Perhaps with the one exception of abortion, gun control is the most controversial issue in American politics, and it appeals strongly to the emotions of those who support as well as those who oppose further regulation of firearms. Although people take many different positions on the issue, supporting some proposals for control and rejecting others, the more uncompromising on both sides tend to collapse pro- and anti-gun control categories into two. The pro-gun forces see themselves as the supporters of a vital constitutional right to keep and bear arms pitted against the "gun grabbers." Strong advocates of gun control see themselves struggling for a more civilized society against the "gun nuts" and profit- hungry firearms manufacturers and dealers. Like many other subjects, the issue of gun control is preeminently a political question in that the competitors attempting to influence public policy have an intense interest in the ultimate outcome. Therefore, positions tend to harden and proponents of one position tend to deny any merit in the stand taken by others, each side attributing dishonest motives to those with whom they disagree. Scholars who otherwise are meticulous in presenting research results can become as impassioned in their argumentation as the most openly partisan supporter of a fervently held political position.
Supporters and opponents of gun control disagree over the significance of firearms as an independent variable in explaining the high level of violence in the United States. The term "gun culture" is used by both sides in explaining their respective views of the special role firearms have played in American history and continue to play in contemporary society. Gun rights advocates point with pride to the role that average Americans played in the Revolutionary War, especially because of the skill they demonstrated with firearms against an intimidated British force. Firearms are seen as an important ingredient in the unique ability of Americans to maintain their independence from a potentially oppressive government. Those less impressed with the gun tradition see that the American love affair with firearms has contributed to a violent past and a continuing belief that many problems can be resolved through violence. While not denying this predilection for violence, gun supporters note that other cultures not having as extensive a supply of firearms also experience high levels of violence, that some societies with high concentrations of firearms have much lower levels of violence, and that the level of violent crime in the United States did not increase proportionately with a marked increase in the number of firearms available. Gun rights advocates state their po-