Global gun cultures
Gun cultures are found around the world, and evidence various attitudes towards guns in such places as the United States, Canada, Israel, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Yemen and Pakistan. Among the most studied and discussed global gun cultures is that of the gun culture in the United States.
Normally, gun culture is predominant in countries that have a strong traditional outdoor culture.
The U.K. gun culture is represented by shooting sports. Clay-pigeon shooting is one of the more popular sports. Firearms are very popular predominantly among the rural communities. However outside of the rural areas, the society is overwhelmingly anti-gun, and many anti-gun advocates come from Britain.
The use of firearms for self-defence, even among leaders of the sport-shooting community is generally frowned upon with the exception of Northern Ireland, where guns are legal for self-defence. Even the use of firearms by local police officers is frowned upon; police officers in the country are not typically equipped with firearms, only special units of law enforcement do so.
United States of America
Gun ownership in the United States is constitutionally protected by the 2nd Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights. Guns are owned for every lawful purpose possible in the United States, including self-defense, hunting, sport, collecting as well as law enforcement and military purposes. The United States currently ranks the highest in gun ownership rates in the world.
The National Rifle Association of America, is the biggest, most successful and politically influential gun rights organization in the country. The organization even has its own firearms museum. While sport-shooting and hunting is just one out of the many aspects of American gun culture, it mostly revolves around Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws, with Americans priding themselves in the legal use of self-defense with firearms. Another in popular organization is Gun Owners of America, or GOA. The American NRA and GOA are two of more than hundreds of gun rights organizations across the country, that operate on all national, state or local levels.
The United States is also a country where gun culture is heavily politicized, with the Republican Party and social conservatives protecting gun rights and opposing any restrictions on law-abiding gun owners. The Democratic Party and socially liberal and progressive groups supporting stricter gun laws.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution has been one of the most debated topics, with conservatives arguing that it is an individual right, and liberals and progressives arguing that it is a collective right, meant for the establishment of a militia (such as law enforcement groups and paramilitary groups like the National Guard). In District of Columbia v. Heller the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the second amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.
In the United States, in retro culture, gun ownership is also seen a symbol of defiance against colonialism. Global gun control advocates often scrutinize American gun culture.
Like British gun culture, Canadian gun culture is also largely represented by sport-shooting and hunting and less on self-defense. Sport-shooting has always been a popular activity for both gun-owners and non-gun-owners in Canada. It is also a bridge and a leeway between American and British attitudes towards firearms. The provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have large populations of hunters and shooters.
The Conservative Party over the recent years, has been protective of the sport-shooting community, passing many bills that cater to their needs. In 2012, Bill C-19 eliminated the need to register "non-restricted" firearms (shotguns and regular rifles). In 2015, Bill C-42 converted "Possession-Only" licences to a regular firearms licence or a "Possession and Acquisition Licence", as well as the right to transport firearms to a shooting range without having to notify a Chief Firearms Officer.
Most Canadians own firearms for hunting, as well as sport-shooting. Canadians have mixed opinions about using firearms for self-defence, and the legality of self-defence in Canada has been a subject of controversy and debate. After the incident of Ian Thomson, a gun owner who was arrested under murder and storage violations for shooting intruders with a firearm, the Canadian parliament amended the Criminal Code to make use of force legal. This finally made it legal for gun owners to use their firearms for self-defence, as technically "anything" within their disposal can be legally used - including firearms themselves. Canadians opposed to the use of firearms for personal protection argue that it is purely an American tradition. Yet despite the Criminal Code amendments, the firearms storage laws still make it rather difficult for citizens to use their firearms for home defence in a situation. In addition, it is still up the Courts to decide whether the use of force was "justifiable".
Due to Canada's proximity and close history and cultural ties with the United States, the cultural and socio-political environment surrounding firearms has recently begun to emulate American attitudes, where those who oppose stricter gun laws as well as the right to use guns for personal protection, tend to vote for the Conservative Party as well as other right-leaning groups. Those who support stricter gun laws and are opposed to legalizing the use of firearms for self-defence tend to vote for the Liberal Party, New Democratic Party or other liberal and left-leaning groups in the country.
Although a "Right to Bear Arms" is never explicitly stated in Canada's Charters of Freedom and Rights, conservative-leaning gun owners claim that a right to bear arms is present within the layers of Canada and Britain's historical documents.
There are many organizations in Canada meant at protecting sport-shooting and firearms ownership, these include the National Firearms Association (NFA) and the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA). Out of the two, the NFA advocates self-defence with a firearm and has recently begun to emulate the American NRA.
Due to the history of Israel and the many wars it has fought, Israeli society has emphasized the need to be armed and well-trained. Amid the days leading up to Israel's creation, many Jewish paramilitary groups operated in Israel to protect their kibbutzim from Arab militants. These various groups would eventually merge to form the modern-day Israel Defense Forces. During the 2002 Intifada, guns were a common sight as civilians needed to protect themselves. However, the majority of Israeli gun culture is vested within the military and associated with serving in some armed service rather than a fringe militia. Men and women over the age of 18 (with exceptions), are required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. As part of the terms of their service, Israeli soldiers are allowed to carry their firearms, on or off-duty, in uniform or without the uniform.
Israeli civilians who carry and own firearms are mostly settlers in the West Bank region. Though on the other hand, Israeli gun laws are actually strict. A civilian would need to apply for a gun license, and demonstrate a need to own a firearm. Therefore, it is rather difficult for an average civilian to attain a firearms license, unless he/she lives in an area proven to be dangerous, or has the necessary military experience required by Israeli law.
Russia also has a unique firearms culture, though that culture is dedicated heavily towards military use rather than to civilian ownership and much of it originates from the Soviet Union (paradoxically an era of strict gun control) and their war against Nazi Germany. Russia prides itself in having produced some of the world's most famous firearms, most notably the AK-47 and PPSh-41. During the days of the Russian Empire, many people living in the Ural Mountains owned firearms for hunting and training and at one point, Russia had a very high civilian firearms ownership rate.
During World War II, and the years building up to it, saw a surge in firearms culture in the Soviet Union. Rifle-training and marksmanship was seen as a symbol of fighting honor for the Soviet motherland, and later were a source of influence for sniping schools in the United States. During the Battle of Stalingrad, the city's fate also relied on local militias. Firearms were also part of military propaganda, such as in the case of the famous Soviet sniper Vasily Zaytsev. Soviet snipers were essential and important to the Soviet strategy against the German invasion.
Today, the legacy of Russian weaponry is very popular with firearms enthusiasts in the United States and the world, and are some of the most discussed firearms by historians.
The emergence of the AK-47 as one of the world's most popular battle rifles has presented a stereotype of Russians as wielding AK-47s and having a gun culture similar to America. However, the reality of the situation presents the opposite, according to a survey done by the Zircon public opinion research group, over 70% of Russians were opposed to the right to bear arms, and AK-47s and other military-style assault rifles aren't legal for Russian citizens to own.
The majority of Russians own firearms for hunting. Self-defence with a firearm is legal in Russia per a new law signed by the Russian Parliament. Previously, only hunting and sport were legal reasons to own firearms.
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.
Yemen's gun culture is very similar to that of Pakistan's in that firearms ownership is not only used for self-defense, but also used in celebratory fire. Guns also had a higher demand after the 2011 uprisings and other political insecurities throughout the country. Owning a firearm in Yemen is seen in a positive light, as society views at a symbol of manhood and leadership. Tribesman even carry their firearms to mediate disputes between other tribal leaders.
- History of the firearm
- Index of gun politics articles
- Overview of gun laws by nation
- List of countries by firearm-related death rate
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