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Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Member since: Thu Aug 25, 2011, 03:33 PM
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Historian Heather Cox Richardson on Guns and the People who Love Them

Heather Cox Richardson is a respected historian, whom you may have seen recently on Amanpous and Company on PBS.* You may also be familiar with her daily substack blog, "Letters from an American."

In response to Uvalde, she published what was essentially a three-part series on the history of Americans and guns, each part of the series focusing on a different aspect. All are eminently quotable, but I think stronger together. Please let me introduce you to them if you haven't already seen them.

In the first one, she discusses America and guns through the lens of Constitutional language and historical language uses. Just a short quote.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution, on which modern-day arguments for widespread gun ownership rest, is one simple sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” There’s not a lot to go on about what the Framers meant, although in their day, to “bear arms” meant to be part of an organized militia.

As the Tennessee Supreme Court wrote in 1840, “A man in the pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms; much less could it be said that a private citizen bears arms because he has a dirk or pistol concealed under his clothes, or a spear in a cane.”

In the second, she discusses America and guns through the lens of all of American politics and how that has changed, with us changing with it. Again, just a short quote.

How have we arrived at a place where 90% of Americans want to protect our children from gun violence, and yet those who are supposed to represent us in government are unable, or unwilling, to do so?

This is a central problem not just for the issue of gun control, but for our democracy itself.

It seems that during the Cold War, American leaders came to treat democracy and capitalism as if they were interchangeable. So long as the United States embraced capitalism, by which they meant an economic system in which individuals, rather than the state, owned the means of production, liberal democracy would automatically follow.

In the third one, she turns to the lens of the culture of rugged individualism, and how that is related to the America relationship with guns, and how even gender identities have been affected. Yet again, just a short quote.

Beginning in the 1950s, those opposed to government regulation and civil rights decisions pushed the imagery of the cowboy, who ran cattle on the Great Plains from 1866 to about 1886 and who, in legend, was a white man who worked hard, fought hard against Indigenous Americans, and wanted only for the government to leave him alone.

That image was not true to the real cowboys, at least a third of whom were Black or men of color, or to the reality of government intervention in the Great Plains, which was more extensive there than in any other region of the country. It was a reaction to federal laws after the Civil War defending Black rights in the post–Civil War South, laws white racists said were federal overreach that could only lead to what they insisted was “socialism.”

And on the fourth day, she rested (for which I for one, cannot blame her. All three of these articles are worth attention. They are not as long as they may at first appear, because when she gets to the word "Notes:" she is finished - what follows is her sources. But also, they present one problem with three distinct visions. I don't suppose we all need to be deeply familiar with all of them - but we should at least know which one most resonates with ourselves and with people to whom we may be speaking - being aware that one can't well share what one doesn't own.

Thanks for reading. *The Amanpour clip is here -
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