Growing up with immigrant parents in a city full of people like me (Miami) meant I did not have many chances to see day-to-day manifestations of American culture like guns. My first idea of gun culture came around 2012 after the Sandy Hook shooting. Because I had never had an experience with a firearm before, my immediate response to guns was negative. The intensity of my disdain for guns constantly fluctuated, but my general attitude was discomfort with the idea of owning, using, or enjoying a firearm. To me, they represented the ugly parts of humanity, like violence and destruction.
It was not until about a year ago that my opinion toward guns started shifting. As I have had to live alone and be in situations where I felt helpless, I have come to terms with how helpful a gun can be in protecting oneself. I also have friends who own guns, which has made me reconsider my negative attitudes toward gun owners. Therefore, my understanding of firearms was more accepting by the time the gun range field trip came around. However, I did not plan to touch or shoot a gun during the trip, an out-of-character decision for my adrenaline-junkie personality. I had never held a gun in my life, and I never saw myself as a person who could shoot one. Maybe I was still carrying some negative assumptions, or perhaps I was terrified of something going wrong once the gun was in my hands.
For my 40th consecutive weekly video, a light(-hearted) take: An anthropological expedition to the heart of deep red Texas in search of the elusive species known as the Liberal Gun Owner.
Thanks to Randy Miyan, Executive Director of the Liberal Gun Owners, for the gun range sizzle reel used here. See also:
Liberal Gun Owners Lens: lgolens.org
New “Light Over Heat” videos are released on YouTube every Wednesday, so please surf over to my YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE to follow, RING THE BELL to receive notifications, and SHARE so others can learn about this work.
In the meantime, pictured below are 4 ammunition cartridges I brought with me to show the class. Three of them the students shot at the range: .22LR, 9mm, and .223 Remington. I highlighted how the diameter of the .22 and .223 bullets are almost the same, though their size and the amount of gunpowder used to propel them are dramatically different.
Although ballistics are well outside of my areas of expertise, students did have questions about calibers designed for hunting, the difference between rifle rounds and shotgun shells, and the legality of fragmenting bullets.
Wow, this is the 20th episode of “Light Over Heat” that I recorded! I can’t believe it. It seems like I was just recording my 10th episode not long ago. This second set of videos (Season 2) was supposed to be organized thematically around t-shirts I own. It mostly was, but on a few occasions I couldn’t pull that off. Oh, well. The world is too chaotic to be organized thematically around seasons, anyway.
Speaking of chaos, this video is also appearing way out of order since I had to pre-empt it in order to reflect on guns and race in the wake of the Buffalo mass murder.
Although I do not do the typical internet/social media “hot takes” on my chosen topic, I did think it was appropriate for this milestone video to do a “Light Take” (h/t John Correia). So, this video shows me shooting a single-action revolver, a lever-action rifle, a double-action revolver, and a fully-automatic and suppressed submachine gun. Of course, lessons can be learned from this exercise, but for now I will just let the videos speak for themselves.
As I noted earlier, I was scheduled to teach the Sociology of Religion this semester (fall 2020), but when students found out I was not going to teach my Sociology of Guns seminar they expressed considerable disappointment. So, I switched seminars and just starting my 6th straight year teaching the Sociology of Guns.
In my work on gun culture, I have systematically avoided collecting systematic data on gun culture online. True, I have spent time with and attended a seminar by YouTube star John Correia of Active Self Protection. But I just don’t have the stomach to wade into many online gun forums or follow too much gun social media.
Fortunately, other scholars are braver than I am. Among them is Connie Hassett-Walker. Following on her recent book, Guns on the Internet (Routledge, 2019), she offers some examples of and reflections on humor in gun owners’ YouTube video here.
In the conclusion to her book (and in an essay on The Conversation), she issues “The 100 YouTube Video Challenge.” Designed to inspire open-mindedness and empathy for those on the other side of the gun debate, the challenge entails watching 100 YouTube videos “showcasing something from the opposing side.” Not only that, “but identifying three things in the videos they watch to which they could relate” (p. 131).
Here she gives those on the gun control side 8 pro-gun videos to get them started toward their 100. Please suggest other videos from either side of the debate in the comments.
By Connie Hassett-Walker
I imagine what you’re thinking. ‘Gun videos’… ‘humor’… what?
Those who have seen my video on becoming a gun owner know that my wife Sandy played a crucial role getting me into guns. But the last time we shot a class together was in 2012. Over the past 6+ years since then, she has been accumulating nursing degrees while I have been wandering around gun culture.
In a lunchtime talk at the National Firearms Law Seminar recently, I recounted three of my main observations about guns and gun culture in America. The second of these observations is: “Shooting is fun, and challenging.” It is fun, in part, because it is challenging.
This is one of the things that got me into guns in the first place and is something I enjoy passing on to others. As I have become known more and more as “the gun guy” in my social and professional circles, more and more people have asked me to take them shooting.
Last summer, one of my sociology students asked me if I would take her to the range. Of course, I said. In January, she reminded me that I promised to take her to the range, and we eventually arranged to go last week.