Nothing embodies the competing interests in the debate surrounding gun control quite like zombies—according to Prof. Saul Cornell, a Second Amendment historian at Fordham University. Not only do zombies act as a metaphor for the debate itself, but Cornell said fear of a zombie apocalypse contributes to stronger belief in the individual right to bear arms.
“In the same way that Godzilla was about fears of the [nuclear] bomb, zombies are about a breakdown of government and societal order,” Cornell told Bloomberg BNA on Monday.
The evolution of the gun debate has always been tied to popular culture, he explained. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was about film noir detective movies, he said. That eventually gave rise to good-guy-with-a-gun narratives like Rambo, John McClane and Jason Bourne, Cornell said.
Now, we have zombies.
As the Republican Party moved to the right, Cornell said the debate surrounding gun control became about small government and self-protection against forces from which the government fails to protect the individual—such as zombies in a post-apocalyptic society à la AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
Our culture’s obsession with undead is pervasive. Zombies have become the one of the most popular targets used at gun ranges across the country, Cornell said. But that doesn’t mean guns are the way to survive the apocalypse.
“Nobody realizes there’s nowhere near enough guns to take on the zombies,” he said, adding that people would not only run out of weapons, but ammunition as well.
Cornell said survival in the zombie apocalypse will likely depend on community, rather than grabbing a gun and taking on an army of the undead. But the mere mindset that people should prepare for a zombie apocalypse fuels preoccupation with the right to bear arms.
“Everything defaults to these narratives that don’t reflect reality, but just stories we tend to gravitate to because they’re so familiar to us,” he said.
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