Global gun cultures

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Gun cultures are found around the world, and evidence various attitudes towards guns in such places as the United States, Honduras, El Salvador, Australia, the Philippines, Germany, and Switzerland.[1] "Gun culture" is defined as the attitudes, feelings, values, and behavior of a society, or any social group, in which guns are used.[2] Among the most studied and discussed global gun cultures is that of the gun culture in the United States.[3]

Gun cultures in North and Central America[edit]

United States[edit]

According to political scientist Robert Spitzer, the American gun culture as it exists today is founded on three factors: the proliferation of firearms since the earliest days of the nation, the connection between personal ownership of weapons and the country's revolutionary and frontier history, and the cultural mythology regarding the gun in the frontier and in modern life.[4] Spitzer writes that:

  • Two elements of the modern American gun culture have survived since the earliest days of the country; the hunting/sporting ethos and the militia/frontier ethos.[4]
  • The Hunting/Sporting ethos emerged when America was an agrarian nation in which hunting was a valuable source of supplying food for settlers, guns were a means of protection from animal predators, and the market for furs could provide a source of income. Acquiring shooting skills was connected with survival, and acquiring these skills was a "rite of passage" for boys entering manhood. The role of guns as marks of maturity persists to this day. Today, hunting survives as a central component of the gun culture.
  • The Militia/Frontier ethos emerged from early Americans' dependence on their wits and skill to protect themselves from hostile Native Americans and foreign armies. Survival depended upon everyone carrying a weapon (excluding blacks, and in a large part, women). In the late Eighteenth Century, there was neither the money nor manpower to maintain a full-time army; therefore the armed citizen soldier carried the responsibility of protecting his country. Service in militia, including providing your own ammunition and weapons, was mandatory for all adult males.
  • Closely related to the militia tradition was the frontier tradition, with the westward movement closely associated with weaponry. In the Nineteenth Century, firearms were closely associated with the westward expansion. Outlaws and Indians necessitated an armed citizenry ready to defend themselves.
  • Today, this veneration of firearms has left a deeply felt belief that guns are both an integral part of, and a force responsible for, America as it exists.[4]

Central America[edit]

Countries in Central America that have a long and difficult history of colonialism and dictatorships are particularly susceptible to destabilization caused by guns. Christian Parenti, in Tropic of Chaos (2012), singles out Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, all countries that saw counterinsurgencies and the extensive killing of civilians by government forces; in those three countries, says Parenti, are found "a gun culture with large populations of unemployed men habituated to violence, discipline, secrecy, pack loyalty, brutality", and violence is everywhere.[5]

Gun cultures in Europe[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

The U.K. gun culture is represented by shooting sports.[6]

Gun cultures in Asia[edit]


A gun culture in the Western sense never developed in Japan. According to David Kopel, weapons there "always were, and remain today, the mark of the rulers, not the ruled." He wrote: "In short, while many persons may admire Japan's near prohibition of gun ownership, it is not necessarily true that other nations, such as the United States, could easily replicate the Japanese model. Japan's gun laws grow out of a culture premised on voluntary submission to authority, a cultural norm that is not necessarily replicated in Western democracies."[7]


Gun ownership, especially in the mountainous northwest, is part of traditional Pakistani culture. Rifles are handed down from generation to generation for hunting and for celebratory fire. In the 21st century, increases in terrorist threats, and particularly in urban kidnappings, extortions, and robberies, has led to an increase in civilian demand for guns for self-protection.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Global Gun Cultures". Thomson Reuters. 2012. Retrieved January 25, 2014. 
  2. ^ Collins English Dictionary. Collins. 2014. 
  3. ^ Fisher, Max (December 15, 2012). "What makes America's gun culture totally unique in the world, in four charts". Washington Post (Washington D.C.). Retrieved January 25, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Spitzer, Robert J.: The Politics of Gun Control, Chapter 1. Chatham House Publishers, 1995.
  5. ^ Parenti, Christian (2012). Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. Nation. p. 34. ISBN 9781568587295. 
  6. ^ "The British Association for Shooting & Conservation". BASC. Retrieved January 26, 2014. 
  7. ^ Kopel, David B. (1993). "Japanese Gun Control". Retrieved January 25, 2014. 
  8. ^ Wonacott, Peter (January 6, 2009). "For Middle-Class Pakistanis, a Gun Is a Must-Have Accessory: With Kidnappings and Violence on the Rise, Demand for Weapons Permits Grows". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 26, 2014. 

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