Op-Ed: Why former slave states became the foundation for American gun culture
The American political and social landscape is constantly changing. Over the past year, we’ve witnessed more gun legislation, gun control and gun culture debates in American than in the last twenty years. For those of us who don’t live here, gun culture is a strange and seemingly non-intuitive concept. Most gun owners seem to understand at least the basics, or at least know that they’re not supposed to shoot their guns in places they don’t live. To be clear, I don’t disagree with this common sense — as it applies to gun owners — but gun culture is a different entity. As with our current political landscape, gun culture has become an essential tool used by gun owners to explain to each other why they feel the need to own guns. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, the latter often leads to the former.
As we’ve observed in recent months, gun culture is becoming increasingly prevalent in American politics. During the 2012 presidential campaign, candidate Mitt Romney even had a gun rights radio clip playing during his closing address at all of the conventions. And now, in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made gun culture an issue in her campaign, but also one that will likely be a central theme in her presidency. When I first began running for Congress this year, I was surprised at the gun culture debates I’d run into. Even more surprising, however, were the places where I found gun owners explaining their guns to me, or where I found them listening in.
It’s no coincidence that gun owners often tell me of places they’ve traveled because they wanted me to hear them explain how guns are a necessity. My first encounter with this phenomenon came before I ran for office, on the day I first visited Tennessee to speak at a gun show. While I’d been planning on running for Congress, we were sitting in my hotel room, having a great time when my phone started playing an ad for a gun show in the state I’d soon be taking to represent. A man walks in from the next room, pulls his phone out to show me the ad, then leans forward, looking directly at me. I ask him his name and he