On Making Guns Seem Less Socially Acceptable

As someone who came from completely outside gun culture and became a gun owner later in life, I have tried often to find a middle ground between culture warriors on both sides of the Great American Gun Debates. That, in fact, is one of the purposes of this blog.

As I said earlier this year, one of my key discoveries in journeying through gun culture is that “guns are normal, and normal people use guns.”

Although this could be seen as simply stating the obvious, many gun control advocates go beyond wanting “common sense” gun laws to prevent gun violence. They are not just against gun violence, they are fundamentally against guns. A story in the New York Times on the recent debates over open carry in stores highlights this yet again.

Dr. Michael Siegel is a leading public health scholar studying gun violence. But he has also studied tobacco control. So it is perhaps not surprising that he sees guns as analogous to tobacco. In particular, wanting to stigmatize gun owners and ownership in the same way that smokers and smoking have been stigmatized. As he is quoted in the Times’ story as saying about discouraging open carry, “It begins to make guns seem less socially acceptable.”

As I have told the reporters who have asked for my comment (e.g., Time Magazine and NPR), the fact that Walmart and other stores are only ASKING people not to open carry means the move is in large part symbolic.

This could mean “symbolic” in the trivial sense of having no teeth, or it could mean symbolic is the deeper cultural sense of playing a role in changing the very meaning of guns, gun ownership, and gun carrying. This is the significance of perspectives like Dr. Siegel’s and other anti-gun gun control activists.

I will be interesting to see which way the issue plays out in the coming months.



10 thoughts on “On Making Guns Seem Less Socially Acceptable

  1. Pingback: Walmart, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – Gun Culture 2.0

  2. Often when I hear about the mass shootings or people who openly carry firearms in public I wonder about Terror Management Theory. It comes from social psychology and talks about people acting in certain ways when they are reminded of death. Are you familar with the theory? I cannot think of a better reminder that death is coming someday as news of mass shootings or seeing people open carrying in a public place where in the recent past people did not usually carry firearms (not like hunting or at a gun range.)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Recent events, including ‘suggestions’ of no open carry, calling for confiscation by the Democratic presidential candidates, and naming of ourselves and millions of others as members of a domestic terrorist organization (NRA) by San Fran, are examples of the ‘othering’ that statists are advocating.

    In another time and place it was Jews; then it was Japanese-Americans (perhaps I should say Americans of Japanese descent). Then there was the century-long post Civil War era of placing black Americans in second class status. I grew up in the South, and clearly remember the Jim Crow restrooms at gas stations: WOMEN, MEN, and around back, COLORED.

    This shoving gun owners to the back of the bus is a recipe for disaster. At some point, just like Lexington and Concord, the fuse will be lit (maybe it is already in a slow burn), and the powder keg will blow.

    I hope that does not happen, but am fearful of it.


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  5. Pingback: Those Who Control the Present Control the Past by Jason Fertig | Gun Curious

  6. The analogy between firearms and tobacco does not bear close examination:

    Tobacco use is purely recreational and has no positive aspects. It damages the health and property of those who use it and of those around them. For decades the tobacco industry spent billions of dollars outright lying about its health effects. The great majority of smokers I know today are nicotine addicts who would quit if they could.

    Firearms, on the other hand, have the positive uses of hunting and self-defense among others. The firearms industry has never claimed them to be anything other than what they are. People who realize that the police and society will not, indeed cannot, protect them and their loved ones from violent criminals are not going to give up their personal protection because some gun haters try to tell them guns are ickypoo.

    That said, now that some form of concealed carry is legal in all states, open carry in public is not self defense. It is a political statement and a very stupid, counterproductive one. I’ve been a professional firearms instructor for over 30 years. I’ve worked with some of the best trainers in the field and have trained with and helped train law enforcement officers from various agencies. _None_ of those people carry openly except when their uniforms require it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Belated thanks for this comment. Just yesterday I was talking with a student about a guy who open-carried a rifle with a drum magazine into some public place. Winning some imaginary battle in his mind and losing the war for the hearts and minds of the public IMO.


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