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History: How The USA Became A Gun Culture

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June 14, 2016 original publish date
Aug. 9, 2016 update

Modified AR-15 with accessories. Courtesy: WallpaperUP.com

History: How The USA Became A Gun Culture

original article written by Net Advisor

WASHINGTON, DC. The current political climate seems to be another resurgence against law-abiding Americans owning legal firearms.

Regardless of one’s political ideology, there was a television program that helped shed some light on the evolution of weapons technology and how it shaped the history of the United States.

After a little note-taking, and subsequent research here, I found that the History Channel producers provided a non-partisan, non-political history lesson.

They did a pretty good job explaining how the U.S. became a gun culture. I have highlighted some of the key paths and elaborated on these findings in this historical review here.


Random Sample Original Long Gun. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons. Traditional photos.

[1] The Long Riffle Changes U.S. Revolutionary War With The British.

Before the long rifle, there was the classic 17th Century Musket (detailed photo). A single shot weapon that had to be loaded by compressing gun powder from the end of the barrel or Muzzle.

This gun took a long time to load (report here says 20 seconds), then re-load, aim and fire again, then factor active combat. This also assumes you know what you are doing.

To try and get a sense what this is like. Take your phone or watch a clock for 20 seconds. Now imagine during this time 100’s of people are shooting at you, but you can’t fire back because you have to spend considerable time to reload. In combat, 20 seconds can be eternity.

Another problem with the Musket was the range of fire. You had to get within 40 to 50 yards (37 to 46 meters) to have some level of accuracy. So while you were reloading, the enemy could already have ran 40-50 yards, and now be in front of you.

In close battle and after firing your gun, one probably didn’t have time to re-load, so the Muskets had a spike bayonet at the end for enviable hand-to-hand-combat.

The British had more weapons, more troops, were better trained, had more wealth, and backed by a tyrannical government led by King George III. What actually helped the Colonists in the New America was the development of the long riffle.

This new rifle was far more accurate than the musket with nearly four times improved range of up to 200 yards. Another significant improvement from the musket, was the long gun had a fire rate of two to three rounds a minute. This allowed a shooter to get off more rounds in a shorter period of time.

According to the History Channel program, if the U.S. did not have this superior shooting rifle, the U.S. would have likely lost the American Revolutionary War. Arguably, the U.S. then would not have existed as we know it today. Why? The U.S. government would never have been successful to establish when ruled by a foreign entity – in this case England.

Thus we can conclude here that the Colonists needed personal weapons of superior power to fight against Tyranny.

The History Channel reported that it took ‘100 years’ for the next technology of weapons to develop.

[2] New Rifle Gave The North Advantage in the U.S. Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln ran on the Republican platform to put an end to slavery. Lincoln ended slavery by an Emancipation Proclamation and Executive Order on January 1, 1863.

“All persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free…”

— President Abraham Lincoln (R). Source: U.S. National Archives

The South, then heavy Democratic, rebelled at the notion of Republicans ending slavery which eventually lead to the U.S. Civil War.

As it turns out, the weapons used by the North in the U.S. Civil War made a critical difference in stopping the South.

According to the History Channel, about a year before U.S. Civil War began, the South still used single-shot weapons. It still took time to reload and re-ready these weapons.

What gave the North (the Union Army) backed by President Lincoln, a huge tactical advantage was a new weapon development by Christopher Spencer in 1860: The Spenser Repeating Rifle.

Spencer Repeating Rifle.

Spencer Repeating Rifle. Courtesy: Guns & Ammo. com

This new rifle could shoot up to 20 rounds per minute firing a .56 Spencer rim fire cartridge. According to the History Channel, the Union Army was not interested in this costly weapon at first.

The Spenser rifle cost $35.00, considered a full-month’s soldier’s salary in 1860. (Note: The U.S. began tracking inflation in 1913. So $35.00 in 1913 would be $845.87 in 2016. I would roughly guesstimate that the cost might be the equivalent to $1,000 to $1,500 in 2016 dollars).

