Built By Guns

Massie ponders the origins of American gun violence:

What is it about America that makes it different? Any attempt to answer that question is necessarily speculative. Moreover, like most great American problems (and virtues) any mono-causal explanation should be considered suspect.

But if it is the culture, stupid, what is it that makes American culture so different, so extreme, so exceptional? I think, like many American stories, the cocktail of history and myth plays a part in helping to explain this. Because, in ways that are not true of really any other western country, the United States was built by guns right from the beginning. The American experience really was different.

The idea of the rugged pioneer heading west with nothing but the possessions he could carry and a gun in his pack may have been romanticised out of all proportion to the tough, hard lives these adventurers endured. But the fact remains they didhead west and they did build something new. And they did it with – and could not have done it without – their guns. American violence has a long and grubby history. The nation was built by men-at-arms and then held together by men-at-arms too.