Changing a Culture of Gun Violence

Changing a Culture of Gun Violence

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

By Robert Scott

​The year was 1767, the place: right here, in upstate South Carolina. There had been a recent war between the colonial forces and the Cherokee nation, and the Cherokees were pushed northwest toward the mountains; the colonial forces for the most part returned to the coast, leaving an outpost in Ninety-Six, near Greenwood. Those settlers who populated the back country soon found themselves left to their own devices, and before long they were subject to criminals who found isolated homes easy pickings. Without any protection by the law based in Charleston, settler families had to fend for themselves. They needed guns, as many as they could muster, for self-protection. The year 1767 saw the advent of the Regulators, settlers themselves who searched for, arrested, and frequently punished lawbreakers in what would later be called vigilante justice. The corollary to a man’s house being his castle was a perceived need to expand gun ownership to protect that castle, because the government had proven unable or unwilling to do so. The unlawful vigilantism of the Regulators convinced the authorities to establish towns like Edgefield Courthouse, closer locations for justice, but the culture of ever-expanding gun ownership proved to be permanent.

​Fast forward to 2022, and you will find that culture is still with us. The best protection from bad guys with guns, many assert, is an ever-growing number of good guys with guns. Absent local law enforcement, that answer was arguably correct in 1767. Is it still true now? Mass shootings by people witheasily acquired guns have filled the news for several years. Lest we forget how frequent they are, the month just ending saw three such incidents. There was the fatal shooting of three football players at the University of Virginia, the shooter being a fellow student. Then there was a gunman well known to the other patrons, who opened fire in Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs. And most recently (unless another happens before this column can go to press), there was a Walmart manager in Chesapeake, Virginia, who legally bought a handgun in the morning and that same afternoon killed six of his fellow workers before taking his own life. All of these point to the failure of our culture to manage a country where the right to bear arms seems to be more important than the right to live without fear.

​Can anything be done to change the “more is better” failed gun culture, a culture that has been with us here in Edgefield County since colonial days? The only answer: maybe. One of the efforts to do so is a new youth organization called Project Unloaded. An internet search easily finds information about Project Unloaded, led by a youth council trying to reverse gun culture by continuing the initiative started by the students who survived the Parkland shooting a couple of years ago. A basic tenet of Project Unloaded is to convince young people of the truth of these assertions: guns make people less safe. Specifically, guns make young people less safe. Guns make women less safe. Guns make black people less safe. Guns make people with mental illness less safe. Guns make homes less safe. And guns make everyone less safe.

​In my military career, I learned firsthand what guns can do as well as what they cannot do, and I believe those assertions. How about you? Are you curious enough to look for Project Unloaded on the internet, to see how those assertions are justified?