According to the History Channel, Abe Lincoln liked firearms and understood the usefulness of the Spenser Rifle. Even though the gun was costly, Lincoln also understood that there was a bigger price to risk. That the U.S. could not be divided into a North and South, that the Civil War had to end, and the country had to come-together again in order to preserve the Union.

In my review, Lincoln understood that if the U.S. was broken up into little countries there would be future wars over resources. That the U.S. would never have become a global leader on any material level in the future, nor be able to defend itself from foreign invasion.

Enter the Spenser Rifle.

The Confederates (The Southern Army) had a huge military disadvantage using their single shot muskets vs the North’s Spenser Repeater at a 10:1 shooting advantage for the Union Army.

Thus the South was outgunned by the North because of better weapons with greater firepower.

“America was built and saved by the invention of more accurate and more powerful firearms.” 

United Stuff of America, History Channel 2, Air date: 06/21/2014

We have a pattern here, from the American Revolutionary War to the Civil War, where the invention and use of advanced weaponry gave a huge tactical advantage to not only creating and establishing America, but also to keep America a single country.

[3] Early Gun Control: Tombstone, AZ (1881).

Lawmen Wyatt Earp, brothers Virgil and Morgan along with deputized friend Doc Holliday attempted to maintain law in Tombstone, Arizona during 1881.

Most everyone (mostly men) open carried sidearm(s) back then. One of the common problems during the Wild West is that you would have intoxicated persons in and out of bars, gambling, known criminal gangs and carrying guns the same environment. If someone felt they were cheated or just got upset, someone was likely to get shot. It was also common for people to randomly shoot their guns in their air when riding in or out of town. Altogether, this became a public safety problem.

Sheriff Wyatt Earp initiated early gun control measures where those entering the town had to temporarily turn over all their guns to law enforcement (or often the bartender). They would get them back when they leave the bar, casino or town. No further questions or legal hassles.

The Earp’s and Doc Holliday were frequently challenged by an early organized crime syndicate called, the Cowboys. This group eventually balked at these Gun Control measures, and swore a gun fight against the Earp’s.

The gun fight took place at the O.K. Corral and lasted 30 seconds said the History Channel. The Earp’s mostly used Colt 45 single action hand guns (Nick name: The Equalizer, because it could fire 6 shots with each pull of the trigger before reloading). If you had two guns, one on each side of your holster, you could fire 12 shots without reloading.


Colt Single Action Army 1873 “Artillery” Model. Courtesy: Hmaag, Wikimedia Commons.

This popular .45 caliber gun was manufactured by Sam Colt of Hartford, CT. The manufacturer credits this firearm as “the Gun that Won the West.” Others have cited a number of weapon advancements that actually Won the West.

[4] Armed Town Defeats The Dalton Gang.

An organized criminal group known as the Dalton Gang, were also known to be frequent train robbers. In 1892, their overconfidence led them to rob not just one bank, but two at the same time. The gang reportedly wore bad disguises and the town’s people quickly figured out who they were. This local gun store in Coffeyville, Kansas reportedly armed many of the town’s people.

The armed public had enough being terrorized and victimized by the Dalton Gang and formed a Citizen Posse to go after the gang. As it turns out, four of the five Dalton Gang members were killed by the town’s people using the Winchester 1873 rifle, also credited as “The Gun That Won The West.”

The History Channel stated that the one surviving Dalton gang member went on to become an actor and author.

What we had here was a known criminal gang repeatedly terrorizing a town. The town’s people and gun store banded together to remove the problem that no one else could or was willing to do. The gang was outnumbered and outgunned. Today, this would most likely be associated with vigilantism. But back then, that’s how some of the town’s crime problems got solved.

The History Channel reported that it was another 100 years after America becomes a nation, until we saw the next wave of new tech development in construction, transportation and weapons.

[5] U.S. Wins Spanish-American War With Advanced Firepower.

Spain and Europe controlled most all of the Western hemisphere including in the United States. Cuba had fought for three years beginning in 1895 to seek independence from Spain. The war between Cuba and Spain created concern for the U.S., given Cuba’s relatively close proximity to U.S. shores. The U.S. believed that there was economic interests in Cuba, and was concerned that the war created political instability.

