In this first “Light Over Heat with Professor David Yamane” video I take up the question, “Just how normal are guns and gun owners, anyway?”
Drawing on data on negative outcomes with guns as a proportion of the total number of guns owned in the US (400 million), the total number of gun owners (76.56 million), and the total number of gun owning households (51.44 million), I conclude that guns and gun owners are VERY NORMAL.
99.85% of guns, 99.21% of gun owners, and 99.82% of gun owning households will not be involved in any fatalities, non-fatal injuries, or violent victimizations involving guns on any given day. The vast majority of American gun owners do perfectly normal things with their guns.
I launched this blog in February 2019 because my Gun Culture 2.0 blog has come to be read almost exclusively by people who are invested in gun culture. Although they are an important audience for my work, I also want to translate what I am learning about guns to the gun curious — those interested in but unsure about guns. People in the middle. Those who are not already 100% convinced of their views.
Although I am not yet convinced that I am reaching such an audience, I remain committed to posting here about issues relating to guns for people across the political and gun ownership spectra.
Unlike the Gun Culture 2.0 blog, which saw a dramatic decline in readership, in 2021 Gun Curious received almost exactly the same number of visitors and page views as it did in 2020.
Happy New Year! I hope everyone has some good plans for 2022. Let me briefly tell you about one of mine.
Although I posted nearly as many times on my two blogs (Gun Culture 2.0 and Gun Curious) in 2021 as I did in 2020 (129 posts vs. 135 posts), combined visitors to the blogs declined by nearly 30% in 2021 and page views decreased by 44%.
It is certainly possible that people are no longer buying what I am selling regarding guns and gun culture. But other bloggers tell me their numbers are down also. Which makes me think the heyday of blogs is past and I need to find a new medium through which to educate people and enrich collective conversations about this complex and controversial issue.
“Light Over Heat” has long been my motto in approaching guns, a topic on which there is too much hostility and not enough insight. To bring light over heat, every Wednesday I will post a short (4-5 minute) video to YouTube in which I take up some important question or issue in understanding guns and gun culture.
Please surf over my channel on YouTube, hit the SUBSCRIBE button to follow me on this adventure, and RING THE BELL so you get notifications of new video releases.
If there are questions you would like answered or issues you would like addressed, please let me know directly or leave them in the comments. Thank you!
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.
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.
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.
In his excellent book, The Gun Gap, political scientist Mark Joslyn highlights the ways in which gun owners and non-owners live in very different social worlds. For example, non-owners are much more likely than owners to say none of their friends own guns.
Consequently, much of what non-owners know about what gun owners do and think comes from mass media, traditional and social. Exactly the worst places to learn about something that is complex and nuanced.
For gun skeptics and the gun curious who want to learn more about how (some) gun owners think, I recommend journalist Stephen Gutowski’s The Reloadpodcast. It’s available on all the regular podcast apps and also on YouTube.
A particularly useful recent episode included David French discussing the Rittenhouse trial and verdict.
I stepped out of the social media fray for a few days this past weekend to commemorate the moment when my wife Sandy and I committed our lives to each other at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC in 2013.
But I didn’t stop working on my book, provisionally titled Gun Culture 2.0: Inside America’s Evolving Culture of Firearms. On the long drive from Winston-Salem to Washington and back, and during quiet moments at our hotel, I worked on my author query letter, book proposal, and the first four chapters of the book.
This week I will be sending a query letter to 6-8 agents along with the proposal and sample chapters to try to get literary representation for the project. The literary agent will then try to sell the book to a publisher.
I was fortunate to be asked to present on “Guns in America” at the annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America yesterday (6 October 2021). I discussed “Gun Culture 2.0 and the Changing Face of Gun Owners in America.”
I was fairly certain that the presentation would not be recorded, so before I left for Jay, Vermont I recorded an abbreviated (15 minute) version of my talk from my basement studio and uploaded it to YouTube.