Three Things every Dutchie should know about the American Gun Culture

Immediately after the D.C. Naval Yard shooting my social media outlets exploded with Dutch friends condemning the American gun culture. In a few days I have seen comments like “Of course trigger-happy America has another mass shooting”, and “America and guns = Stupidity”. Even major Dutch news sources reacted aghast and with repulsion to the gun culture that was deemed responsible for the shooting. When it comes down to guns in America, any form of objectivity is lost to Dutchies. To most Dutch people it seems illogical that the US has not prohibited firearms. Even though the Dutch claim to be very familiar with the American culture, there is a huge disconnect with this part of the American culture. To Dutch people guns equal bad and they should therefore be outlawed. Any American who does not see this point is unreasonable and stupid. The Dutch are simply unable to see the issue through a different pair of glasses. Before I spent four years in the US I too held the same beliefs. However, after these years I have come to understand the American point of view on guns and I feel this is worth sharing in order to reduce the disconnect. There are three parts of the American gun culture that Dutchies should consider before passing on judgment about America and guns.

031023-N-6967M-234You probably had this pictured in your mind when reading the article title

 Gun History

The gun culture is very much ingrained in the American society. The Second Amendment of the Bill or Rights, ratified in 1794, states 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”. The amendment sees an armed population as necessary to safeguard the American state. Although what constitutes as a militia has been up for debate, the 2008 Supreme Court case D.C. v. Heller upholds the idea that a militia is the general population. Thus, the Americans have a longstanding history of being able to legally posses firearms. This history can be seen in the American sentiment that partly due to the use of weapons the Revolutionaries overthrew the Brits. The gun culture is something that was part of the foundation and growth of the American state. In a way guns can be compared to the Dutch polders. Both were part of the nations’ historical rise and are part of the countries’ history (and both possessing a gun and living under sea level might be dangerous by the way). Because of the historical value of guns as part of the American culture, firearms are part of the American heritage. Guns are often important family heirlooms and presented as a piece of history. They are not seen as dangerous equipment, but as a detrimental part of American history and therefore part of the American culture.

   tumblr_megbydLej51rlts10o1_500  Well that’s one way to look at it

Gun Responsibility

Because guns are part of the American history, a lot of Americans, especially in rural areas, are grown up around firearms. From a young age they learn how to safely operate them and the dangers guns can create. The average American has a much more realistic outlook on guns than the average Dutchman. Most people in the Netherlands only touch a weapon during the yearly ‘kermis‘ and therefore generally have a skewed outlook on the use of firearms. In general Americans have a very responsible view on weapons compared to Dutch people. The overwhelming majority of Americans store their firearms in safes and keep them away from young children. Americans realize the power that is vested in a firearm and know that with this realization comes responsible use of the firearm. Whenever I shot a gun with American friends they thoroughly explained how to safely use the weapon and made me aware of the power, including the dangers, that comes with a weapon. Dutch people usually cannot comprehend this responsibility. Of courses there are exceptions to the rule, but in general the gun responsibility that Americans have is often overlooked by Dutch people.

 Kermis31Admit it, this is the only time you’ve actually held a gun

 Gun Necessity

Once I had an American friend ask me what the most dangerous wild animal was we have in the Netherlands. After a long thought I responded with “Jellyfish, since they can hurt you the most” (really, think about it, what other animals in the Netherlands are more dangerous?). It took a couple of seconds before my American friend realized that my answer was completely serious, to which he responded “What? You don’t have bears or something” (uh, how about no). Like every Dutchmen I was a little bit blown away by his reaction, but counter-asked “Bears? Hell no, by the way what do you do if you see a bear?”. My American friend’s simple answer? ”You shoot ’em!”. Americans are a lot more likely to encounter dangerous wildlife than Dutch people are. The easiest way to defend oneself against these animals is to simply shoot them down. In some areas in the US having a firearm at home is a precaution in case you encounter a dangerous animal. The ownership of a gun is a necessity to safeguard your home. For other Americans the possession and use of a firearm is a necessity for a steady food supply. There are still American families who rely on hunting for their daily meat on the table. Instead of cutting it on Friday night, daddy will just shoot it. In rural America guns are a necessity to provide for and safeguard one’s family, something that is unthinkable in the Netherlands.

 Untitled-1I’d totally put my money on the jellyfish

 Understanding of the American gun culture

The gun history, responsibility, and necessity might shed a different light on the gun culture in America. As a Dutchie the gun culture in the US seems such a foreign concept that it is hard to understand why Americans cling so much to their firearms. Dutch people often have the idea that every American is gun crazy and carries a revolver with them at all times. Since gun possession in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in the world, Dutchies have trouble sympathizing with the gun culture in the US. Hopefully this article changed a bit of your outlook on American and their guns. Regardless if you disapprove of the widespread gun possession in the US, a little understanding of the other culture is always helpful.