Spain sank U.S. Battleship Main in Havana Harbor, Cuba on February 15, 1898. The U.S. ship was to protect American citizens and property in Havana after Spanish rioting.


U.S. Battleship “Main” (1898). Courtesy: loc.gov

The U.S. entered the Spanish-American War one day after Spain declared war on the United States.

How did the U.S. defeat the Spanish Empire (Spain), and in roughly eight months?

According to the History Channel, a new and key weapon that helped the U.S. win the Spanish-American War was developed by an American farmer.

Richard Gatling, a non-practicing medical doctor, farmer and inventor made a seed planter in the 1840’s. This allowed the spread of seeds faster for farming. Gatling came up with a similar idea for a gun, which has since been credited as the Gatling Gun.

American Gatling Gun in Spanish-American War, 1898.

American Gatling Gun in Spanish-American War, 1898. Courtesy: MilitaryHistoryNow.com

The early Gatling Gun had six .58 caliber barrels that would rotate 360 degrees. The purpose of multiple barrels was to keep them cooler when firing. This device provided the firepower of ten men.

The other benefit was that the Gatling Gun reduced the risk of troop exposure in combat since it only exposed two men when operating the weapon.

A bright military officer, Theodore Roosevelt served in the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry in the Spanish-American War. The History Channel credits Roosevelt for bringing in three Gatling Guns into Cuba to fight the Spanish stronghold.

These three U.S. Gatling guns provided cover for troops, and reportedly fired 18,000 rounds in eight-and-a-half-minutes. Spain lost the war just 6 weeks later due to the power and damage by the U.S. Gatling Gun. The United States was then recognized as a world power.

Under the Treaty of Paris (Dec. 10, 1898), Spain relinquished control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. In exchange for this treaty, land and release of Spanish control, the United States gave Spain $20 million dollars (1898).

The treaty was opposed by Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, reportedly because he opposed American imperialism. This apparently became a campaign issue but the Democrats lost the election to William McKinley (R).

Having served in the Union Army in the Revolutionary War against England, President McKinley led the victory in the Spanish-American War. McKinley however was assassinated by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz, just six months into the President’s second term. Then Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, became President after McKinley’s death.

[6] World War I (WWI).

During WWI, it was determined that standard pistols and rifles were not very effective against the enemy. Both sides dug into trenches and gun fire often just hit the dirt. The U.S. needed a better weapon to take out massive enemy troops when in the trenches.

American Weapon Technology Advances.

General John T. Thompson, a weapons developer came up with the idea for what was called, the .45 caliber Thompson Sub-Machine Gun or “The Tommy Gun.” This gun was highly accurate, and had a fire rate of up to 600 rounds per minute. The round drum (shown below) actually held about 90-100 rounds. The gun was used in WWI, but not extensively as the war was ending.

Thomson Machine Gun

Thomson Machine Gun. Courtesy: gallery.nen.gov.uk

Prohibition Began.

By 1920, the U.S. had implemented national Prohibition on alcohol except for medicinal and religious uses. The result created a black market for alcohol and gangs.

The History Channel stated that the Tommy Gun was available for private sale in 1921 but at a cost of $200 each ($2,673.31 in 2016 dollars). The only people who could afford this expensive firearm were gangsters.

The History Channel stated that General Thompson didn’t like the idea of his gun sold to gangsters.

Gangs who used the Tommy Gun:

The Tommy Gun was reportedly first used on a city street by Al Capone’s Gang in the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago. Police found Tommy Gun weapons at the scene. The hit killed rival gang ran by George “Bugs” Moran who he himself was late for the meeting, which avoided his death.

With the massive crime and murders on the streets by gangsters led to the National Firearms Act of 1934 (More info).

The 1934 NFA imposed a $200 manufacturing and transfer tax, required registration with the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and banned civilians from ever owning or possessing machine guns, firearm mufflers and silencers.

[7] World War II (WWII).

