I live in California, a state that has among the toughest gun-control laws in the U.S. And they’re actually not as tough as Canada’s laws. There are similar rules on magazine sizes, “assault rifles,” and safe storage requirements. But you don’t need a licence to purchase here like you do in Canada, and they only do background checks (i.e.: checking to see if you are a convicted felon) when you purchase handguns. But gun owners in California spend a lot of time complaining about the existing laws and fighting against proposals to make the laws even tighter.
I don’t notice the gun culture as much where I am. Rural California is probably different; for example, while you theoretically can get a concealed carry permit anywhere in California, it’s done by the county sheriffs, and in an urban city like Los Angeles or Ventura (where I live), the sheriffs almost never approve [concealed carry] permits.
I’ve heard that in the rural counties, however, it’s much easier, and the sheriffs are much more likely to approve them.
I’m lucky to live in one of the safest places in the U.S., with crime rates that are even lower than some places in Canada. I’d like to buy a handgun and get into practical shooting; I was a pretty good competitive rifle shooter as a teen. I just don’t have the time or money right now.
Brian Monkman, technology project manager in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania:
I am very much against the gun culture. My son-in-law owns a couple of firearms and I made him break them down and store some of the key parts in the storage locker he rented. I told him that was one of the things he would have to accept to get a roof over his head.
For anything to really change, it will require a constitutional amendment. Anything less than that will just be window dressing. Leaving it at the state level will just ensure a patchwork of laws that anyone can get around if he or she really wants a gun.
In my opinion, a significant number of Americans are wedded to gun ownership. They view it as important, if not more important to some, as having a vehicle. It sort of defines who he or she is.
When I first moved so south central Pennsylvania (just south of Harrisburg) I was struck by a few things.
1. The permit to own a firearm is also a carry permit.
2. A large number of people where I work carry firearms in their vehicles.
3. The first day of hunting season is a school holiday.
Jonathan Havercroft, political science professor from Montreal living in Norman, Oklahoma:
I think there are a couple of important distinctions to draw when discussing America’s gun culture. First, I think why people own guns breaks down along three different lines.
1. People who like to hunt.
2. People who carry weapons for personal protection.
3. People who think shooting guns is fun.
My sense is that American hunters tend to have a similar attitude toward guns as Canadian hunters, and tend to own similar types of guns (i.e. hunting rifles).
The big difference in the U.S. is in the gun ownership for personal protection group.
In Canada, I knew many people who owned guns to hunt, but I can’t think of anyone who told me the primary reason he or she owned a gun was for personal protection.
In the U.S., I know a lot of people who own a gun to protect their house and a few who have a conceal and carry permit. I also think that this gun ownership for personal security group is more pronounced in the south and southwest U.S., and they tend to be more libertarian in their outlook.
These owners tend to think the best deterrence against gun crime is for more people, who are properly trained, to carry guns and to protect themselves. And I would say that this attitude goes hand in hand with a stronger suspicion of the government in general.
The third group are people who think that shooting guns at gun ranges or out in the country is a fun thing to do or a good stress reliever. In Oklahoma, guns as entertainment is a big part of the culture.
There is a local gun range that advertises “Full Automatic Thursdays” on the radio – a day when people can come to the range and fire automatic weapons. And I would say that a lot of people (men and women, liberals and conservatives) in Oklahoma just see it as a fun thing to do.
Some quotes have been edited and condensed.