  1. While I think that this article is one-sided in only defending guns, I do praise the focus on the historical-cultural aspect of the matter. This should be mandatory reading for anyone voicing an opinion on US gun legislation.

    • As you can read in my post above. I am a gunowner, but i too support gun regulation. We Belgians live in a way that we can aquire guns simular to what Americans can aquire, but it is all heavily regulated, registered and checked before we can get one.

      What the USA needs at the moment, is an imediate national wide Universal backgroundcheck AND a mental medical examn. Anyone who wants a gun, NEEDS to show that he is sane and capable of handling one! The grand majority of US gun owners are like this…But its the minorty of idiots who still keep a rifle chambered locked and loaded that needs to be taken care off, aswel as the criminal murders and mentally ill attacks (wich account for the majority of gundeaths)

      A society can perfectly live with guns. Because if person A can drive a gigantic pick-up truck (wich has proven to be more deadlier in traffic then a regular car), then i can own a gun. .

      • U.S. expat in NL: Agreed, but the “gun lobby” has spread the message to gun U.S. owners that a background check or registration infringes on their 2nd amendment rights to bear arms and is just a means for the “evil” federal government to confiscate their guns when they outlaw them. And that’s why we call them “gun nuts.”

  2. There are more than 30.000 deaths caused by firearms every year in america…to compare that to bear attacks is bananas…besides that…you don’t need an assault gun to kill a bear.

    Talking about dangerous animals, you can see the example of Australia, they do have dangerous animals, take a look to this article of what they did when they banned guns some years ago.

    The argument of the second amendment is also silly, that could have been true then, but these are very different times and laws needs to adapt to current times.

    It is sad, but they have got what they deserve, if they are not able to control the NRA, this kind of shootings will keep happening.

    • If the argument of the Second Amendment is silly nowadays, why is it that in 2008 the Supreme Court did not rule a more progressive interpretation of it, but instead made it even more conservative?

      • The reason for that ruling, and many other reactive rather than progressive rulings, is that five of the nine justices are conservative. A few, notably Roberts Alito, Thomas, and Scalio, are very conservative.

        • So Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Roberts, and Kennedy (who isn’t even that conservative) all were silly by making a more originalist interpretation of the Second Amendment, because they are conservative? Five highly intellectual men who have a ton of judicial experience are silly? Of course you can disapprove with the ruling, but calling it silly shows a complete disrespect for and disregard of the American judicial system. The fact is that the Second Amendment, according to the case, allows every capable American to own a firearm, regardless if you approve or disapprove of the ruling.

          Also, the balance of the Supreme court has changed to a more progressive form, but even if DC v Heller would be brought up again it is unlikely that the ruling would be a lot different.

          • I was just answering your question. I didn’t approve or disapprove of the decision. I didn’t call anything silly. Its a simple fact of the flow and ebb of the Supreme Court. When it has a majority of conservatives, they will rule as such. The same would happen if liberals were a majority on the court.

    • Ismael what happened in Australia will NEVER happen in the United States. I live in New Jersey, one of the most restrictive states in the US where gun laws are concerned. The gun owners here jump through all kinds of regulations to legally own a firearm already and have tolerated it until now because we are law-abiding and responsible people. But now the politicians have pushed too far. Recently the New Jersey legislature attempted to impose even more restrictive gun laws. This is the reaction they got last week at the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton:

    • There are deaths like this because of “gun free zones”. Understand facts before you condemn us. It’s the fault of ignorant politicians and anti-gun nutjobs. If you took a minute to research you’d find every event like that is where guns are not allowed. There are cities where you are REQUIRED by law to own a gun and must opt out at the courthouse. There are virtually zero criminal activities involving guns there. Everywhere they’ve been banned like Chicago becomes the “murder capitol” in no time. Get the facts before passing judgement!

    • AbuzerDR First of all I realize this must be far different from what you are used to but I would like to remind you that Americans are criticized continually for not being tolerant enough of other cultures. Why is it that the rest of the world feels free to pummel a valued and deeply cherished American tradition? There is evil in the world, there are crazy people in the world and horrible things happen when mental illness is left untreated. But the vast majority of American citizens are not mentally ill and we have a right and responsibility to bear arms. If you ever come stateside you should explore this more. It will open your eyes to what the author of this article seems to be trying to convey.

