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.
Here I want to briefly summarize the ideas he shared with my students, while respecting the fact that the session itself was not for public consumption.
(NOTE: In order to provide an environment in which everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas, no outside observers are allowed in the class and no recording of it is made public. Although there is a clear trade-off in keeping the information private, John mentioned after the session that there were things he was able to share that he might not otherwise because the session was not public.)
I have been very fortunate that my job has not been adversely affected in a major way by the COVID19 pandemic this year. Which is not to say that it has been completely unaffected. The already inadequate amount of funding I receive from Wake Forest to conduct my research is going away for the foreseeable future (much more on this in the coming months). And other responsibilities of my faculty job are squeezing out my research and writing time right now (hence so few posts here and on Gun Culture 2.0 lately, which is why I am cross-posting this to both blogs).
I have spent weeks this summer learning how to teach online, developing and teaching 2 sections of Introduction to Sociology online, and facilitating a Peer Learning Group on online education for my department colleagues.
Also, because my personal and family life has not been as disrupted by COVID19 as some of my professional peers, I have tried to say “yes” to every request to review manuscripts, books, and promotion dossiers I have received since March.
Among the assignments I have accepted is to review the book, Land, God and Guns: Settler Colonialism and Masculinity in the American Heartland (Zed, 2020), for Choice Reviews. (Choice Reviews is run by the Association of College and Research Libraries and is used by academic librarians to select materials for their collections.)
An interesting nuance in this overall pattern, however, is the ratio of handguns to long-guns sold. As reported by Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (H/T The Trace!), “The ratio of handguns to long-guns sold now stands at a record 1.84, the highest ratio since the introduction of the NICS checks in late 1998.”
Barack Obama has apparently met his match as the “greatest gun salesman in American history.” On Sunday, an acquaintance from my years wandering around American gun culture messaged me to say that he had not seen a gun buying response like this one in some 15 years in the industry.
I asked him what in particular was different and he said that it was not a fear of being unable to get a particular gun (as under Obama), but a legitimate fear of not being able to defend themselves or their loved ones.
So, under Barack Obama, especially after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there was a fear that certain guns would be banned. The current pandemic buying spree appears to be driven more by a felt need to have a gun right now, especially among new gun owners who, according to my contact, were numerous.
There exists a law, not written down anywhere, but inborn in our hearts, a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading, a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.
-Marcus Tullius Cicero, Murder Trials, trans. Michael Grant (New York: Penguin, 1975), p. 279. Quoted in: Guns in Law (University of Massachusetts Press, 2019), p. 1.
Even people who are avidly anti-gun recognize the value of pepper spray as a tool of personal protection.
On the other side, some pro-defensive gun people ignore pepper spray thinking that the gun they carry will solve all of their problems. According to trainer John Murphy, this is like trying to “hammer screws.”
Thankfully, those in the civilian defensive gun training industry whose work I respect most are increasingly promoting pepper spray as an important force option, one that can solve problems of personal protection well before lethal force would be necessary or legally justified.