In a NY Times op-ed, philosophy professor Firmin DeBrabander surveys America's exceptional madness:
Every state except for Illinois has a law allowing the carrying of concealed weapons--and just last week, a federal court struck down Illinois’ ban.... And of course, there was Oklahoma’s ominous Open Carry Law approved by voters this election day--the fifteenth of its kind, in fact--which, as the name suggests, allows those with a special permit to carry weapons in the open, with a holster on their hip.
As gun rightsters see it (or claim to see it), "an armed society is a polite society," which seems to either stem from, or is meant to evoke, a 1950s television vision of an organically peaceful Old West town, in which all the perambulating folk except for the hopelessly unvirtuous lived by some now-extinguished code of honor, which itself was imbued with the silent presence of potential armed violence.
It's a myth, of course; it would not have occurred to "cowboys" to carry sidearms into town, since the wearing of sidearms was a practice exclusively devoted to self-protection against beastly critters of the wild. And, needless to say, every Saturday night barroom brawl would have been a Saturday night massacre, had drunken cowpokes carried heat.
What's more, to say that "an armed society is a polite society" is to render those 19th-century, bourgeois Shakespeare clubs and Chautauqua discussion groups mere covens of powerful weaponry--concealed or not--while squalid urban hellholes of murderous violence were, one supposes, unilaterally disarmed.
Yet just flip the terms and you accurately see what DeBrabander observes: "an armed society ... is the opposite of a civil society." In an especially incisive passage, he cites Hannah Arendt:
According to Arendt, speech dominates and distinguishes the polis, the highest form of human association, which is devoted to the freedom and equality of its component members. Violence--and the threat of it--is a pre-political manner of communication and control, characteristic of undemocratic organizations and hierarchical relationships (italics mine).
Which is another way of framing what Thomas Hobbes originally framed: a "state of nature," a savage atomism, a dog-eat-dog libertarianism--the philosophical poverty of We're all in this alone.
Fear becomes the real and pervasive authority in such a state. Thus, as DeBrabander notes the paradox, "Freedom is vanished at that point"--the very freedom that gun rightsters say only guns can preserve.