As a kid growing up, I remember being utterly amazed by Hollywood action movies. The heroes of the time were Bruce Willis of Die Hard, Sylvester Stallone of Rambo, and Arnold Schwarzenegger of Terminator. Every time I’d watch one of these movies I’d be left in awe at all the amazing things these action heroes could do like their gun skills and how they fought off entire swarms of enemy gunmen with a couple of rounds. Fast forward about twenty years later or so and the trend still lives on with movies such as The Expendables, Mission Impossible, and The Bourne Identity. It’s even hit video games with the likes of the GTA series or Modern Warfare series. That’s about twenty odd years of movies and video games being focused on guns. The key thing to keep in mind is that these are all American-made with a strong emphasis being given to violence and the use of guns. And this doesn’t only span to media either as it’s become a part of everyday life. The American army gives out the impression that it is the strongest or has ’the biggest guns.’ Gangs such as The Bloods or The Crips are involved in drive-by shootings almost every day. An eighty year old farmer somewhere in Wyoming has the right to shoot a trespasser if he/she walks over his property. These little examples give way to America’s infamous gun culture. Guns have been embedded in the American way of life since its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
America has a relatively short history if compared to Europe, The Middle East, and Asia, and like them has had a very violent one. Since the early beginnings which saw the colonizers arrive to the new world, there was a perfect framework for conflict as the Native Americans sought to defend their land. With time as guns kept on being introduced and little skirmishes began to turn into major wars such as The French-Indian wars, the American revolutionary war and of course the American civil war. These wars all had their different agendas but could not be waged, ultimately, without weapons, muskets or pistols or revolvers or rifles. America was won over and came to be because somebody was at the wrong end of a gun. Take the journey made Westward by Americans who were tired of the civil war or veterans of the civil war. The journey West was composed of horses, carriages, supplies, and most importantly, guns. The idea of The Wild West and the symbol of what it would become was based on the so-called cowboy, revolver at the draw, the Clint Eastwood-type bounty hunter rescuing the day, or even the stories of a Mexican standoff such as the events at the O.K. Corral. This is even made clearer by the gunslinging outlaws and sheriffs immortalized in tales, such as Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, and Jesse James. The Wild West is the epitome of a gun-culture USA.
Fast-forward a couple of years later into the start of the early 20s-30s, infamous for the prohibition era and the different gangs that were present at the time. This was another violent phase in American history as more laws began to be broken, public executions and street wars began to take place, as well as the appearance of new American guns such as the gangster-made-famous Thompson submachine gun. Even in a progressing modern era, guns were still evidently a part of American culture and way of life. After the 20s and 30s, this went on during the time of movements such as the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s. The main advocators of racial equality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were both assassinated by the bullet. John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were at the forefront of assassination attempts by the use of guns with the latter lucky to escape with his life.
To conclude, guns have been a major part of the American way of life since its formation. The countless events such as the wars and different eras that America has gone through were all based around the use of guns and some kind of violence. The idea of guns as a whole in America has become embedded deep in the culture and it can be observed clearly that gun ownership spans from the historical legacies that made America what it is today.
Khalil Dagher is a regional intern at the World Youth Alliance Middle East.