When debating guns, it seems impossible to not hear the saying, "Guns don't kill people." If you toss out a statistic about gun deaths, you will hear this retort.
I'm a gun owner. I own them simply because I come from a law enforcement family. I don't have any interest in them at all. Grew up around them. You point, they go bang. But that's not all that guns do, now is it?
Guns give people a sense of power. A command over many. They make men make rash decisions. They embolden people to do things out of arrogance and self-righteousness. If you were walking by a group of three young men whom were clearly out looking for a fight in a downtown area, you might decide to cross the street if you were unarmed. If you were armed, you might say,"Fuck it, I have a right to be here." and take on that path of resistance. A notable example of this being caught on video is the DC detective taking on a crowd for throwing snowballs. He drew his service weapon rather than walking or driving away. Link
There are other things that give people a sense of power and cause them to act as if human life doesn't matter. Cars. How many cases of road rage could we find? Cars are another thing that emboldens people to do stupid things. I had a guy attempt to run me down once while on a motorcycle. I waved him into a parking lot, got off the bike and he disappeared. As soon as I went to get back onto the road, he came at me. Being on a sport bike he had no chance and I was gone. But without a weapon, he wanted nothing to do with me. (Sremmed from him wanting me to pull out into the intersection that was blocked. Bad idea in the US, especially on a bike.) but you know what is rare... Murder in the first and second degree in cars. Killing someone in another car with the first car is difficult. We don't have enough interaction with pedestrians to get that provoked. Guns, however, allow that personal interaction along with the quick and easy solution that will give you that sense of power we have grown to love.
You can say that guns don't kill people because they are inanimate objects and be factually correct. What you ignore is that in a culture like ours where violence is regarded as being manly. Where winning a fight will get you patted on the back for years. Where people crave power over others from sports as a kid to watching movies and fantasizing yourself in the shoes of the successful violent character (Batman, Rambo, Kick Ass). Guns provide that sense of ability to easily win the fight and deliver justice when we feel wronged rather than letting the emotion settle. Gun ownership is the leading cause of homocide, 2 to 1. Nothing else compares.
We have a right to guns in the US. I don't deny that. But denying the reality that without guns we would not have nearly the same number of murders is denying reality. Without guns, people would take that extra second to think rather than simply react. There are anecdotal cases where the right gun owner wins and yeah, let's write that down. But don't forget that each year, there are 10,000 other cases where the outcome didn't have to be what it is. Guns cause people to act in ways that they wouldn't normally act. This is why I reject the claim that "Guns Don't Kill People".
I think it's related to the fact that many Americans like big and loud. The guy whispering a long and though out conversation gets crowded out by those who yell simplistic opinion. The most read papers are the extremely opinionated WSJ and NYT, and to a much lesser degree the less biased WT. Two of the most watched news networks are the highly opinionated Fox News and MSNBC, though less biased CNN is also quite popular with around 50% of the market.
Nothing quite yells as loud as waiving a gun around. As an outsider, it seems to be the main reason. You are forced to listen to someone who holds a gun, and convincing someone of your correct opinion is much easier if the listener fears for his life.
"GET OFF MY LAWN!" is the US attitude to when a gun is legally acceptable to brandish. Combined with lax gun laws, no required training, and widespread religious indoctrination, it has proven itself to be a recipe for disaster.
I suspect you are on to something. There is more than fear involved. I'd bet that many simply enjoy the sense of empowerment they derive from owning/carrying firearms. Like the effects of a feel good drug.
Just visit a few of the gun owners' and collectors' Web sites, like The Firing Line and The High Road, and poke around there for ten minutes. You'll quickly see for yourself that the gun aficionados' obsessive passion for weapons runs far broader and deeper than the sense of empowerment they may gain simply from being armed.
Cop sees person running from crime scene "Stop! Or I will say stop again"
Cops in Europe are able to outrun criminals because part of their job description is to stay physically fit. It is exceedingly rare that a criminal is able to escape. In addition, peppering a running theif with bullets seem a bit excessive when compared to the crime.
(Also note that many officers do have weapons accessible in the police cruiser in case of armed confrontation, but need explicit verbal permission from the on-duty police prosecutor to unlock them.)
Of course, and I apologise if my comments are taken as sweeping generalisations. Most US police officers are intelligent, well educated, highly trained and non-violent. Some Norwegian police officers are also unintelligent, lazy, and violent.
However, I've yet to see an obese norwegian police officer, or an officer carrying a gun when patrolling the streets, or while responing to a "regular" call.
Cop sees kid running from crime scene. He's black, so BANG - he's dead. Turns out he's late for his curfew. Happens daily in American cities.
I think drugs cause more violence and death than guns.