Understanding and Misunderstanding American Gun Culture and Violence

As I discussed recently, I had the opportunity to share my views on American gun culture and gun violence at the 31st annual gathering of the Lutheran Ethicists’ Network (LEN) in January.

A written version of my talk will be published in the Journal of Lutheran Ethics later this year. For the time-being, I have put a preprint of the paper online as a free download at SocArxiv.

Following the break, I will summarize the paper.

My session at the LEN gathering was allocated 90 minutes. I planned to present for about 45 minutes and take questions for about 45 minutes. Shortly after I started, however, some of the 20 or so attendees began asking questions. This turned out to be an even better format than dividing the session in two.

As I worked my way through my outline, I could clarify the ideas I was presenting, comment on things I left out, or elaborate on points of particular concern to the attendees. For example, I did not discuss either the National Rifle Association (NRA) or police violence, but these were on the minds of some at the gathering.

In the end, the 90 minutes flew by and there was plenty more to talk about at the social times and meals. Everyone was respectful of and receptive to my thoughts, even if there wasn’t a uniform agreement at the end of the day.

After I returned home, I elaborated my presentation outline into a written text that runs to 6,000 words over 14 pages (plus 41 end notes). It consists of three parts:

  • Gun Culture Properly Understood
  • Gun Violence Properly Understood
  • Addressing Negative Outcomes

Over the first two parts, I address four common misunderstandings, two of gun culture and two of gun violence. My approach to addressing negative outcomes with firearms is based on properly understanding gun culture and violence.

You can read the paper for the details, but following are the four common misunderstandings and my understanding of those phenomena.

Misunderstanding #1: The gun industry created gun culture
Understanding: Guns have been a common and normal part of American life from the beginning

Misunderstanding #2: Gun owners are mostly politically conservative, middle-aged, married white men from the rural South
Understanding: Gun Culture 2.0 is diverse and has potential to be even more inclusive

Misunderstanding #3: There is an epidemic of gun violence in the United States
Understanding: Gun injury and death are socially organized and endemic

Misunderstanding #4: Criminal homicides are the most common gun deaths in America
Understanding: The majority of gun deaths are suicides

Most of these points are familiar to those who have followed my work closely over the years, but it was great to have the opportunity to put these thoughts together into a single document.

If you appreciate this or some of the other 250+ posts on this blog, please consider supporting my research and writing on American gun culture by liking and sharing my work.

7 thoughts on “Understanding and Misunderstanding American Gun Culture and Violence

  1. This is really, really good stuff. Is it the same subject matter as your new book? If so, I’d consider titling it “Everything You Know About Guns Is Wrong” or something to that effect.


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  4. Pingback: Professor David Yamane Speaks at The 31st Annual Gathering of The Lutheran Ethicist’s Network | The Liberal Gun Owners Lens

  5. Thanks for this – both for your work and making the preprint of the work available. As I continue to conceptualize my “Psychology of Gun Ownership and Culture” seminar, this certainly becomes an important and balanced resource to begin the discussions. As I am sure you are aware, even proposing such a seminar, unless it begins with an anti-gun bias, is a challenge in academia. The students ask for it, given that they are clinicians-in-training who are working with populations (e.g., veterans) who, while adamant about their rights, may also be at risk for suicide. How to balance those issues of rights and safety is a critical issue. This piece offers the clinical psychologist a place to start for centering the discussion and considering environmental factors and individual differences that might underlie some of the broader points you make.


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