How we see an object influences what we do about it – and guns are no exception.

Greg Dickinson, a communications professor at Colorado State University, and rhetoric scholar Brian Ott argue that Americans’ attitudes toward firearms are deeply shaped by three enduring stories our national culture has handed down about them. One of them, for example, is that guns are “quintessentially American,” woven into how we imagine the country’s history, especially the “Wild West.” This familiar story associates guns with freedom, Manifest Destiny and even God.

Each new wave of gun violence in the United States produces lots of debate, but usually little action. To understand why, they suggest a close look at how we talk about guns in the first place – not just in talking points, but in everyday culture.

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Molly Jackson

Religion and Ethics Editor

A family poses in front of their sod house in Custer County, Neb., in 1887. Bettmann/Bettmann via Getty Images

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