Results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey

A summary of results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey was posted to the SSRN site back in July. I confess to missing it the first time around because I thought it was the same National Firearms Survey that was fielded by scholars at Northeastern and Harvard Universities this year (results from which about firearm purchasing during the COVID pandemic I commented on recently).

It turns out this is a separate National Firearms Survey, fielded by William English, a political economist at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. I’m quite intrigued by the existence of this survey because I have never heard of William English in the field of gun studies and there is nothing in his scholarly background that indicates he would do work in this area.

To say this is certainly not a criticism of William English. People would have said the same about me 10 years ago, also. He seems to be an outsider to the field and I hope that will allow him to bring fresh perspectives to it.

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Response to Chad Kautzer on America as a Tactical Gun Culture

In approaching the scholarly literature in my Sociology of Guns seminar, I tell my students that they need to read in two steps: reading WITH the grain of a text and reading AGAINST the grain.

I take these ideas from David Bartholomae and Aaron Petrosky’s Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers.

To read generously, to work inside someone else’s system, to see your world in someone else’s terms — we call this “reading with the grain.”

Bartholomae and Petrosky, Ways of Reading

To read against the grain, by contrast, means:

to read critically, to turn back, for example, against an author’s project, to ask questions they believe might come as a surprise, to look for the limits of their vision, to provide alternate readings of the examples, to find examples that challenge their arguments – to engage the author, in other words, in dialogue.

Bartholomae and Petrosky, Ways of Reading

These two moments in the reading process are characterized by generosity and dialogue. Encouraging this among my students is part of my general approach to the issue of guns in America: light over heat.

As a reader recently, I fell short of my own ideal in engaging an essay by Chad Kautzer published in the Boston Review, “America as a Tactical Gun Culture.” I did not read generously in the first moment and I did not seek to engage in dialogue. Kautzer wrote a quick reply to my original post which gives me a second chance.

Read on for my response to Kautzer’s reply.

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Collected Posts on Sociology of Guns Seminar (Updated 12/21)

In Fall 2021, I taught my “Sociology of Guns” seminar at Wake Forest University for the seventh consecutive academic year, dating back to the fall of 2015. A PDF of the course syllabus for Version 7.0 is available HERE, and links to each of the course modules are available below.

Over the years, I have posted a number of times on this blog and my older Gun Culture 2.0 blog about this seminar. This entry collects those earlier posts — from both blogs — including many written by students in the class.

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Sociology of Guns Seminar Student Final Reflection #8: I Just Could Never Understand This Great Excitement about Guns

As noted earlier, the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns seminar is for the students to write an essay reflecting on their personal experience with and understanding of guns in light of what they learned in the course.

This is the eighth and final final reflection essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (Link to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh reflection essays.)

Reflection essay author presenting her work to Sociology of Guns seminar, November 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Author Chad Kautzer’s Reply to “Boston Review’s Magnificently Consistent Takes on Gun Culture”

Below you will find a comment written by one of the authors whose work I criticized in a recent post, philosopher Chad Kautzer. Because many people miss (or actively avoid reading) the comments, I offered to move his comments to a free-standing post as a reply to my original.

As Kautzer notes, authors feel honored when people take time to read and think about their work, even when you don’t think the reader gets it quite right, or even if you think the reader gets it quite wrong. I feel the same here, and posting his vigorous reply fits in with my overall goal in attempting to understand guns and gun culture in America: LIGHT OVER HEAT.

My original post (as evidenced by a mistake Kautzer notes) and Kautzer’s reply were both written fairly quickly, and so Kautzer’s reply here appears as it was originally written to preserve that reality. Please read on.

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Sociology of Guns Seminar Student Final Reflection #7: There is Still More that I Would Like to Know to Make Informed Choices

As noted earlier, the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns seminar is for the students to write an essay reflecting on their personal experience with and understanding of guns in light of what they learned in the course.

Here is the seventh of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (Link to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth reflection essays.)

Reflection essay author presenting his work to Sociology of Guns seminar, November 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Sociology of Guns Seminar Student Final Reflection #6: Gun Culture is Much More Complex Than It Seems

As noted earlier, the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns seminar is for the students to write an essay reflecting on their personal experience with and understanding of guns in light of what they learned in the course.

Here is the sixth of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (Link to the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth reflection essays.)

Reflection essay author presenting her work to Sociology of Guns seminar, November 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Boston Review’s Magnificently Consistent Takes on Gun Culture

I confess to not being a regular reader of the Boston Review but my Google alert this morning for both “gun owners” and “gun culture” pointed me to a recent essay published by political philosopher Chad Kautzer, “America as a Tactical Gun Culture.” I know Kautzer from having participated in a conference on guns with him at Amherst College back in 2017.

The essay is actually quite sweeping in scope and in detail connects a great many dots together, including Kyle Rittenhouse and vigilantism, Ferguson and the militarization of law enforcement, extra legal violence in the name of border security, Threepers and Oath Keepers, Lavoy Finicum and Civil War II, “Operation Wetback” and the NRA, Stand Your Ground and vigilante sovereignty, George Mason and Dick Heller, CSPOA and authoritarian populism, “racialized fears and patriarchal aspirations” driving Gun Culture 2.0, and others!

Kautzer’s fundamental argument is that “an armed white citizenry, working in tandem with law enforcement, has for centuries sustained white rule in the United States through legal and extralegal violence.” As white rule has been challenged over the past several decades, we see the “rise of a tactical gun culture” in response. It’s a variation on the same old song of America. Although it alone is not sufficient to sustain the old regime of racial domination, “it does cultivate the material and ideological conditions necessary for a return to an authoritarian legal and political order.”

The Boston Review’s algorithm also pointed me to three additional stories, all of which provide variations on Kautzer’s theme.

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Sociology of Guns Seminar Student Final Reflection #5: My Mindset of Gun Reform Shifted from Legislative to More Conversational

As noted earlier, the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns seminar is for the students to write an essay reflecting on their personal experience with and understanding of guns in light of what they learned in the course.

Here is the fifth of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (Link to the first, second, third, and fourth reflection essays.)

Reflection essay author presenting her work to Sociology of Guns seminar, November 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Sociology of Guns Seminar Student Final Reflection #4: Opinions About Guns Have Not Changed But Knowledge Has Increased

As noted earlier, the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns seminar is for the students to write an essay reflecting on their personal experience with and understanding of guns in light of what they learned in the course.

Here is the fourth of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (Link to the first, second, and third reflection essays.)

Reflection essay author presenting his work to Sociology of Guns seminar, November 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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