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Historian Richard Slotkin has investigated why so many people in the US are prone to armed violence. His result: Americans let an old myth revive.

Firearms in the United States: weapons have always been a means to defend his honor

Historian Richard Slotkin has investigated why so many people in the US are prone to armed violence. His result: Americans let an old myth revive.

Firearms in the United States:   weapons have always been a means to defend his honor
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  • Page 1 — "Weapons have always been a means to defend his honor"
  • Page 2 — "In US, about 290 million firearms are circulating"
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    Time Online: They represent ory behind excessive use of gun violence in USA is a national mythology. What does this mythology look like?

    Richard Slotkin: It is about myth of conquest of west, violent subjugation of nature and natives, and later violent use of slaves. Basically, I'm talking about fact that this myth is deeply integrated into American self-conception as a resource. Of course, from this mythology to assassin of Texas, it is a furr way. But behind private use of gun violence re is a deep-rooted cultural practice in US.

    Time Online: How is it encoded differently in Europe?

    Slotkin: First of all, re is a much broader licence for private use of weapons in United States. In Europe, state monopoly of gun violence is much more respected. In addition, United States is a settler state whose nation was founded by a continuing hike into uninhabited territory. So people were on ir own in wilderness. So, from outset, re was a need for self-defense.

    Time Online: Do you see yourself today as se settlers?

    Slotkin: The mythology sits at least deep. We have to remember that break-up in uninhabited terrain has lasted more than 250 years – from first settlements on Atlantic to filling large gap between Mississippi and California. During this time, American military was a militia. The entire population was armed. The right to arms ownership was also linked to civil law.

    Time Online: Unless you were black.

    Slotkin: Exactly. Blacks were not allowed to serve in militia until American Civil War. In this respect, right to carry weapons in United States is still linked to ethnic identity.

    Time Online: There are states like Switzerland where gun ownership is as widespread as in United States. Neverless, misuse of weapons by private individuals is not nearly as high.

    Slotkin: The history of right to self-defense plays a role in this. In England, we remember Castle law. means that citizens were allowed to make use of weapons to defend ir homes. In United States, this scheme changed to true Man defense. This is understood as doctrine that every citizen who feels threatened can also shoot outside home, in pre-defense self-defence. In England, in contrast to United States, re was a duty to retire if you could.

    Time Online: They represent ory that racial unrest and social upheaval in 1960s led to an increased need for self-defense. Is this cultural attitude still to be found among amok runners like assassin of Surland Springs?

    Slotkin: Yes, we see here an ethic of killing to atone for perceived violations of pride and dignity. This ethic is partly derived from old code of dueling. This practice was widespread in USA until well after civil War. Just think of famous showdown in western. The gun has always been a legitimate tool in US to defend its honor. When people believe ir status is being challenged, y attack weapon. Of course, perpetrators like Devin Kelley are getting mentally ill. But y rationalize ir irrationality in this way.

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