Personal protection: America's love story with firearms
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” - Second Amendment of the American Constitution (ratified in 1791).
I'm not even going to get into the relevance to today's society of something written 230 years go (a militia?). Suffice to say that the United States are home to more privately-owned firearms than human beings. That's right, 393 million guns versus 328 million people. Of these, 63% were purchased for self-protection. Importantly, this has zero to do with class, race or politics, it's a transversal and deeply-ingrained phenomenon.
Unfathomable. I cannot think of another word to describe how culturally far removed this cultish relationship is to us Europeans. On rereading the amendment, I think the conflation of arm-bearing and freedom, a word that lately seems to be taking on equally mystifying meanings, may well be at the core of it. Freedom from the invisible enemy, which would explain why sales have risen sharply during the pandemic. The mind boggles.
Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti has travelled across the US to produce an astonishing visual survey of gun ownership, winner of the World Press Photo Award 2021, and now made into a book titled The Ameriguns. His photos are aesthetically pristine, precisely staged to convey not just the jaw-dropping magnitude of these collections, but also the pride exuded by the owners. I'm both fascinated and horrified, to me it looks like a complete freak show.
All photos © Gabriele Galimberti