By World War II, there were over one million Tommy Guns made for combat. The History Channel pointed out that the last months of WWII, the U.S. was outnumbered in France near Germany.

A New Weapon Advancement Comes to Battle.

By the end of WWI, American firearms designer John Browning developed a new and more powerful firearm that helped make a difference in the war: The Browning M2 Machine Gun. This was a .50 caliber (12.7mm) gun with an effective range of 2,000 meters, and a fire-rate of 550 rounds per minute.

M2 Browning .50 Caliber Machine Gun. Courtesy: turbosquid.com

The U.S. needed something that could penetrate enemy vehicles, light armor tanks, and aircraft. The .50 caliber bullets will go right through an engine block stopping the enemy in their tracks.

Germany had many weapons used by soldiers on the ground in WWII, but they didn’t have anything like the U.S. 50 cal. The M2 has been used in just about every military conflict from 1933 to today.

“…Firearms have been absolutely essential in just about every aspect of American history.”

— Jeffrey Richardson, Autry National Center, United Stuff of America, History Channel 2, Air date: 06/21/2014

[8] Modern Guns Helped in Modern Wars.

The classic 5.56mm M-16 is perhaps the most successful firearm ever invented in the U.S. The M-16 was designed by the Armalite Corporation with an effective range of 450 meters (or 1,350 feet).

The military version can fire semi-automatic, meaning one pull of the trigger fires one shot; or switch to full automatic: Meaning hold on the trigger and the gun will fire until you are out of bullets or release the trigger. Keeping physical control and maintaining accuracy of something that can burst a high number of bullets is another discussion.

M16A2. 5.56x45mm. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons, Armémuseum (The Swedish Army Museum).

The M-16 was developed for the military and used in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf Wars, and in Iraq.

The M-16 was so popular that soldiers wanted them at home for defense, target shooting and hunting. Since machine guns were outlawed in the 1930’s for civilian use, ArmaLite sold its design to Colt who further developed a civilian version called the AR-15.

Gun enthusiasts, and Second Amendment Supporters will tend to argue that a given situation can dictate the type of firearm one might use.

Gun enthusiasts, and Second Amendment Supporters will tend to argue that a given situation can dictate the type of firearm one might use. Image Source: Uncredited/ Unknown.

Gun Confusion.

Many in the public seem either confused or ignorant to the fact that the civilian AR-15 is *NOT* an assault rifle.

The media, certain political groups, and some politicians themselves like to call the civilian AR-15 an “assault weapon” or “assault rifle” because those LABELS sound dangerous than calling it by its true classification name: a “Long Gun.”

If one is telling a news story or trying to rally people to some anti-firearms cause, which line puts fear into the uninformed and uneducated public the most?:

The killer used an “Assault Rifle.”

– Or –

The killer used a “Long Gun?

Of course the story teller (media/ political interests) would be completely ignoring the only commonality in both statements, and that is, the person was a “killer.” As if the some 300 million firearms in the U.S. are just randomly going off by themselves and killing people?

Sure, unintended discharges can and do occur (by human mishandling a firearm), but that is the not the real problem is it?

As we discussed above, the evolution of the firearm is what saved America from tyranny, and we (the USA) won every major war until modern political leaders thought that they were really trained military Generals. At that point, war had nothing to do about defending anyone. War was mostly to appease some of the public but not upset other public. This is a guaranteed failing military strategy.

Can you imagine some of today’s political leaders if they were in charge during WWI or WWII? The U.S. would have lost. In fact, they would probably have sided with England in the Revolutionary War and called the Colonists, ‘terrorists.’

So let’s go back to this AR-15 = an Assault Rifle political deception.

The major similarities between the military M-16 type and the civilian AR-15 is purely cosmetic. In other words, the civilian AR-15 looks very similar to the military version but that’s as far as it goes.

Smith & Wesson AR-15 in ‘less threatening’ appearance pink with modifications and accessories. Courtesy: Littlegun.info

The civilian AR-15 is designed to fire just like a pistol or other handgun – one pull of the trigger fires one shot. The civilian AR-15 has NO automatic fire-rate.

