The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership

Last year I was invited to contribute to a special issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science by the editors Cassandra Crifasi, Jennifer Dineen, and Kerri Raissian. The theme of this issue is “Gun Violence in America: What Works and What is Possible.”

Specifically, the editors invited me “to write a paper overviewing the evolution of American gun culture – from hunting to gun culture 2.0. Your scholarship in this area will help readers of the special issue understand the role guns play in American culture and how that role has evolved (or not) over time.”

I am always flattered but such invitations, though perhaps I should not be. Maybe the first dozen people they asked said “No”? More likely is the reality that not many scholars have focused their work on gun culture per se, as opposed to adverse outcomes with guns, which is the primary focus of this special issue.

As usual, my participation in these sorts of enterprises reminds me of the Sesame Street song I remember so well from my childhood.

My contribution will focus on the rise of Gun Culture 2.0, the self-defense core of American gun culture today. But I also want to engage what I call “The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership” – the primary way gun studies scholars approach Gun Culture 2.0.

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Light Over Heat #3: The Changing Face of Gun Owners Today

In this third “Light Over Heat with Professor David Yamane” video I explore what two 2021 National Firearms Surveys tell us about the diverse and changing face of gun owners today.

The first survey, Georgetown business professor William English’s 2021 National Firearms Survey, highlights the diversity of contemporary gun owners.

The second survey, a 2021 National Firearms Survey by scholars at Northeastern and Harvard University, highlights the diversity of those who became new gun owners from January 2019 to April 2021.

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.

Sociology of Guns Seminar Student Final Reflection #6: Gun Culture is Much More Complex Than It Seems

As noted earlier, the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns seminar is for the students to write an essay reflecting on their personal experience with and understanding of guns in light of what they learned in the course.

Here is the sixth of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (Link to the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth reflection essays.)

Reflection essay author presenting her work to Sociology of Guns seminar, November 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Boston Review’s Magnificently Consistent Takes on Gun Culture

I confess to not being a regular reader of the Boston Review but my Google alert this morning for both “gun owners” and “gun culture” pointed me to a recent essay published by political philosopher Chad Kautzer, “America as a Tactical Gun Culture.” I know Kautzer from having participated in a conference on guns with him at Amherst College back in 2017.

The essay is actually quite sweeping in scope and in detail connects a great many dots together, including Kyle Rittenhouse and vigilantism, Ferguson and the militarization of law enforcement, extra legal violence in the name of border security, Threepers and Oath Keepers, Lavoy Finicum and Civil War II, “Operation Wetback” and the NRA, Stand Your Ground and vigilante sovereignty, George Mason and Dick Heller, CSPOA and authoritarian populism, “racialized fears and patriarchal aspirations” driving Gun Culture 2.0, and others!

Kautzer’s fundamental argument is that “an armed white citizenry, working in tandem with law enforcement, has for centuries sustained white rule in the United States through legal and extralegal violence.” As white rule has been challenged over the past several decades, we see the “rise of a tactical gun culture” in response. It’s a variation on the same old song of America. Although it alone is not sufficient to sustain the old regime of racial domination, “it does cultivate the material and ideological conditions necessary for a return to an authoritarian legal and political order.”

The Boston Review’s algorithm also pointed me to three additional stories, all of which provide variations on Kautzer’s theme.

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Sociology of Guns Seminar Student Final Reflection #2: I Have Expanded My Understanding of Guns

As noted earlier, the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns seminar is for the students to write an essay reflecting on their personal experience with and understanding of guns in light of what they learned in the course.

Here is the second of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (Link to first reflection essay.)

Reflection essay author presenting her work to Sociology of Guns seminar, November 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Sociology of Guns Module 7: Gender, Sexuality, and Guns

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.

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A Woman’s Place in Gun Advertisements – New Study Posted

TLDR: I just posted a publicly-accessible pre-print of a book chapter, “A Woman’s Place in Gun Advertisements: The American Rifleman, 1920-2019,” co-authored with recent Wake Forest University graduate (and current George Washington University Law School 1L) Riley Satterwhite and my son Paul Yamane (Wake Forest ’16). The chapter is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Second Edition of the book, Understanding American Gun Culture.

For longer than I care to remember, I have been working on an analysis of the portrayal of women in gun advertising. I have posted some elementary thoughts about this along the way, including on Crimson’s Trace’s interesting banner at the 2016 NRA annual meeting and a pair of ads they ran in The American Rifleman in 2009, as well as a TV ad for the M&P Shield placed on Sportsman’s Channel by Smith & Wesson.

Although gun culture is typically characterized as embodying hegemonic masculinity, looking at advertisements over a 100 year time period complicates the gender story. To wit: As soon as I embarked on my study of the rise of self-defense (Gun Culture 2.0) using ads in The American Rifleman (and later Guns), I noticed some surprising appearances of women in those magazines. One example I first posted about in 2015 (did I mention I have been at this for a while?) was an ad for Peters Cartridges featuring a Lady Champion shooter which ran in January 1937.

Peters Cartridge Advertisement in The American Rifleman, January 1937
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COVID-Times Review of Land, God, and Guns by Levi Gahman and Related Thoughts

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.)

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Sociology of Guns Class Student Final Reflection #3

As noted previously, for the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns Seminar in Spring 2019, students were asked to write a 1,000 to 2,000 word essay in which they would:

revisit your previous personal experience with and understanding of guns in the U.S. (as expressed, e.g., in the field trip reflection essay) in light of your consideration of the role guns actually do play in American society. Reflecting on what you learned from completing your major writing assignment, as well as the class more generally, discuss how your mind has (and/or has not) changed. Conclude this paper by considering what more you need to know in order to make informed choices about your own participation with and the place of guns in the communities in which you live and will live in the future.

Here is the third of several such essays (see the first and second), written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here.

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Student Range Visit Reflection #5: Respecting Weapons and Trusting Others

This is the fifth of several planned posts featuring Sociology of Guns Seminar student reflections on our field trip to ProShots, a local gun range. I provide the actual assignment in the first post, and you can also see it in the context of the syllabus itself. (Link to second post and third post and fourth post.)

This student’s background was familiar to me as I meet many women whose grandfathers, fathers, and brothers hunt but whose grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and themselves do not. So, although her father and brother hunted together, she had never fired a gun before this field trip.

Mother and daughter shooting at Veterans Range, Mocksville, NC. Photo by David Yamane

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