Graduation ceremonies always lift my spirits, so after a tough weekend confronting the reality of white supremacist hate in America, I was glad to be able to set that aside and recognize the achievements of over 1,000 Wake Forest University undergraduates (including my youngest son) who completed their final two years of college under extraordinary circumstances.
As I told my own students on the final day of class this semester, I hope that the challenges they face make them stronger, more resilient, more creative, and more compassionate people.
Of course, GVP is not my area of expertise, but I was asked to contribute something on the evolution of gun culture. So, in Hartford I presented a summary of my contribution, “Gun Culture 2.0: Evolution, Contours, and Consequences of Defensive Gun Ownership in America.”
As I am working on my book proposal, I have been reviewing my career as a gun owner. Over the past 11 years, mistakes have been made. None fatal or physically injurious, thankfully. But mistakes nonetheless.
It’s easy for me to dismiss Madison Cawthorn for so many reasons, including for being caught twice going through TSA checkpoints with a firearm. But it’s also true that in 2013 I had a loaded pistol magazine in my murse as I went through the TSA checkpoint at Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO).
Coincidentally, I was on a research trip to Houston for my first ever National Rifle Association Annual Meetings and Exhibits. I put my murse on the belt and walked through the metal detector. Once on the other side, they pulled my murse and me to the side. They politely asked if I had anything in my murse that they should know about. No, I said confidently. Any e-cigarettes or anything like that? No, I said, racking my brain for what it might be. Finally, they pulled out of the side pocket a loaded Beretta Nano magazine.
As I never murse-carried that pistol, I didn’t (and don’t) recall how the magazine got in there. But there it was. The TSA agents didn’t make a big deal of it. Just told me they would be keeping the magazine and I would be hearing from the TSA by mail. Sometime later, I received a warning letter from the TSA and that was it.
I was pleased that the online streaming news network “Newsy” asked to interview me for their nightly program “The Why.” They wanted to address the question, “Why is gun culture so prominent in the U.S.?”
I thought the introductory package they put together was pretty comprehensive and fair, and they allowed me a full five minutes to answer questions about the topic.
I hope my answers are interesting and coherent. Let me know either way.
New “Light Over Heat” videos are released on YouTube every Wednesday, so please surf over to my YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE to follow, RING THE BELL to receive notifications, and SHARE so others can learn about this work.
The idea that guns are a risk factor – for homicide, suicide, accidental death, and injury – was a central idea at the gun violence prevention writers workshop I attended in Hartford earlier this month (see Light Over Heat #15 and Light Over Heat #16). This week I reflect more broadly on the role of risk in our lives.
I am risk-averse in certain ways, but in other ways, I take risks all the time. Notably, drinking alcohol which has many well-documented short-term and long-term health risks. Rather than always trying to avoid risk, perhaps we should, in gun trainer Will Petty’s terms, think of risk as a currency that we get to choose how to spend?
In spending our risk wisely, we need to be thoughtful risk analysts and wise risk managers. In bringing firearms into their homes and lives, gun owners are assuming a certain amount of risk for themselves and their loved ones.
This raises the question: Are gun owners thoughtful risk analysts for their own lives?
In a recent post, I was critical of a publication in the New England Journal of Medicine called “Crossing Lines–A Change in the Leading Cause of Death among U.S. Children.” Despite the title focusing attention on “children,” the data cited in the article included deaths for individuals 1 to ***24*** years of age, which even in this coddled age stretches the definition of children too far.
I noted in that post, “it may be the case that the leading cause of death among U.S. children has changed. The data provided in this article don’t allow us to answer that question.”
In my just-released “Light Over Heat” YouTube video, I talk about how I am always looking for common ground in the great gun debates that are stalemated in America, including on gun violence prevention. This, of course, does not mean I simply accept research on gun violence at face value.
Raising questions about that research, however, often gives me a bit of an unsettled feeling because I don’t want to be seen as saying homicide, suicide, accidental death, or injury are no big deal.
These things ARE a big deal. They are negative outcomes in society that frequently involve guns that merit our attention and efforts at prevention or mitigation.
In my view, exaggeration so as to create a moral panic around these negative outcomes is a problem. Gun advocates are often criticized for creating a “culture of fear” to motivate gun ownership, but Barry Glassner’s classic analysis of the culture of fear can equally be applied to some gun violence prevention advocates in their efforts to motivate gun de-ownership and regulation.
This week I offer a second reflection on the 2-day workshop I attended at the University of Connecticut in Harford for authors contributing to a special issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science on gun violence. (The first reflection focuses on the relationship between research on guns and gun policy, see Light Over Heat #15.)
I recorded this reflection in my hotel room right after the workshop ended and so my thoughts were a bit jumbled but hopefully my editing brings some coherence to them.
The core of this video speaks to my general approach to engaging those whose focus vis-à-vis guns differs from my own: find a common ground. In this case, the common ground is in the desire to prevent gun violence.
And more generally, as in all things guns, my approach to this experience reflects my interest in Light Over Heat.
The animating idea of this blog is to speak (primarily) to those who are neither totally bought into the idea of guns nor totally opposed to it. That is, to the gun curious.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with just such a person. Mark McNease is a politically liberal gay man living in rural NJ. Mark found me because he is a member of the Liberal Gun Club (LGC), which syndicates this blog. He is a member of the LGC even though he is not a gun owner. Mark is part of roughly 1/3 of the population who don’t currently own guns but don’t rule them out. He is gun curious.
This is a very informative podcast not so much because of my answers but because of the host’s questions. A lot of people out there have the same questions about guns and gun culture as Mark, so I hope I answered them well.
One of the most interesting and significant projects on which Dr. Betz has been working was unveiled recently: the Firearm Life Plan. As the plan’s website says, “A Firearm Life Plan is a voluntary, personal plan made between a firearm owner and those they trust.”
In my view, thinking about and planning for physical, emotional, and cognitive changes we may go through in life, and what the disposition of our firearms will be as we experience those changes (to include our inevitable deaths), is something all responsible gun owners should do. The Firearm Life Plan is an important tool to these ends.