Because the civilian AR-15 cannot auto-fire, gives it the distinguished characteristic that it is not an “Assault Weapon.” It is classified as a “Long Gun.” Dear media, politicians, and the uninformed: Now you know the difference. Please report accurately.

Field Trip:

Try this out. Go to a gun store, ask to buy an “Assault Rifle,” and notice everyone around (employees and patrons) will start to look at you funny. At another shop, tell them you want to buy a “Long Gun” and you will have an entirely different (more favorable) response.

[9] Review & Analysis.

Under escalating tyranny, the British government tried to seize all firearms and gunpowder from the Colonists (detailed report). The Colonists, mostly armed citizens eventually had a military advantage that changed the outcome of the Revolutionary War: The long rifle out-fired the British muskets.

If the British had these weapons first and the American People did not, the United States would have never existed. We were under British rule, enforced more and more by military power ruled by a King. If the British were successful at seizing the Colonists’ weapons, the Colonists would never have been able to defend themselves from British tyranny.

Next came the Civil War that almost divided the nation into a North and South. The division was over President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free all the slaves. The South fought back, but due to the invention of the Spenser Repeating Rifle, the Union North out-powered the South using this more advanced weapons technology.

A further augment can be made again, if just one man, Christopher Spencer was more sympathetic to the South, the U.S. today could be at least two countries and slavery may or may have not been wiped out.

Now comes the Wild West where the Colt .45 was used to defeat criminal gangs, and a town who came together, and armed themselves with help from a local gun store. The town banded together and successfully eliminated the outstanding criminal element.

Then the U.S. saw itself under attack and entered the Spanish-American War (with Spain). It was the massive firepower of the Gatling gun that made the difference to free Cuba, and other island nations from the Spanish Empire. The U.S. was now recognized as a world power.

In WWI and WWII, it was determined that basic pistols and rifles were not very effective weapons for combat. At the end of World War I and throughout World War II, the .45 caliber Thompson Sub-Machine Gun became one of the weapons American ground troops used to help win these wars.

Modern weapons such as the 5.56mm M-16 was developed for the military and used in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf Wars, and in Iraq. The military’s M-16 had both single shot and full automatic capability.

A civilian version of the M-16 was developed, but only had cosmetic appearance compared to the military version. Functionally, the civilian AR-15 fired just one shot per pull of the trigger.


Government Leaders Who ALL Supported Gun Control and Their Subsequent Accomplishment After That Fact.

Without the innovation, development and improving the use of superior weapons technology, in all likelihood, America may not have ever existed.

America certainly would not have been armed to defend itself; defend against executive tyranny, fight for liberty, end slavery, create civil rights for all, let alone to vote or have free speech.

All control would have been maintained by a central power much like how radical tyrants such as Julius Caesar, King George III, Adolph HitlerJoseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Mao Zedong commanded to keep their people in constant fear of their government. The graphic above shows what these governments did once they established gun control.

If you disagreed with them, got out of line with these tyrants or their military commanders, at best one would be placed in a concentration camp: No lawyers, no trial, no comfy bed, no Cheerios. One would be lucky if they got some old food to eat (or even dog food scraps). The other penalty risk was immediate death by execution, or corralled to a death camp where millions were gassed.

The ONLY purpose to disarm a society is to have control over the People. So those in power can inflict unchecked tyranny at will on anyone who is non-complaint (hence again, exactly what led to the American Revolutionary War).

In the meantime, anything political “leaders” and the sort, can do to strike a law-abiding citizen’s rights is proof that they are working toward tyranny. This could mean censoring specific speech. It could mean not enforcing laws that tax citizens to divert benefits to illegal aliens operating within U.S. borders? This could also mean to weaken potential resistance from a society. This has happened over and over in history and it is happening now.

This isn’t my opinion, but rather years of research and behavioral observation. All one has to do is look at what the political talk or actions are, and then watch how the People respond.

Firearm Sales (background checks) Break Records Under Obama

In the last 18 years, 60% of Firearm Sales (FBI background check requests) occurred during the Obama Administration (Chart below data source: DOJ/FBI/NICS). One has to ask the question? WHY are Americans arming themselves over the last seven years more than any time in history?

