TL:DR on Thoughts on “Firearms Classes Taught Me, and America, a Very Dangerous Lesson” Blog Post

On my “Light Over Heat” YouTube channel this week, I discuss sociologist Harel Shapira’s opinion essay, “Firearms Taught Me, and America, a Very Dangerous Lesson,” published in the New York Times on 16 May 2023 (gift link here should take you behind the NYT paywall if you haven’t seen the opinion yet).

When I sat down to write the brief show notes for the YouTube episode, I ended up spending 9 hours writing a 3,500 systematic response. Which is probably too much to ask of most people. So, here is the TL:DR or Cliff’s Notes version of that post. If you want to see any of these points elaborated or the documentation supporting them, please pop over to the original post.

TL:DR of this TL:DR I have learned very different lessons from firearms classes than Harel Shapira.

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Thoughts on NYT Opinion “Firearms Classes Taught Me, and America, a Very Dangerous Lesson”

On my “Light Over Heat” YouTube channel this week, I discuss sociologist Harel Shapira’s opinion essay, “Firearms Taught Me, and America, a Very Dangerous Lesson,” published in the New York Times on 16 May 2023 (gift link here should take you behind the NYT paywall if you haven’t seen the opinion yet).

The title, of course, is provocative and the essay certainly provoked considerable attention on my social media feeds. My gun-skeptic friends had all of their biases about Gun Culture 2.0 confirmed, while my gun-sympathetic friends didn’t recognize themselves in Shapira’s characterization.

As usual, I tried to translate between these two different perspectives, but 140 characters doesn’t allow for much nuance.

So, in addition to 11 minutes of more free-flowing “Light Over Heat” video comments, this blog post presents the points I would like to make more systematically.

TL:DR I have learned very different lessons from firearms classes than Harel Shapira.

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The Road Ahead – 2023

I’ve had some personal and professional setbacks so far in 2023, but I’ve also had some amazing opportunities to bring light to culture war over guns in America. I’m grateful for that. In this post, I want to share some of what I have planned for the rest of 2023 for anyone interested.

Light Over Heat YouTube videos: Having taken a longer than expected hiatus then returned and consulted with my guide John Correia of Active Self Protection, I am going to keep posting these short videos on various topics concerning guns and gun culture. They may not be as regular as I hope or as polished, but I believe there is an audience for them and they certainly support my educational goals.

Sociology of Guns syllabus: First up is putting together the syllabus for Sociology of Guns V9.0 that I will be teaching at Wake Forest University this fall. I’m doing this a bit earlier than normal because I’ve been asked by The Conversation to contribute a piece about my course to their “Uncommon Courses” series. I’m really excited to share what I’ve learned about having productive conversations about guns through teaching this course.

University of Wyoming College of Law Firearms Research Center workshop: Next I will be headed to Fort Worth, Texas for a workshop sponsored by the new Firearms Research Center at the University of Wyoming College of Law (in conjunction with the Duke University Center for Firearms Law). I will be presenting the chapter of my book-in-progress on Gun Culture 2.0 that addresses the evolution and contours of concealed carry laws in the US.

I’m excited to learn more about firearms law from actual legal scholars and historians, especially in the dynamic new post-Bruen world we’re living in.

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Shooting is Fun – A Reminder from the Field

“It’s fun. It’s a sport. And it’s a skill.”

Participant in Open Source Shooting Sports range event

It’s no secret that early in my research on American gun culture, I took Michael Bane’s idea of a Gun Culture 2.0 and brought it into scholarly discussions of guns. This has been a mixed blessing.

The concept of Gun Culture 2.0 is mostly positive because it allows me to convey a broad pattern of evolution in the center of gravity of American gun culture.

Diagram by David Yamane, from

But, as the literary critic Kenneth Burke famously said, “Every way of seeing is a way of not seeing. Every insight has its own special blindness.”

