Imagine America without the artifacts that reflect and influence our culture. Society would lack the entities that have made America what it is today. In recent years, one could make the argument that cultural artifacts have negatively and positively influenced society. Through mediums of survival, crime and controversy, guns have had a substantial impact on American culture. Guns have had an apparent connection to the legal system that reflects and influences American culture. As a result of recent incidents, like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many of the typical arguments for and against gun violence are again in public view.
One contributing factor largely remains in the background of this controversy and relates to America’s cultural literacy. The gun has come to symbolize nostalgia for the ideal image of frontier life in America. The history and evolvement of gun usage has altered the way Americans view society and life. Guns have tampered with American morality, justice and ethics as proven through historical events such as the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and massacres and tragedies that have occurred in recent years.
The Revolutionary War was an important event in history in which Americans had to take it upon themselves to prevent the British from regaining control of the United States. Our culture places a significant importance on this historical event, as it is associates guns with America’s beginnings. Educating children about the beginning of our nation emphasizes the importance of the literacy of American history. History curriculums in schools require students to learn about the details of the Revolutionary War to make the children of society well informed about our nation.
In doing so, we create the cultural literacy that is the nostalgia that the gun allowed us to obtain the freedom that is inherent in American culture today. Likewise, the celebration of the Fourth of July is one of the most important ways our culture expresses this literacy. Some may think of it as just another holiday on the calendar that involves fireworks, parades and all sorts of elaborate celebrations. The extravagancies tend to cause people forget that the reason behind the holiday in its entirety is to celebrate the nostalgia of our nation becoming one of freedom.
We use means of history to depict the cultural literacy of the gun as nostalgia for early American life. Similarly, sporting uses of guns throughout American history display the same literacy. Hunting, for example, is an individual tradition in America. Americans are nostalgic for the days when people were able to be individuals and hunt for, defend and protect themselves and their families. “Most handgun owners have a handgun primarily for self- defense; nevertheless, two-thirds of all handgun owners also own at least one rifle or shotgun, suggesting some experience and interest in the sporting uses of guns” (Cook & Ludwig).
In the time of the old West, hunting gave people a sense of freedom, self-reliance and independence. This gives guns an association with true American spirit. The popularity of the sport of hunting is a direct connection to the nostalgia for the traditional values of the old West. People who hunt for sport today represent the cultural literacy of the desire to keep the old frontier alive through their gun use and sportsmanship. Comparably, the ideal image of the free American in the old West portrays nostalgia for life on the American frontier. The old West refers to the notion of American history when Americans were real Americans.
The cultural literacy of nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ is especially apparent in movies. “The United States as a whole seems to be in the grip of a new romantic infatuation with the old West and frontier America, a trend that is evident in the recent commercial success of Western fiction and Hollywood’s rediscovery of the Western movie” (Robert Palmer). People turn to these Western movies about the old frontier as a form of entertainment escape. The escape is seen as a break from reality that makes clear the nostalgia for earlier frontier life.
During the old West, people settled their arguments themselves, defended themselves and protected themselves. They didn’t turn to higher authorities to solve their issues; Americans were as free as ever. Back then the gun was a symbol of ideal American life. Guns were an equalizer. “The Wild West lives on, or should, … Many of the old-fashioned Western values-like a man being as good as his word and not turning on his partners-are still worth having in the modern world. … Guns are as neutral as a rock; it is up to humans to choose whether to use them for good or for evil” (Cook).
This perception that old-fashioned ways of the old West are or should still be exerted in modern America portrays the nostalgia for life on the frontier. The idea of humans choosing whether to use guns for good or evil displays the continuing controversy of gun use throughout American history. The controversy over gun control has Americans in a bind. Some believe that the right to possess a gun should not be taken from them when they are using them justly. Others believe legal control must be enforced in order to stop unjust uses of guns. The argument against gun control is an argument defending the traditional values of the gun.
People want to keep alive the tradition of using guns in ways like frontiersmen did in the past. With legal control over gun use, the American traditional value of and nostalgia for frontier life is belittled. In addition, the horrific tragedies that have recently occurred make the gun control controversy even more intense. The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, for example, has taken the argument of gun control to a new level. The severe impact the tragedy had on Americans across the nation influenced the government to move to make changes in the legal system regarding gun control.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) had to get involved, since Americans have been unable and inept to manage their own guns. In response to the Sandy Hook shooting, the NRA took a completely different approach on the gun control argument. Most American’s opinions strongly favor the limitation of gun sales and increase in difficulty of gun obtainment. The NRA’s argument is one that communicates the frontier story as a solution. The solution proposed by the NRA suggests that more guns be used to take out an intruder. This idea shows the nostalgia for solving problems like people did during the times of American frontier life. While the NRA had previously supported moderate gun control proposals, the failure of such legislation to curb crime or reduce criminal access to firearms led to a decision to engage in legislative, political, and legal activism in defense of the second amendment right to bear arms” (Blackmon & Gardiner). The Second Amendment protects Americans right to obtain and use guns in ways that parade the nostalgia of the old frontier. In arguing in defense of the Second Amendment, the NRA continues to address the major controversy about gun control in a manner that supports traditional frontier life gun uses.
Guns signify the nostalgia for the ideal life on the old, American frontier. Society exemplifies this nostalgia through the literacy of guns in American culture. The frontier is what American culture is built upon. Though society is continuously advancing, the idea of the frontier remains as a cultural backbone. Though America has changed, the old frontier will always play a part in American culture. The American frontier may seem like history, but it is as apparent as ever in modern time. People and their cultures will always be changing and evolving, but their history will always remain a part of them.
Cite this Guns and America
Guns and America. (2016, Nov 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/guns-and-america/