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October 17, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
With the slightest bend of an index finger, someone can fire a bullet that slices through a target, delivers a kill shot to a deer hundreds of yards away or ends the life of another human being.
The United States has more guns than any other country in the world. For every 100 people, the U.S. has 88.8 firearms. It’s a statistic that garners America an extremely comfortable first place, with 40 percent higher gun ownership than second place Yemen.
No other country across the globe shares the zealous nature of the American obsession with firearms. Guns are ubiquitous within pop culture, and they fill movies, television shows and songs with ready-made street cred. Children play cops and robbers with toy versions of the weapons, and video gamers can shoot everything from elk to zombies.
Beneath this fascination with guns is a battleground for a way of life, with fervent supporters on various sides.
Millions of people hate guns and the dangers they present. Those who oppose them believe guns might not kill people on their own, but they make the act far too easy.
On the other hand, millions of people love guns and the freedoms they symbolize. They’re a Constitutional right, a method for hunting or recreation and a form of protection. Firearm proponents believe, if obtained legally and used properly, guns offer little danger.
Our feature this week presents the enthusiasts’ view of this multi-faceted discussion. It’s an examination of the prominence of guns throughout our region and what makes firearms such a prevalent part of our Midwestern heritage.
From family traditions to personal protection, the passion people have for their guns helps define our local gun culture.