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.