I can't speak for the rest of the country, but in the South, there is a culture of gun ownership dating back to the 1600's. Ostensibly the gun was used to protect against Indians, and to hunt, but it is also a symbol of power. The Irish and Scots immigrants had been oppressed by the British and they came here determined not to be the victims of an iron-fisted government again. Resisting government oppression is very much a part of that culture and having a gun is just as necessary as having a pair of pants. The rural English culture of the South was strongly heirarchical and very much about using power in cruel ways from the master of the house/plantation down to the slaves. In that sort of situation, cruelty is perpetrated by everyone down to the next person who is weaker. Guns are also a big part of that culture, because they are needed to enforce the hierarchy. When Blacks were freed and migrated to the North, they took this gun culture with them. When a person feels weak or disrespected, I think a gun can make him feel empowered. Once you have a gun, you are a hop, skip and a jump away from commiting gun murder. You certainly can't commit gun murder without a gun.