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America and Guns: To Grasp the Obsession, Come to Texas

Texas’s defiance and love of firepower lives on.
Michael Forster Jr. with his dog and his Remington shotgun during an open carry demonstration in Irving, Texas, on June 21, 2014.
FE_Guns_16_3604 Source: Daniel Gonçalves

“Come and take it!”

Texas as an American state, like Texas as a republic before that and Texas as a Mexican state before that, survived only because armed civilians did what their government could not do—keep them safe, keep them alive. Without guns, there would be no Texas.

The first Texans had self-defense in their DNA because Mexico back then was a continuing carnival of revolutions and counterrevolutions. The far northern Mexican states, including Texas, contributed little economically to the central government, and their defense was expensive, so the settlers were often left on their own. The most common danger arose because the fight to take Indian land that so greatly inconvenienced General George Armstrong Custer on the Northern Plains was just as deadly on the Southern Plains. The Comanches, like other Texas Indians, quickly adopted the gun culture of the settlers and took up firearms as swiftly as they could trade for or steal them.

The Texas Revolution, like the American Revolution before it, was touched off when troops from the mother country were sent to repossess arms given to a militia for defense against Indians. While the redcoats at Lexington Green came to clean out an entire armory, the Mexican army was sent to Gonzales, Texas, to retrieve just one small cannon lent for warding off Comanches. That cannon is now represented on a flag iconic to the modern militia movement, along with the reply from the citizens of Gonzales: “Come and take it!”

That defiance—and that love of firepower—lives on.

The Texas Cowboy

The Texas stereotype of the cowboy hat and the pistol, like all stereotypes, has some truth to it. When I was an elected judge in Austin, I appeared at a candidate forum with the

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