Guns R Us?

Myths of a gun-toting people

Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture by Michael A. Bellesilles

In no other industrialized nation in the world are there so many gun deaths as in the United States. In Canada, a country otherwise so similar to the U.S., there were only 68 handgun deaths in 1990 and 128 in ’92. In 1994 the U.S. had 15,456 such deaths. More Americans are killed with guns in a typical week than in all of Western Europe in a year. To account for this enormous disparity, the myth was created that gun-toting was an early American tradition.

Michael A. Bellesiles debunks that myth. He argues that “gun ownership was exceptional in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries, even on the frontier, and that guns became a common commodity only with the industrialization of the mid-nineteenth century” and the militarization of America during the Civil War.

 

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