In the final episode of Unplanned America Series 3, Parv, Nick and Gonzo go on what on the face of it, looks like a militaristic boys only adventure. But beyond the commandeering of tanks and firing of high powered weapons, our “generally” anti-gun crew gain an insight into why, despite America’s mass shootings, guns are still such a valued part of life in the USA.
Jim Mitchell

24 Feb 2016 - 11:35 AM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2016 - 11:36 AM

Americans really dig guns – and they’ve got a lot of them

“No shit, Sarah (Palin)” you might say, “The right to bear arms is enshrined right there in the second amendment of the Constitution!” But it’s the sheer mammoth scale of gun ownership across the country that is particularly alarming, and telling. Weapons trainer and combat expert “Gator” Glass tells the boys there are enough guns in America to furnish five to each citizen and that gun manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand. He believes the profound ubiquity of guns would make it impossible for any government to completely rid America of them. It’s legal to carry a gun in public without a license in 31 states.


It’s against the law to shoot at a person… so everything should be cool

Take for example the laws that govern the use of the high-powered Barrett M82A1, which allows firing at a military issued zipper (yep, one of these things) but not at a “person”. “It’s against the Geneva Convention - technically - to fire this at people, however it can be used [to shoot at] material,” explains Tony Borglum, owner of warfare wonderland Drive A Tank. “Vehicle, engine, tyre, military issue glasses, military issued zipper are all great examples of equipment which you could use this rifle to engage. However, you can’t shoot people.”


Gun violence is perceived as “a people problem, not a hardware problem”

These are the words of Mark Serbu, a firearms manufacturer brandishing an automatic weapon that shoots 1800 bullets per minute. It’s a common refrain amongst those in the pro-gun movement interviewed - it’s not the gun that’s the issue but the person controlling it. But some interviewed admit what a dilemma the gun debate brings – with the right to bear arms a valued part of the constitution, should those that are mentally ill have their rights curtailed?


Gun owners genuinely believe they need a weapon to protect themselves, as if war could break out at any moment

Our road-trippers encounter a widespread sense that violence in America is an ever present, ever near threat. “The chance of me needing my gun is 0% - until it’s 100,” says Ed Levine, Founder and President of Virginia Open Carry who wears a gun magnetised to his belt buckle (pictured above). The controversial belief is that it’s better to be equipped to “equalize” a threat and save and protect lives rather than helplessly watching casualties mount. With a gun you’re not the victim - you’re the protector.


There is always the risk that the government will collapse or fail to protect its citizens… and you need to be ready… with your gun

Visiting the Texas State Militia, the boys discover that the men they encounter are not the “borderline terrorist, anti-government whackos” they were expecting, but level headed private soldiers and survivalists who act as alternative protectors of society, underscored by a fear of fallible government.

“You look at dozens and dozens of examples where society breaks down temporarily or long term and the Government’s not there to help you,” says Texas State Militia member Matt. “Well it’s your responsibility as a citizen to have the fire power and the training necessary to help defend your town, defend your neighbours.”


Watch Unplanned America series 3 on SBS On Demand.