  3. Also, I’ve been thinking about dangerous animals in The Netherlands, and all I could come up with are wild boars, which can be aggressive when they have youngs, and vipers (though these are very rare, and their bites are of no great threat).

  4. Koen, the basis of your article is that Dutch people are
    very ignorant about American gun culture. And though I believe that indeed,
    most Dutch people wouldn’t know about some of the things you argue, your
    article and arguments are very ignorant itself.

    Let’s start with necessity. You argue that because Americans
    are more likely to encounter wild animals in the US, they should have guns out
    of necessity to protect themselves against these animals. And this apparently
    is something Dutch people wouldn’t understand. Of course we understand this.
    Actually, I think the example of using animals is not really the argument you
    should use. If I lived in a rural area I’d like to have a firearm as well, not
    necessarily for wild animals, but mostly because law enforcement is probably
    far, far away and if there were trespassers on my porch I’d like to be able to
    protect myself. But while I understand that, and I believe most Dutch people
    would, your argument is very flawed however. Only 16% of Americans live in
    rural areas, the rest in suburban or urban areas. So by your argument, these
    people wouldn’t have the necessity to have weapons. Then again, most gun related
    deaths occur in suburban and urban areas, think gang wars etc.

    Your whole assumption is that we, Dutch people, think guns
    in itself are bad. Baseless assumption. I would argue Americans should be
    perfectly able to have a gun, especially in your example of Americans living in
    rural areas. But should everybody be able to have guns that easily? THAT is the
    argument. Buying guns at gun shows without any background checks? This man who
    shot the people in D.C. was mentally unstable, but according to standing law it
    was perfectly legal for him to buy a gun. Should that be? Is that the ‘responsibility
    that comes with gun ownership’ that you believe Americans are so serious about
    and Dutch people don’t appreciate? (another baseless assumption btw) If
    Americans are so responsible about gun ownership, why would they allow mentally
    unstable people to have guns? Why no proper background checks and waiting
    periods? Why should you be allowed to carry an M-16 in a bar or a church? Is
    that responsible?

    That is the whole problem with the arguments you’re making, it’s
    the typical black-white / for-against argument. Guns aren’t necessarily bad,
    and Americans should be able to have them. But the argument is about gun
    CONTROL, not gun BAN! Every time someone would make an argument to set some
    limits on how/where/on what conditions guns could be owned, he/she is
    immediately anti-gun and anti-American. Ugh!

    • The article is not arguing to be pro-firearms. My argument is that Dutch people should consider these three aspects of the American gun culture before making any judgements about it, as stated in last sentence of the first paragraph. Nowhere in the article do I praise or condemn the gun culture.

      I wanted to leave out the political side of the issue, because I did not want the article to be another one of those statistical backed news article defending or attacking the Second Amendment. This is why the article is completely focused on the historical/cultural aspect of the issue. I have noticed that most Dutch people have a bunch of rational arguments ready to argue why there should be more gun control in the US, like you did in your comment. Everything you’re saying is most likely true and many Americans will probably side with you. The problem is that most Dutch people cannot look further than these rational arguments. A big part of the whole gun debate is based upon irrational feelings that the Americans have for their gun culture. These feelings are formed through history and culture. It are these feelings that Dutch people do not understand and take in consideration when talking about the gun culture. The fact that you write an entire comment backed with rational arguments why there are problems with the American gun culture, but completely ignoring any of the cultural and historical aspects of this culture is an excellent example of this.

      • As easy as America condemns the rest of the world for anything they do, that’s how easy they’ll get judged too. That first.
        It might be their culture to be surrounded by guns, a lot of people might know how to use guns safely, but that doesn’t mean you can just use that as an excuse when another lunatic decides to yano.. just kill every motherfucker he can find. That was the beginning argument for your whole article, to reflect on the comments triggered by one of those assholes. They may overdraw the whole thing, which is maybe because..well I dunno, maybe because it happens so damn often, but it was still because of a serious event that happened. I didn’t hear anyone complain about their gun policy around the times people still didn’t deem it socially accepted to walk into a building and just spray those bullets. It might annoy you that we cannot see through those events, to understand how important guns are to them, but really, at times like these, how can you justify sticking up for them? Rationality is lost in these situations anyway, but this is really the wrong angle to pick it up from.

        • Don’t mistake what the American people are like by going by the “Leaders”. Do all statements made by your leaders reflect what you are like? I can’t speak for every American of course but most Americans, myself included, are hard-working, self-reliant, generous, tolerant people who respect the same qualities in others. Americans aren’t “surrounded by guns” any more than a Chef is “surrounded by knives” or a lumberjack is “surrounded by axes & chainsaws”. Firearms are tools. Stop allowing yourself to be propagandized. Make friends with an American and see for yourself.