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Grumpy Old Man Tries Google Bard AI Chatbot on the Normality of Guns

The Dana Carvey SNL character “Grumpy Old Man” has always been a favorite of mine, especially the tagline, “I like things the way they used to be.”

Now, I am not a full-on Luddite when it comes to technology. I got my first computer (Apple IIc) when I went to college in 1986. Got my first laptop (a Grid) in 1988. I was sending emails over our IBM DEC Vax system when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit the SF Bay area in 1989. And so on.

But I am not typically an early adopter of new technology. So, I wasn’t very interested in AI chatbots when they began to hit the news this spring. But when Google offered me the opportunity to try their Bard AI chatbot, I signed up.

When I got access to it recently, I honestly didn’t know what I would use it for. But it helpfully gave some ideas, including offering to help sketch out a blog post. Naturally, I thought of what I might want to have it outline.

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The Presentation That Wasn’t: Gun Culture 2.0 and the Changing Face of Gun Owners in America

I have presented my work dozens of times in the 30 years since my first academic conference presentation in 1992. I had never missed a scheduled presentation until this year, when I could not attend a session (organized by Nicholas Buttrick and including Tara Warner and Emmy Betz) at the annual meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science due to my father’s death.

My topic was “Gun Culture 2.0 and the Changing Face of Gun Owners in America.” What I was going to talk about was not new to me, but I was excited to bring my ideas about guns and gun culture to a new audience.

If you are new to my work, if you want a refresher, or ICYMI, you can get an idea of my approach to this topic both in writing and video.

Two YouTube videos from my “Light Over Heat” channel follow. The first is a 15 minute presentation I made to the Outdoor Writers Association of American in October 2021, and the second is the third Light Over Heat video I posted in January 2022. A couple of links to my writing on the issue are included as well.

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Talking About Guns Across the Political Spectrum

Can we use the social media echo chamber to escape the echo chambers we all live in? I try to do this by maintaining an ideologically diverse set of friends and followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

I am also fortunate to be asked to speak about guns by groups and media outlets across the political spectrum, from firearms lawyers to Lutheran ethicists, as well as ideologically mixed groups.

Doing so helps me achieve my goal for 2023: to have brave and empathetic conversations about guns.

My two most recent podcast appearances allowed me to speak to two (probably pretty) distinct audiences about my work on guns, gun culture, and the Sociology of Guns.

If you can’t/don’t want to watch/listen to the YouTube videos embedded above, you can also listen to audio-only versions of these podcasts:

Talking About Guns by 97Percent, Season 2, Episode 24 from 23 February 2023

The Republican Professor podcast from 13 February 2023

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.

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.

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Having Brave and Empathetic Conversations About Guns

Just as I was returning home from the promising Deseret Elevate gathering I recently described, I received an interesting invitation from some leaders of the Lutheran Ethicists’ Network (LEN).

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA – the liberal Lutheran denomination in the US) is planning to issue considering [correction 2/26/23] a statement on gun violence and the LEN wants to inform that work. So I was invited to join them at their 31st annual gathering at the famous Palmer House in Chicago to discuss “Guns, Violence, and Security in the U.S.: What Might the ELCA Say Now?”

Lobby of Palmer House in Chicago. Photo by David Yamane
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“Americans F*&$a^# Love Guns”

I don’t post much about guns and electoral/party politics on my blogs because I find them frustrating and impediments to understanding gun culture. But I was visiting one of my best friends recently and talking about paths forward for my gun culture book. One path we discussed was engaging conventional gun politics more directly.

A fellow sociologist, my friend is a left-leaning centrist who has become a political junkie of sorts in recent years. This includes consuming a healthy diet not just of liberals like Alex Wagner and Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC but also the ideas of conservatives via media like the Michael Steele Podcast and Charlie Sykes’ The Bulwark.

He mentioned during our discussion that I should look at the brief bit about guns in Republican strategist Rick Wilson’s 2018 book, Everything Trump Touches Dies.

Wilson’s bottom line: “Americans fucking love guns” (p. 75).

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