Guns have always been wedded to Southern Life. A lot of folks who are not from around here don’t understand why that is. Let me explain.
Initially, the wild-west was indeed the Southern Frontier including the western portions of the Southeastern states. My grandfather’s farm in upstate S.C. was bounded by Corner Creek which was the corner terminus of the Cherokee Nation before their removal. Guns were necessary to protect families from man and beast. The tradition has continued.
But mainly, guns were also an integral part of Southern Life because hunting was an important source of meat for the dinner table. Many families survived on the sustenance provided by deer, quail, rabbits, squirrels and even possums. Folks ate what they killed or caught. Most times it was their only source of meat.
About the time we started accumulating enough domestic animals to provide ample meat for the family table, General Sherman and his crew came through and wantonly killed off all the livestock found during their destructive march through the Southland. South Carolina especially suffered because Northern forces wanted to impose special punishment for the inhabitants of the state where the war began. In the aftermath, our forebears once again depended on the forest and streams for daily food.
So, you see, hunting was a way of life for our kin and it remains dear to the hearts of most Southern men-folk. The tradition of gun ownership continues.
Historically and not until recently did you ever hear of a ‘home invasion’ in the South because anyone with inclinations toward such action knew for certain that there were several guns at the ready in each and every Southern household. Burglary was very rare and any sort of hijacking or kidnapping was virtually unheard of.
My grandparents didn’t even possess a key to their front door. It was just simply unnecessary.
So guns have always been a part of Southern Life and so it continues today. When I was a lad many vehicles sported shotgun and rifles onboard. Try pulling onto a school yard today in like manner. Back then, guns on the streets were commonplace. Many merchants wore guns in holsters or had a shotgun prominently displayed in ready-reach behind the cash registers. I don’t ever remember a local merchant being robbed. It happens moment by moment in American society today. Almost every male carried a weapon. When my Dad joined the church almost 100 years ago in upcountry South Carolina, he had a pistol in his pants pocket. He was certainly not alone in this among the congregation.
I once walked across the business center of the town I was living in with a shotgun and no one even noticed. Furthermore, I strolled into the bank and laid the gun on the vice-president’s desk because he had expressed an interest in buying it for his son. If I did such today, I would be in federal prison — that is if I survived the police onslaught after someone had cell-phoned 911.
The whole time I was in college, many of us kept hunting weapons in our car or dorm-room closet. No one ever noticed. Some of us would hunt after Saturday classes. We had no way of cooking our game but we always saw to it that we gave it to someone who would prepare it for their own supper table. Our prey graced the tables of many appreciative folks. I don’t think I have ever killed a living creature that I did not personally consume or give to someone who would. (Poisonous snakes excluded, of course). The same goes for fish I have caught but most I returned to the water as soon as they were landed.
Student automobiles were rare on the college campus, consequently, when it came time to go home for the holidays, I would hitch-hike with gun in hand and never once was I refused a ride because I was so-called “armed.” It was just natural that guns were a part of Southern life and few folks gave it a second thought. You must also note that in spite of our weapons there was never a case of a student mass-killing other students. We didn’t have “security officers” on public or private campuses. Never did you ever learn of a person killing dozens in a movie theater and such. We just didn’t use our guns to harm each other except in cases of self-defense. Even self-defense cases were rare because folks with a criminal bent just don’t attack an armed person. There is much value to the notion that if everybody was armed, crime would be greatly diminished. But try telling that to the gun-control enthusiasts.
What’s the difference today? Dang if I know but I have to think that today’s hostile climate came about simultaneously with the moral breakdown of our society. I think this demise came about with the mass-urbanization of American society. In an agrarian society, there has existed a traditional morality not necessarily seen in the asphalt jungles of big cities.
But I think it would be unwise to overlook the fact that an armed society tends to be a safer society for innocent citizens. Southern history validates this argument.
John Brock is a retired newspaper editor/publisher and college professor. He can be reached by mail at this newspaper or by Email at: email@example.com.
Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.
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