    • The article is posted on a website with a target audience being Dutch people or foreigners living in the Netherlands. I limited my argument to Dutch people, because of this. I am aware I could’ve made it about Europeans in general, although Dutch people usually have the most negative view on the American gun culture compared to other Europeans

      About your other point: Yes, statistics show indeed that fatal attacks from wildlife (I was not just talking about bears in the article) are really low. But then again, I wrote the article not from a statistical and rational point of view. Because of the prevalence of dangerous wildlife, many Americans feel the need to possess a gun, even though they are aware that a fatal attack is highly unlikely. It is this irrational fear that is part of the American gun culture and that most Dutch people do not (want to) comprehend, because “You really won’t get killed by a bear, so why own a gun”. You can compare this irrational fear to a fear for flying. Statistics show that flying is one the safest modes of transportation, yet there are still people afraid to step into a plane. Do we call these people stupid and crazy?

  5. Dear readers.
    I am a gunowner. No.Not from the USA. But from your very own southern rebel neighbour. Belgium! I have liked, collected and fired Military surplus bolt action rifles for almost 3 years now. My oldest gun is a chileno mauser Model 1895 from 1905. My youngest, an Israeli K98k in .308 winchester, made by FN in Belgium.

    Next to switzerland, Belgium is a country with a decent population of gun owners. People in belgium can get almost every gun an american can get there hands on….Yet out gundeaths is very very low. For comparision: In 2006 256 people died by guns (Legal and illegally). This makes for 2.43 deaths per 100 000. In the Netherlands in 2010 this was 76 or 0.46/100 000. Data is not avaiable for 2010 in Belgium, but since gun homicides is down from 221 to 186 (Simular in Nl from 128 to 76) we can conclude that gun deaths are higher in Belgium. This is because NL is much more developed then Belgium(i as Belgian admit this), But also over 96% of gundeaths are by illegal firearms.

    Now let us compare this to switzerland. A land with much more guns then Belgium.( 1.5 million assault rifles alone). With conscription and hundreds of gunclubs, homocides in Switzerland are only 0.70/100 000. For a gun crazy country as switzerland, thats mighty impressive.

    In the USA however, we are talking off >31 0004< times more illegal guns then Belgium., a neutral organisation, has tagged Netherlands as "Moderate" in illegal gun trafficking then Belgium(wich is tagged as "low").

    So before you judge upon people with guns, remove the utopian glasses of magic land of wonders rainbows and happiness of tolerance, and look at the bigger picture..

    Infact i tought we lived in an open minded, tolerant and respectfull society? or only Open minded, tolerant and respectfull towards our own ambitions that our politicians lay upon us?

    Or the media….Screw the MEDIA…Bloody sensational press hungry mongro's. They manipulate the world regarding guns. Every gun massacere is super high detailed and placed on every headline on every corner and street…While scientist and researchers from ALL over the world have stated this is VERY BAD as you create an Anti-hero for future murderers.

    OR or so called "neutral media" in Belgium. A while ago in every news paper= OMG UZIS ARE NOW AVAIABLE FOR SALE IN BELGIUM OMG OMG OMG!
    CORRECTION: Minister of justice tried to outlaw any gun wich was a previous automatic firearm(they are made semi-auto), Something wich failed…And the media took the sensation bat up. Uzi's were always for sale in Belgium. Simular to semi-auto's, they fall under the heavily regulated "model 4" weapon license.

    So please, think, and be a jolly neutral country, when approaching subjects of today like religion, politics and…..gun regulation.

