The idea that guns are a risk factor – for homicide, suicide, accidental death, and injury – was a central idea at the gun violence prevention writers workshop I attended in Hartford earlier this month (see Light Over Heat #15 and Light Over Heat #16). This week I reflect more broadly on the role of risk in our lives.
I am risk-averse in certain ways, but in other ways, I take risks all the time. Notably, drinking alcohol which has many well-documented short-term and long-term health risks. Rather than always trying to avoid risk, perhaps we should, in gun trainer Will Petty’s terms, think of risk as a currency that we get to choose how to spend?
In spending our risk wisely, we need to be thoughtful risk analysts and wise risk managers. In bringing firearms into their homes and lives, gun owners are assuming a certain amount of risk for themselves and their loved ones.
This raises the question: Are gun owners thoughtful risk analysts for their own lives?
In a recent post, I was critical of a publication in the New England Journal of Medicine called “Crossing Lines–A Change in the Leading Cause of Death among U.S. Children.” Despite the title focusing attention on “children,” the data cited in the article included deaths for individuals 1 to ***24*** years of age, which even in this coddled age stretches the definition of children too far.
I noted in that post, “it may be the case that the leading cause of death among U.S. children has changed. The data provided in this article don’t allow us to answer that question.”
In my just-released “Light Over Heat” YouTube video, I talk about how I am always looking for common ground in the great gun debates that are stalemated in America, including on gun violence prevention. This, of course, does not mean I simply accept research on gun violence at face value.
Raising questions about that research, however, often gives me a bit of an unsettled feeling because I don’t want to be seen as saying homicide, suicide, accidental death, or injury are no big deal.
These things ARE a big deal. They are negative outcomes in society that frequently involve guns that merit our attention and efforts at prevention or mitigation.
In my view, exaggeration so as to create a moral panic around these negative outcomes is a problem. Gun advocates are often criticized for creating a “culture of fear” to motivate gun ownership, but Barry Glassner’s classic analysis of the culture of fear can equally be applied to some gun violence prevention advocates in their efforts to motivate gun de-ownership and regulation.
This week I offer a second reflection on the 2-day workshop I attended at the University of Connecticut in Harford for authors contributing to a special issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science on gun violence. (The first reflection focuses on the relationship between research on guns and gun policy, see Light Over Heat #15.)
I recorded this reflection in my hotel room right after the workshop ended and so my thoughts were a bit jumbled but hopefully my editing brings some coherence to them.
The core of this video speaks to my general approach to engaging those whose focus vis-à-vis guns differs from my own: find a common ground. In this case, the common ground is in the desire to prevent gun violence.
And more generally, as in all things guns, my approach to this experience reflects my interest in Light Over Heat.
The animating idea of this blog is to speak (primarily) to those who are neither totally bought into the idea of guns nor totally opposed to it. That is, to the gun curious.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with just such a person. Mark McNease is a politically liberal gay man living in rural NJ. Mark found me because he is a member of the Liberal Gun Club (LGC), which syndicates this blog. He is a member of the LGC even though he is not a gun owner. Mark is part of roughly 1/3 of the population who don’t currently own guns but don’t rule them out. He is gun curious.
This is a very informative podcast not so much because of my answers but because of the host’s questions. A lot of people out there have the same questions about guns and gun culture as Mark, so I hope I answered them well.
One of the most interesting and significant projects on which Dr. Betz has been working was unveiled recently: the Firearm Life Plan. As the plan’s website says, “A Firearm Life Plan is a voluntary, personal plan made between a firearm owner and those they trust.”
In my view, thinking about and planning for physical, emotional, and cognitive changes we may go through in life, and what the disposition of our firearms will be as we experience those changes (to include our inevitable deaths), is something all responsible gun owners should do. The Firearm Life Plan is an important tool to these ends.
Last week I attended a workshop at the University of Connecticut in Hartford for authors contributing to a special issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science on gun violence prevention. Of course, my specialty is in gun culture not gun violence, so I was asked to speak about the evolution of American gun culture.
But I also listened to 13 other presentations, 12 of which did center on gun violence, by some of the top researchers studying this topic. I learned quite a bit, some of which I will be sharing on this blog as I have the opportunity to process it.
This week’s “Light Over Heat” YouTube video provides an initial reflection after the first day of the workshop. I note in particular the difference between how researchers speak among themselves about their findings and how advocates take those findings into the policy realm.
Simply put: Research is nuanced, advocacy is blunt.
In October 2021, I traveled from North Carolina to Vermont to attend and present at the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s (OWAA)annual conference. After flying into Burlington, I had a 90-minute long shuttle bus ride to the Jay Peak Resort, near the Canadian border. On the ride, I listened to and participated in some friendly chatter with other conference attendees.
I would later see one particularly gregarious fellow from the shuttle a few times during the conference, including sharing some meals together. Toward the end of the conference, we realized we had something more in common than the OWAA.
It turns out that before he became The Reverend Hunter, my new colleague Tony Jones was a celebrity pastor of the “emerging church” movement in the evangelical wing of American Christianity. Before I became a gun scholar, I spent 20 years studying American religion. We had a mutual friend in one of my longtime colleagues in the sociology of religion, Gerardo Marti, co-author of The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity, in which Jones figures prominently.