Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why guns? Here's one theory.

It seems to me that there is a major schism between those who think guns are the ultimate evil and will be the downfall of all humankind and those who use them as tools to perform a task which they were designed for.

One group imagines them with anthropomorphic capabilities granting it the ability to act on it's own with a demon-possessed mind, willfully acting out it's own evil designs and one group sees it as a machine, a device that isn't inherently negative, but is only as negative as the operator of the machine. It has no intentions of it's own, but relies on the designs and activities of the possessor.

Sitting and looking at a map, I began to see a picture in my mind of the divisions and it made me wonder first, then to suppose, and then to formulate an idea. It is going to a bit of a wander to get there, but let me start making my point here.

Along a little over 300 years ago, people started to gather on this continent. Those that came here first had skills to keep their families alive, to provide for them and to eke out a living. Homesteads first, then hamlets and small  townships. As the population slowly increased, and as they started to move towards a more industrial lifestyle where machinery started to be more prominent, individuals would invest first time and apprenticeships and second, in the tools of a trade.

People began to build their skills and then to trade these same skills, or the results of these skills, with others for their products. Trade began, enhanced bartering of something of value for something of value. A farmer would grow wheat, then take his crop to a miller who would keep a portion for himself. One man, or more likely, one family would bake bread and trade with the miller for a portion of what he collected from the farmers. Coopers would make barrels and buckets; wheelwrights would make wheels, trading with the blacksmith for the metal rims. Farmers would trade wheat flour for horseshoes from the blacksmith, buckets from the cooper, and bread from the baker. Each of these would trade with the butcher for meat if they didn't butcher their own. Hunters would trade meat from birds and animals that they harvested with the butcher. As talents were traded, this included market hunting providing meat to the butcher and people shopped for their food.

Goods and skills were traded and commerce grew. More and more, people developed skills and trades, and and more and more civilized people became. Families were known for what skill or product they traded. (Know anybody with any last names of the skills I listed?) All of these skills were valued and traded as people began to settle further and further from the Atlantic coast. People with specific skills would be recruited to help settle new areas.

 And as more and more people settled west, they followed the same pattern established by the first settlers of this continent. Rough living, providing mostly for yourself, then larger communities working together, then actual businesses moving in and civilization. Spreading farther west and building this great country.

Then, suddenly, something happened. Something made people look west. Something began to entice people to go farther, to get ahead of the life they were living. Gold was found on the Pacific coast.

People went and went fast. They rode fast across country, or they shipped around South America and dug in. With these same explorers, communities followed. People hoping to get rich, if not by finding gold, then by selling supplies and staples to the gold diggers and miners. These same people who had established their skills and trades on the Eastern or Atlantic coast, now were practicing their trades on the Western or Pacific coast. Maybe a family member who wasn't going to inherit the family business or was tired of competing with the rest of the family and wanted to strike out for their own fortune.

So now we have a major influx of people into the west coast. Gold wasn't the only commodity. Food was one industry . All manner of food and services. Bakeries, butchers, coopers, wheelwrights, lumber mills and carpenters. In fact, all the same types of businesses that were part of the urban society on the East/Atlantic coast. This facilitated major growth because of the wide open opportunities. Now the country was being settled from both coasts towards the center. And, as many of the opportunists that started heading for "golden" opportunities got tired or ran out of funds and stopped midway, there was major growth in the Midwest as well.

Then the growth began to move towards itself, moving towards the last vestige of the "wild west", the last frontier. Moving towards where people still had to eke a living out of the land. People farmed and ranched. They raised what they ate, and bartered or sold the extra for whatever else they needed. They fished. And they hunted. And, until organized law and justice came along, they protected themselves. They, gasp!, used guns.

And still, society progressed into these outlying areas, albeit more slowly without the impetus of riches or gold. Many other reasons drove them to these areas. Everything from family to religion to running away from the " crowd" of the cities, wanting the wide open spaces. My own family was part of this, settling in the great basin area in Salt Lake City, then moving up north to help settle the Cache Valley/Smithfield area of the territory, and later pulling up stakes and moving to the Calgary region in Canada. One side of the family helped settle the eastern Utah town of Roosevelt. Another stayed in the Salt Lake valley. And each of these lines had some hard work to do. They struggled and they strove to work and survive. To better themselves. Just to live.

After the horrors of "The Great War" and the period of growth after that, they were hit by the Great Depression as hard as any other part of the country. Suddenly, nobody had any money and were thrust back into the pre-urban lifestyle of providing for yourself and barter and trade.

By the way, providing for yourself quite often meant fishing and hunting just to provide meat for the table.

Through the Great War, the Great Depression, and then struggling through the "War to end all Wars", this environment of providing for yourself and your family, even mere survival, included hunting. And this great "Last Frontier" in the "Crossroads of the West" was really one of the last parts of the country that had such a great need to provide using such mundane means as guns. Even into the 1950's and 60's, guns were commonplace and frequently seen in public.

When I was in high school, it wasn't uncommon for young men to take guns to school. And if a teacher found  out you had a gun in your car, they'd make you show it to them. Then, likely as not, they would take you to their car and show you their gun! In the fall it wasn't uncommon to go hunting after school. There was dove and grouse season, pheasant season and duck, and then deer season. When we weren't hunting we were fishing. Even the girls got into it. Well, some of them anyway.

So the East coast and the West coast, having been settled by East-coasters, both are the farthest from having lived with guns as part of life. As part of our heritage. As tools used much like any other tool. and they cannot understand why these Midwest and Mountain West regions, including Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana, still use guns, still live with guns, and do so safely and comfortably.

The two coasts just can't seem to understand why someone else would think and believe other than the way they do. Why we aren't afraid of them like they are. Why we would want to keep the right to bear arms.

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