  6. Hi, I realize this is an older discussion but stumbled across it and, as a middle-aged American mother and owner of multiple firearms I feel compelled to respond to this article. First of all I appreciate the attempts the author is making at explaining American culture to the Dutch. For it is NOT American “gun culture”. It is American Culture you are discussing in this forum. Yes, respect for and use of firearms is both a right and responsibility of every freedom loving American who choses to own one and is an integral part of American Culture. We teach our children so that they can in turn teach their children. And yes, there are Family Days and Youth Days held at shooting ranges, pink shotguns and youth sized rifles abound. My kids are accomplished competition shooters and hunt for food as well. My oldest is a United States Marine. The reasons for owning firearms are many however the ultimate reason – which is understood by EVERY AMERICAN – is enshrined in the first three words of the Preamble to our Constitution “WE THE PEOPLE”. These beginning words of this particular document are held dear by myself and my countrymen because history teaches that THE PEOPLE are the ones who must be relied upon to defend freedom when all else fails. The purpose of the Second Amendment is simply to keep the government in check. An armed citizenry is a deterrent to tyranny. We have the right to overthrow our own government if or when it becomes too large, too powerful, too tyrannical. We know that being free has a price and being strong encourages peacefulness. Personal responsibility is the
    key to freedom. Do not drink the Koolaid about American gun ownership and the NRA. This is propaganda put out by the anti-gun lobby. The worst areas for gun crime in the U.S. are areas where gun ownership has been restricted and the 2nd Amendment has been infringed. Criminals do not follow these unconstitutional laws and therefore become bold knowing the law-abiding are unarmed. These mass shootings – all of them – took place in gun free zones where the citizens were not allowed to be armed. The more the “progressives” in our government try to infringe on our Second Amendment rights the more Americans are purchasing firearms, honing their training, teaching their children, collaborating with neighbors and preparing just in case. I will try to post the story of the Hession Rifle. This explains a lot about how history influences the mentality. I wish the world would read some of their own history and arm themselves so American families like mine don’t have to keep sending their children around the world to defend the defenseless. But alas with all your criticizing and hatred toward us we will still be there for you (and the rest of the world) if needed when Putin comes knocking.

  7. Sir, I am an American and I want to thank you for this fair and insightful article. I hope it help your countrymen understand our long history with guns and why we revere the gun, not fear the gun. I had a neighbor from the UK. I must admit I was extremely annoyed with her lack of respect of our culture and laws regarding personal weapons. She told her grandson in front of me “only the police have guns”. He was playing guns. A childhood and normal thing here. Other than that I really liked her and her husband (who didn’t seem to hold that belief). I want you to know you totally nailed it about our “gun culture” at every level and therefore I hold great respect for you respecting our culture. Many of us see an unarmed populace as sitting ducks for tyranny. I can say with 100% certainty that if the government ever thinks or gets the idea they will confiscate our firearms then it is an absolute certainty we will turn our guns on the government and quite possibly the military as well will turn their weapons upon the government. We will go down in a bloody revolution if need be and we will win and re-establish law, order, and Constitutional law. Now that may sound extreme to Europeans and even many Americans but that is what will happen. I hope government is never that foolish but they have aknack for being very foolish these days and are becoming very overbearing and are surveilling our every move. This gives us great pause here in America that we are headed for a fight. I pray it never happens. I fear it will and thus you see us pressing ever harder for our gun rights because the government is becoming ever more dangerous and out of touch with the common citizen. At any rate, we take our ownership and responsibility very seriously and we will never be deprived of our self defense. We are not crazy people as you found by living amongst us but we are not afraid to defend ourselves, our families, and our country from enemies, foreign OR domestic! Thanks for the great read! Thanks for your understanding. You are certainly welcome to my part of the country anytime. We are very friendly folks down here and I venture to guess you can guess what part of America I hail from. We have a stereotype of being toothless and ignorant but I hold advanced degrees in sciences. They think we are ignorant but we have them all fooled, and that’s the truth ya’ll!! 😉 hint hint!

  8. Really? The First argument doesn’t apply anymore to the 21st century. Come on nobody will invade the USA and the government doesn’t even have power over corporate America

    Second argument: Great, the Netherlands doesn’t have any dangerous animals, but countries like Norway, Australia do have dangerous animals and guns are not legal there.

    Come on Americans wake up!!! Nowhere in the world there are shootings in schools! Why is it so hard to understand that having a gun at home is not safe.

  9. Sir, I am a Dutchman and I want to tell you that I am deeply offended 😉 that you ignore the fact that your second amendment was proposed by a Dutchman, mr Jan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol. He was the one who stated “freedom and an unarmed nation are a contradiction in terms”. He fought for personal freedom and self determination in a country that later chose to become a kingdom. Subjects in stead of citizens.
    If you look at the situation in Holland now, you will appreciate why that men left his country and settled in the new world.
    I would love to follow him, and for the same reason but USA has shut the door and will not grant political asylum to fleeing Dutch gunowners.
    How times have changed since the seventeenhundreds.
    Who do we Dutch think we are to judge the Americans.

  10. Gun ownership is not the problem. Unrestricted gun ownership is. That is like allowing people to drive a car without a driving license.

    Why does the NRA start to scream “they cannot take my guns” when someone proposes a mild background check? Why must the right to own a firearm include people with a criminal record and people with a mental disorder?

    *That* is what makes the rest of the world see the USA as irresponsible gun owners. Not the number of guns itself – Switzerland has more.


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