Michael Moore's new bowling For Columbine film provides harrowing and darkly hilarious insight into gun culture in the United States, but if you want further proof that firearms are as American as baseball and watery beer, go online.Enter the word "sniper" into your favourite search engine and what pops up are not hundreds of stories and sites linked to the recent string of sniper shootings around Maryland but the Web sites of several sniper associations promoting the joy of long-range shooting and the skill of nailing your target from an impossible distance.
Maybe it's just my own naïveté, but it's hard to imagine beyond, say, killing people, what the purpose is of owning a gun that can hit its target from hundreds of yards away. That's clearly not an opinion that's shared on the dozens of sniper-friendly Web sites out there.
The Internet has become a massive tool for advocacy and opinion-making. Want to spread your views on your right to shoot someone from half a mile away? Put it up on a Web site and let the world come to you.
Obviously, the sites below don't explicitly endorse killing people randomly with long-range hunting rifles, but their very existence is troubling for some. If a few dozen sites are dedicated solely to sniper culture and the honing of shooting skills, how surprised can you be that someone's gone off the deep end and decided to use his talent on the trigger to actually kill someone?
www.snipercountry.comWith the tag line "One shot, one kill," this site puts you in the shooter's seat. It offers a lengthy "response" to the Maryland killings, insisting they're the work of a serial killer, not a sniper.
More advocacy, including pointed letters to the media, mission statements and position papers.
Dedicated to the "art and science" of long-range sharpshooting. Includes links to shops where you can buy night-vision goggles, scopes and other shooting essentials.
Practise your sniping from the comfort of your own office with this downloadable soldier game endorsed by some of America's own military men.
The National Rifle Association. Features news bulletins from around the world but, oddly, nothing on the Maryland killings.
The Anti-Gun Coalition of America. Features links to several anti-gun sites that are considered "enemies" of the NRA. email@example.com