In the last 18 years, 60% of Firearm Sales (FBI background check requests) occurred During the Obama Administration (Data Source: DOJ/FBI NICS).

In the last 18 years, 60% of Firearm Sales (FBI background check requests) occurred During the Obama Administration (Data Source: DOJ/FBI NICS).

The FBI has stated that number of background check requests do not correspond to the number of gun sales. Those with criminal records, or other restrictions will show up as a background check but not a sale.

One can also purchase more than one firearm at a time and undergo just one background check if bought on the same day, at the same location, at the same time, by the same person, using the same paperwork.

Politics of Guns

Others continue to push anti-firearm agenda today. The deception is that it’s for our own good, or ‘for the good of the children’ (Hitler quote).

As if Americans are too stupid to be able to take care of ourselves unless we had some central ruling power to tell us how to think (media-advertising), what to think (school), and all in effort to shape our compliance.

Early Americans including our forefathers warned us with first-hand experience with tyrants.

“To Disarm the People (is) the Best and Most Effectual Way to Enslave Them…”

George Mason IV (1725-1792), “Father of the United States Bill of Rights” (source)

So to do anything that goes against our Constitutional foundation or to reinterpret what 240 years of history has shown should raise concern.

Despite those who think that if we just ban certain or all types of weapons, that somehow we would live in a safer society? Apparently that person has never lived in Mexico [Point 11], Great Britain [Point 4], or Chicago.

In fact, I did a 2015 study that examined violent crime in the United States. Using all state and federal government crime data, I concluded that states that leaned Democratic have 46 percent more murders than Republican-leaning states.


[10] Conclusion.

We can conclude that the U.S. developed its gun culture out of necessity; to defend against tyranny and repression both from foreign and domestic threats. No other country in the world has the history, development or success like America.

This must explain why millions each year try to come to the U.S. legally or illegally. Notice we don’t see any mass migration to the One-Party “Socialist” (Communist) states such as China? Nor do we see people rushing to the first Socialist State, (Communist) Russia?

Arguably, more people would like to get out from under the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” aka Totalitarian dictatorship of North Korea, than those wanting to run and live under that repressive government.

Millions of people want to come to the USA. They want freedom, and liberty like nowhere else. Yet there are some who want to cause America harm and harm to its citizens solely because we have such freedoms and liberty.

Thus, removing or limiting upstanding, law-abiding Americans to be able to properly defend themselves at a time of extreme crisis sends the wrong message.

That move only helps terrorists, criminals and other would be harmful people to keep Americans LESS SAFE. Police can’t be everywhere to protect citizens at will.

Citizens have to take a reasonable level of responsibility for their everyday safety. The U.S. is not like any country in Europe. England could still be under tyrannical dictatorship if it wasn’t for the United States to take the lead, allowed continued development of advanced weapons, and helped put an end to British tyranny.

The U.S. does have a history leading to stop repressive and tyrannical governments from the Revolutionary War to WWII. The U.S. was fully committed to those wars.

With a few exceptions, U.S. has put-forth failed leadership. Political correctness, using lawyers to report and punish troops on the battlefield, and lack of commitment to the defeating an enemy such as ISIS/ ISIL/ Daesh, etc. has only allowed them to flourish.

History has shown us that the danger has not been the law-abiding citizen with the firearm, but rather than the politician in power who wishes to eliminate them.

“In America we have a different relationship with firearms than I think in most other countries. Guns were part of the tools of who we were. And guns have always been a part of American culture.”

Mark Hall-Patton, Clark County Museum, United Stuff of America, History Channel 2, Air date: 06/21/2014 (media news story).


See More of Our Reports on Gun Policies.

Original Broadcast Credits: United Stuff of America, History Channel 2, Air date: 06/21/2014, ©2014 A&E Television Networks LLC. Other image credits: Courtesy of their respective owners where known and or credited. Some images may be used from non-original sources. Please request credit. Additional content copyright © 2016 NetAdvisor.org® All Rights Reserved.

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