The Essence of What It Means To Live In A Gun Culture

During the Boston manhunt, while Paula Bolyard listened to the police scanner and “evolved on guns”, a few others tweeted verses of ‘this would never happen in Texas.’ Before all non-Texans dismiss this as idle boasting, there is a hidden truth worth noting, which Bolyard helpfully illustrates. In the second piece of her “evolving” series, she writes:

While I understand that many who grew up around guns accept them as a normal part of life, for me, it’s a decision that requires serious introspection and moral evaluation. Though I passionately support the Second Amendment, I confess that I had never taken the time to earnestly contemplate its practical applications.

Bolyard starts by analyzing what she is prepared to do to defend herself. But she’s not the exception, she’s the rule. Taking the time to “earnestly contemplate” self defense is the essence of the gun culture. So much so that we hardly notice it.

I didn’t until the London Riots of 2011. While friends described locking their doors and hoping for the police, Zoe Williams wrote that she had never contemplated defending her home. This shocked me. But then I thought back to the 2001 massacre in Norway, when the shooter rampaged for about an hour, taking 77 lives. They waited for the police.

Most people outside the gun culture have been conditioned to wait for the police. Unarmed, without good options for self defense, they’ve never considered it. They assume we haven’t either, hence their worry that every charged situation would collapse into a shootout at the OK Corral. But in a gun culture, we plan self defense. In a gun culture, we accept that ultimately it is our responsibility to defend ourselves.  Follow Bolyard’s series. She’s asking, learning, and practicing while guided by those who have already done so. This is commonplace.

Sometime after the Batman massacre, five men sat at my dining room table discussing not whether they would have acted, but how. Things like how to move the non-combatants into cover and how to charge a shooter. During my shock at the London Riots, I asked a friend if he would “step off his porch and defend his neighbors from violent rioters.” He gave me a look that suggested I was being a bit thick and replied, “Leslie, I don’t have to step off my porch. That’s what the long guns are for.”

When we tweeted about ‘never in Texas’ during the Boston manhunt, it wasn’t merely Texas swagger. For most of us, we had already thought it through. At first report of an armed and possibly wired terrorist looking to hide in residential areas, most of us would have organized a perimeter around our neighborhood. This organization would simply happen. The police would expect and use it.

To live in a gun culture is to have decided to defend yourself, to have thought through how to do it, and know that your neighbors have done the same. When the grave threat comes, action is just a matter of strategy.


Texas Tower shooting photo from AP. Concealed Carry License classroom photo from Lone Star Handgun.