While in San Francisco for the American Society of Criminology meetings this week, my sister sent me an Instagram post by the anonymous graffiti artist BiP (“Believe in People”). It unveiled an eight story tall mural he recently completed in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of the city (Franklin and Oak Streets, just off Market if you’re looking).
The mural was so striking and provocative, I had to walk the mile from the Marriott to see it.
“Baby with a Handgun” by BiP, photo by David Yamane
In my previous post about anti-gun biases that pop up all too frequently in scholarly studies of guns, I highlighted a passage that appeared for no good reason in a recent book I reviewed, Guns in Law:
A gun “makes a little man feel big, a stupid man feel clever, a frightened man brave, and an insecure man feel sure.”
I noted that the authors cite an article by Walter Menninger as the source of this passage. Alas, it appears nowhere in the Menninger article, though Menninger certainly agrees with its dismissive sentiment.
Rather, the passage comes from a story in the New York Journal-American newspaper from 1965, “Are You Gun Shy? . . . Read This and Be Happy.”
I was recently asked to review Guns in Law (University of Massachusetts Press, 2019), for CHOICE, a monthly publication of the Association of College & Research Libraries designed to help librarians decide which books to add to their collections.
I was excited to have the assignment because I know the first editor, Austin Sarat, from my participation in “The Social Life of Guns” symposium at Amherst College. Sarat was also one of the editors of the book that came from that symposium, The Lives of Guns, to which I contributed an essay on technologies of concealed carry in Gun Culture 2.0. I also saw that two of the seven chapters were written by sociologists, Jennifer Carlson writing about her work on police and the Second Amendment and Laura Beth Nielsen on “Good Moms with Guns.” Continue reading
As someone who came from completely outside gun culture and became a gun owner later in life, I have tried often to find a middle ground between culture warriors on both sides of the Great American Gun Debates. That, in fact, is one of the purposes of this blog.
As I said earlier this year, one of my key discoveries in journeying through gun culture is that “guns are normal, and normal people use guns.”
Although this could be seen as simply stating the obvious, many gun control advocates go beyond wanting “common sense” gun laws to prevent gun violence. They are not just against gun violence, they are fundamentally against guns. A story in the New York Times on the recent debates over open carry in stores highlights this yet again.
The debate over civilian ownership of AR-15 platform rifles heats up every time there is a mass murder in the United States using one. Because I study gun culture, people often ask me, “Why does anyone need one of those weapons of war, anyway?”
I usually don’t have a good answer, since handguns are the gun of choice of Gun Culture 2.0, and most of my personal experience with firearms has been with handguns. In fact, about 5 years ago I bought an AR platform rifle with the intention of learning more about it, and it sat untouched for 4 years. Last fall someone shot 5 rounds through it and it has not been touched again since.
So I am happy to bring forth the writing of someone who has thought about this issue more than I have. Jon Stokes is a computer engineer who has two master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School, co-founded Ars Technica, was an editor at Wired, and continues to be a progressive gun nut.
I appreciate his allowing me to re-print his essay, “Why I ‘Need’ an AR-15,” originally published on Medium in June 2016 following the mass murder at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
Image courtesy of Oleg Volk