Culture  /  Audio

Straight Shot

The History Guys look at who has had access to guns in the U.S., and what those guns have meant to the people who have owned them.

ED: Today on the show, we’re exploring the history of guns in the United States. Who has them, and who wants them. The United States has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world, nearly one privately owned firearm for every man woman or child.

BRIAN: In the past month, the question of how those guns should be regulated has sparked National debate. In the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama promised to make gun violence a central issue of his second term.

Just last week, he unveiled new gun control proposals, including universal background checks. The NRA hit it back hard saying, the way to prevent school shootings is not to restrict gun ownership, but to get more guns in the hands of the right people.

PETER: Americans of all political stripes are wrestling with one big question. Who should and should not have access to guns? So in this hour of BackStory, that’s the question we’ll be pushing back through the centuries.

ED: What did that debate look like in the years after the Civil War, when new kinds of guns were flooding the North and the South? What did it look like 100 years later, when black activists were using terms like, by any means necessary? And yes, what did it look like in the founding generation, to those guys who actually came up with that whole business about the right to bear arms?

BRIAN: It’s pretty hard to talk about gun ownership today, without somebody bringing up the Second Amendment. That’s the one that says that 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. These days, people tend to focus on the last part of a sense, the right to bear arms. But what about the beginning? What was that whole business about the militia?