What’s Next? Understanding and Misunderstanding America’s Gun Culture (Book Chapter)

A couple of years ago, I was asked to write the concluding chapter to a book called Understanding America’s Gun Culture. My chapter would be titled, “What’s Next?”

Unfortunately, chapters in edited scholarly books are where ideas go to die. As one scholar put it: “Quite simply, if you write a chapter for an edited book, you might as well write the paper and then bury it in a hole in the ground.”

In the interest of NOT burying my ideas, here’s my chapter on “Understanding and Misunderstanding America’s Gun Culture.”

A Gun “Makes . . . a Stupid Man Feel Clever”

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.”

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Frustrating Anti-Gun Biases in Scholarly Publications on Guns

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