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I grew up in Calgary and spent many a day on my uncle’s farms scattered all over southern Alberta. Some of them were hunters, and some, like my Dad, were not. One thing all my farming relatives had in common, though, was a well-stocked larder. When you live on farm that’s miles away from the nearest town, you can’t just pop down to the local IGA (Walmart hadn’t been invented yet) and get what you’re missing: If you don’t have it in the house, you went without it until the next trip into town.
This sense of self-reliance and preparedness is what drove gun culture in America for hundreds of years. There is an element of sport to hunting, and trophy hunting will always offer the allure of competing against nature to bring home their prizes. But, by and large, people who hunted for food was what the public thought of when they thought of the typical American gun owner.
This is changing as America moves off the farm and into the city, but the same sense of self-reliance remains, and guns are a part of it. Writer and television host Michael Bane was one of the first to use the phrase “Gun Culture 2.0,” and it’s an apt description of what is driving today’s gun owners. If Gun Culture 1.0 was about hunting and traditional target sports like bullseye, trap shooting and Camp Perry, Gun Culture 2.0 is about concealed carry, practical pistol, and 3 Gun. The same self-reliant, independent streak, however, runs through both cultures, and it’s why today’s gun owners are buying guns in record numbers.
There is a unique expansion of personal empowerment going on right now at a level not seen since the early days of the printing press. We don’t need Walter Cronkite or the New York Times to tell us what the news is, we can chose from hundreds of cable channels or millions of online resources. If I want to read the news in my hometown, I can read it on the Calgary Herald’s website myself, and not merely hope to see glimpses of news from home on television or pay outrageous amounts of money to have the Herald shipped to me in the US.
Urban residents, like their rural forebearers, are realizing they don’t need big government to guide their lives. They are realizing that there probably won’t be an armed representative of the state around when they really, really need one, and are taking measures to become their own first responder. They are choosing to be empowered to protect themselves and their loved ones, much like my relatives chose to grow a vegetable garden and dedicate a portion of the basement to a canning rack.
In the past, people realized that they might not be able to last through a brutal winter without a well-stocked pantry. Today the prospects of starving in a winter storm are significantly lower for those of us who live in the city, but that same sense of self-reliance and desire to be safe remains. We express that desire by arming ourselves against those who would threaten our way of life. America doesn’t have two gun cultures, it has one culture of independence, expressed in two different ways.