I recently Tweeted for help finding some articles for my Sociology of Guns seminar. Among those who Tweeted back was Ted Alcorn, the founding Director of Research at Everytown for Gun Safety who currently teaches a course called “Gun Violence in the United States: Evidence and Action” at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. He provided a link to his fall 2020 syllabus, which I mined for sources.
Although it is not my area of scholarly expertise, like many I am concerned about high levels of violence in the United States, especially the most lethal and injurious forms. As I have previously written on this blog, I find myself returning repeatedly to an important truth: Everyday criminal violence in the United States is concentrated in places and among people that are most affected by economic and racial inequality. As the Rocket Armory t-shirt says, “Guns don’t kill people, systemic inequality does.”
One module in Alcorn’s class takes this issue of PLACE far more seriously than I had thought to myself.
With Module 8 the course shifts its attention to what could generally be called negative outcomes with firearms: injury and death, both suicide (Module 8) and homicide (Module 9), as well as issues surrounding police use of force (Module 10).
I am particularly interested in ways in which those involved in gun culture can play a role in reducing negative outcomes with guns. Initiatives like the Gun Shop Project and Walk the Talk America (WTTA) provide some models. I am pleased for the fourth consecutive year to welcome to class as a guest speaker gun trainer Rob Pincus, a board member of WTTA and co-founder (with Dan Gross, formerly of Brady) of the Center for Gun Rights and Responsibilities.
Module 6 is not covered in these posts because it is a work week for students as I will be presenting on Gun Culture 2.0 at the Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conference in Vermont that week.
Recognizing that the four parts of the Holy Quaternity of sociology (race, class, gender, and sexuality) intersect, the existing scholarly literature doesn’t permit a fully intersectional analysis. So, having treated race and guns in Module 5, I consider gender and sexuality separately in Module 7.
There is more scholarly work on gender and guns than sexuality, especially if we include the common focus on hegemonic masculinity. But, as I have noted previously, I was pleased to include the first ever peer-reviewed sociological study of LGBT gun owners in a special issue of a journal I co-edited and I will certainly assign that article.
Modules 5, 6, and 7 of Sociology of Guns focus on three of the four parts of the Holy Quaternity of sociology: race, gender, and sexuality (we touch some on social class, too).
There is no shortage of writing about how gun owners are racist, but my interest in this module is in non-deviant racial minority gun owners. Unfortunately, comparatively little has been written about this topic by contemporary social scientists (historians and legal scholars, like Nicholas Johnson, have done better), so I have to get more creative in putting together this reading list.
The liberalization of concealed carry laws over the past several decades represents a dramatic expansion of the right to bear arms in the United States. It is an integral aspect of contemporary defensive gun culture and facilitates the ongoing development of Gun Culture 2.0.
In this module we will review the development of concealed carry laws in U.S. history and consider how and why people choose to keep and carry guns for protection.
This module takes up the demographics of gun ownship, the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020+, and the changing face of American gun owners.
We know from many surveys over a long period of time that the statistically average legal gun owner is a middle-aged, politically conservative, married, white man from a rural area in the South or Mountain West. Basically, the main characters from TV’s “Duck Dynasty.”
But one of the problems with averages is they hide diversity. The average American, after all, has one testicle.
As we see in this module, compared to Gun Culture 1.0, Gun Culture 2.0 is younger and more female, more racially and sexually diverse, more urban and suburban, and more attracted to handguns for self-defense. New and non-traditional buyers in the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020+ made this abundantly clear and scholarship on gun owners is beginning to catch up.
I was recently querying Academic Twitter about peer-reviewed social scientific publications on non-deviant African American gun owners to assign in the module on race in my Sociology of Guns seminar (more on that module forthcoming). I was disheartened but not surprised that there are none (historians and legal scholars have done better). After all, only this year was a peer-reviewed sociological study of LGBT gun owners published.
Perhaps the times are changing. From 2:00-4:00pm Eastern Time on July 31, I will be joining Wake Forest Law Professor Gregory Parks and a panel of other academics and experts for a thoughtful and thought-provoking webinar on race and guns in the U.S.
The conversation will examine how race intersects with the history of gun ownership in America, the roots of the Second Amendment, and the modern politics of guns. Panelists will bring a historical, legal, psychological, and sociological lens to bear on the discussion, “Race and Guns in America: A Conversation About Black Gun Ownership.”
Everyone approaches the study of and teaching about guns from a particular perspective. My own perspective comes from my involvement in gun culture over the past decade, which has profoundly shifted my perspective on guns and gun owners. Over the years I have refined this perspective into a sort of motto:
Probably the most unique aspect of this course from the start has been the class trip to the gun range. Before we ever meet as a class or discuss any opinions, ideas, or scholarship on guns, students are REQUIRED to attend a field trip to the gun range. Once there, they are given the OPTION to try shooting.
The range field trip is such a highlight of the class for students, I joke that the course goes downhill after day 1.