I came across an eye-opening revelation in the article “How Did Guns Get So Powerful?” in a recent edition of The New Yorker magazine. Writer Philip Kay begins by telling an interesting tale of the 5-shot Colt Revolver being introduced to the Texas Rangers and shocking the Comanches the first time they were used in battle in 1844. “They had a shot for every finger,” one Comanche said after the engagement.

But When the Rangers sought to buy more of Samuel Colt’s new weapon they were surprised to find that Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company had gone out of business. There just wasn’t much of a demand for guns in the mid-19th Century.

In fact, the article explains, there had not been a demand for firearms in the United States since before the United States existed. The writer points out that “a report from 1756 on the military preparedness of the colonies found that no more than half of the militia members were armed.”

In 1776, the article continues, the governor of Rhode Island told George Washington that the colonists had almost entirely “disposed of their arms” because they believed themselves to be in “a perfect state of security.”

Today it is estimated more than 393 million guns are owned by private citizens in the United States.

How did we go from there to here in roughly 250 years? For the answer, I suggest reading The New Yorker article. As I said, it’s eye-opening.

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist blog Wednesdays and Fridays. His column, The Optimist, is published every week in Greater Pittston Progress.

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