it as a starting place.
Why do people feel they have the right to point a gun at anyone and fire it?
Perhaps it begins in fear. Fear of the other, the different, change, of loss of property and "stuff". So, now you have a bunch of folks who are scared to death of other people and they are armed. Doesn't sound like too good of an idea does it?
Or it could stem from self righteousness i.e. I am right, that person is wrong, an argument over phone use BEFORE a movie somehow caused a retired police officer, who had to know the rules of gun safety, to shoot 2 people! Yes, there was some popcorn tossed, but popcorn versus a bullet, twice? Though the police officer said he was "afraid of being attacked." By popcorn? A fist? Or was he afraid the other man might have a gun too? See how that works?
Some seem to see it as a problem solver or a way to level the playing field. "That big kid was mean to me and I'm going to finish it like I do all day everyday on my Single Shooter on my game console." Which leaves us with a thought process of "If I have a gun, the fact that person is bigger/stronger/faster/meaner than I am won't matter". Hm, looks like fear again.
And some see it as a way to get leverage in any situation. In re, "I have a gun so I can take your stuff and you can't do anything about it." Again, they are afraid, in this case of not having "stuff".
It seems to me that, in emulating the Wild West era, we've failed to remember the history of the West. Gunfighters were only heroes in movies. In reality, they were punks, bandits and gamblers who cheated. They also knew that if they got a reputation as being "the best in __" someone would come gunning for them in a glory grab. Gunfighter was not a job you usually retired from, at least not willingly. Heavily armed fearful people were the reason a lot of Western towns had "leave your iron with the sheriff" laws. Even the shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, AZ came about because someone in one group was afraid someone in the other group was "gunning" for him. In time, most Westerners left off wearing or using a gun in "polite society". It meant we were civilized not to carry. Now, everyone wants a gun and wants to carry it anywhere. Now, the 24/7/365 fear mongering on TV, radio and Internet has made us more afraid of Not owning a gun than the chance we might kill someone. All this walking around with a gun on our hip might make us feel less fear right up until we meet another person walking around with a gun. Both guns are loaded with fear, by a fearful person with a hair trigger.