In these trying times, can we at least all agree that guns are politically polarizing in the United States? Not inherently, of course, but they get drawn up into our divisive political system and culture in a profound way.
I’m pleased to share political scientist Mark R. Joslyn’s reflection on how emotions drive reasoning and division on the gun issue, for better or worse.
These reflections are part of a broader project Joslyn has been working on concerning the politics of gun ownership (see more about the author at the end). Based on this essay, I am really looking forward to getting my hands on his just released book, The Gun Gap: The Influence of Gun Ownership on Political Behavior and Attitudes. See this flyer with more information on the book and order online from Oxford University Press with promo code ASFLYQ6 to save 30%.
My Student Jim
By Mark R. Joslyn
Although I was not a fan of NRATV generally, there were some programs I thought did a good job of trying to “build bridges, not walls.” Among these were shows aimed at incorporating more women in gun culture. So I was excited when I came across an academic article — “Called to Arms: The NRA, The Gun Culture & Women” in Critical Policy Studies — that analyzed some of these programs like Love at First Shot.
I was going to write a summary of the article, but then it occurred to me that the author himself might do a better job of sharing his ideas on the topic. I am pleased that Noah S. Schwartz (see about the author at the end) agreed, and his thoughts are below.
(If you cannot access the original article behind the paywall, send me an email and I can send you a copy for educational purposes.)
The political power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is both frustrating to and badly misunderstood by many of its critics (as I highlighted recently in response to PBS Frontline’s program on the NRA).
According to Barnard College political scientist Matthew Lacombe, much of the legislative strength of the NRA is due to its ability to politically mobilize guns owners on its behalf. And key to that political “weaponization” has been the cultivation of “gun owner” as a social identity in the first place. (An identity I reflected on from my own perspective in my previous post.)
Here I discuss his recently published article, “The Political Weaponization of Gun Owners: The National Rifle Association’s Cultivation, Dissemination, and Use of a Group Social Identity.” Unfortunately the article is not available open access, but if you would like a copy for educational purposes, let me know.
Whenever someone asks me, “Are you a golfer?” I offer a canned response: “No, but I play golf.” I resist the label golfer. To embrace it seems to heighten expectations in an uncomfortable way.
The same can be said of the label gun owner. Do I own guns? Yes. Is being a gun owner central to my identity? Not really.
In fact, the Pew Research Center’s 2017 report on “America’s Complex Relationship with Guns” highlights differences in the centrality of owning guns to people’s identities. About half of gun owners say being a gun owner is very (25%) or somewhat (25%) important to their overall identity, and half say it is not too important (30%) or not at all important (20%).
Source: Pew Research Center, “America’s Complex Relationship with Guns” (2017).
I don’t really want to keep talking about the National Rifle Association (NRA). I really don’t. As noted previously, when I sent a proposal for a book on Gun Culture 2.0 to Oxford University Press a couple of years ago, one of the peer reviewers took me to task for not talking about the NRA enough. In fact, as a correction to those who want to reduce guns and gun culture to the NRA, I am intentionally trying to write my book without putting the NRA in the center of the action.
Which is not to say the NRA is unimportant, but the common narrative of the NRA is too simplistic in a number of ways. In particular, it downplays too much both the NRA’s early political activity and its current activities beyond politics.
I saw this once again in a recent episode of the long-running PBS series Frontline on the National Rifle Association called “NRA Under Fire.”
Prior to starting this “Gun Curious” blog a year ago, I blogged for several years (and continue to blog) at a site called Gun Culture 2.0. As happens periodically, I was asked recently to explain what I mean by the term “Gun Culture 2.0.” So here is a primer on my use of the term.
Very briefly, I divide the history of gun culture in America into three major periods. Continue reading
Motivated by those who would reduce gun culture in the United States to the National Rifle Association (NRA), I have tried as much as possible to think and write about gun culture without paying too much attention to the NRA. In fact, when I sent out a book proposal a while ago, one of the reviewers took me to task for not discussing the NRA enough.
I have a couple of reasons for downplaying the NRA in my work.
I am very pleased to announce that Trent Steidley (U. of Denver) and I are editing a special issue of Sociological Perspectives on guns. Please see the full call for papers for more information.
Proposals are due April 30th and final manuscripts September 1st.
The Democratic presidential primaries have the media off in search of a political unicorn: The Liberal Gun Owner. Two news stories in the past couple of days report on successful hunts.
The NPR affiliate in Seattle reported on “Four Seattle liberals on why they own guns and who they’re voting for in the primary. (H/T to my former student DH for sending this). And the Associated Press ran a story titled “Liberal gun owners face dilemma in 2020 field” (since picked up by many news outlets including The Washington Post).