Sociology of Guns Module 11: Guns and Liberalism

Guns and gun culture in the United States are strongly associated with political and cultural conservatism. So much so that what requires explanation is not the link between guns and conservatism but guns and liberalism.

One-fifth of gun owners self-identify as politically liberal, and another 40% as politically moderate. So, in fact only a minority of gun owners (40%) self-identify as politically conservative.

In this module we examine the work of one of the two major liberal gun organizations in the United States: the Liberal Gun Owners (LGO). (The other is the Liberal Gun Club (LGC).) We will welcome to class as a guest speaker, for the second time, Randy Miyan, the executive director of the LGO.

He will talk about his own evolution as a gun owner, as well as the LGO’s unique perspective on guns in human history and culture.

Liberal/Leftist gun owner t-shirts sold by Rocket Armory, https://rocket-armory.com

Required readings for Module 11 are:

  • Liberal Gun Owners, The Liberal Gun Owners Lens, Pillar 1: The Human-Weapon Relationship (2021). A thorough analysis of the uniquely human and culturally universal use of projectile weaponry that provides the foundation for a liberal endorsement of gun ownership.
  • Kahan, Dan M., and Donald Braman, “More Statistics, Less Persuasion: A Cultural Theory of Gun-Risk Perceptions.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review (2003). Uses cultural cognition theory to explain how deeply rooted differing perceptions of guns and gun policies are.

Recommended readings for Module 11 are:

I don’t take the recommended readings to be comprehensive or complete. Suggestions are welcome.

9 thoughts on “Sociology of Guns Module 11: Guns and Liberalism

  1. The course sounds extremely interesting, but since we are so distant I can not sit in or take it. But I am interested in what started this? I.e., how did you get interested in guns and how did you think of doing such a course? Me personally, I grew up in NYC during the 50’s, moving out in the mid 80’s. ut that said, NYC was a very different place then. We had family you shot and hunted, and I spent summers in upstate NY where guns were common and at an early age was shooting and varmint hunting with a .22. In my mid-teens a friend told me about a jr. club that did small bore 4 position shooting sponsored by the local police precinct. this was mid 60’s and you still could walk through NYC with a cased long arm and nobody got upset. After a fire at the range which was in the basement of a commercial building and never re-built, I did not shoot for about 45 years, only getting back into it when I brought my daughter to a jr. program in NJ because I wanted her to be at least familiar with firearms and know about them. She loved it and so I ended up buying my own target rifle and getting into it again. The high schools in NYC used to have ranges and teams but not when I went but the colleges still did.
    I never could see why so many equated firearms ownership with criminals as my experience was so much the opposite. As a second career I now teach at a university and never mention that I shoot because of the feeling that it would not be acceptable to many/most.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your discretion in not disclosing being a shooter at your university is understandable. I have the protection of tenure and seniority but still came out of the closet on this slowly and quietly. For my personal background that you asked about, I recommend my talk at the National Firearms Law Seminar two years ago where I lay that out: https://youtu.be/k_b9HIrjrAY

      If you prefer words to video, I also posted the “transcript” here: https://gunculture2point0.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/gun-culture-2-0-or-how-a-liberal-professor-became-an-armed-american/

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was struck by the differences location can make. As I said I was raised in NYC but summers in upstate NY. This was during the 50’s and 60’s. While guns were not common in NYC they were not uncommon, but mostly rifles. The jr. program I joined when I was 15 and sponsored by the local police station took us by a rented school bus to hunt in the Catskills in upstate NY. My uncle got me a .30 caliber rifle from a friend and gave it to me. To get to the meeting locations I took the subway and then walked with backpack on my back and the gun in my hand, in it’s case. At 15 I owned that rifle and an antique Marlin 39 lever action in .22. I eventually left NYC for NJ in 1988 but during that time unless you knew somebody was into guns or knew then very well talk about guns was restricted. I was more likely to take my girlfriends skiing that to a place to go shooting. Pretty much the same in NJ until I moved to a town northern NJ where I met people who were very open about firearms. That is how I ended up at the Jr. Program and have stayed to help them and eventually joined. It is a private club with membership by invitation.
        I look at your situation and the gun culture (yes1.0) is similar to was existed in Upstate NY and still does but not in NYC unless it is hidden. Handguns in NY have been very restricted since the 1911 Sullivan act with almost non-existence in NYC but pretty common outside of there. In NJ handguns are much more common but are very hit and miss by location due to the fact that you need an FID and a permit to purchase which is controlled by your local police captain. Also there re a lot of rules are to even having one in your vehicle. You have to be going to or from a range with no stops in between. Getting older I have taken up Bullseye shooting as my target rifle (13 lbs) is getting heavy.
        Since I teach full time at a university there are very few, (count on one hand with fingers left over) who know I shoot and own firearms. It is something that I know would not be acceptable, though the school use to have a very active small bore team. This was common is NYC, NY and NJ at every college and even many high schools up through the mid/late 70’s. The difference between then and know is like night and day and it’s like not noticing that your kid is now taller than you because you see them every day.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. “One-fifth of gun owners self-identify as politically liberal, and another 40% as politically moderate. So, in fact only a minority of gun owners (40%) self-identify as politically conservative.”

    I’m leery of “self-identity” polling unless there are definitions provided by the pollster for the terms as used to ensure the polled are replying with apples to apples.

    for instance, though I am Conservative philosophically, politically I consider myself a “classical liberal” and thus a Moderate, as my positions still align with the plank positions of both parties of just a few decades ago, which is what I would consider the “Center” of American political ideology.

    Like

    • There are strengths and weaknesses of using self-identifications. Certainly a weakness is not knowing what is in a person’s mind when they check one of those boxes. A univalent liberal to conservative spectrum can also be limiting if people overlay political parties onto it. But they do provide a starting point and allow us to broach the subject of political diversity among gun owners.

      Liked by 1 person

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