Liberals Should Avoid These Arguments About Guns in America

Like many Americans, I reluctantly watched events unfolding recently at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, site of the NRA’s annual meeting. In our polarized gun debates, the two extremes were on full display, literally divided by Avenida De Las Americas. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and other (mostly) conservatives planted the flag for gun rights inside the convention center. Outside on Discovery Green, David Hogg, Beto O’Rouke, and other (mostly) liberals rallied the crowd for gun control. Neither side could or cared to hear the other.

I am a “card-carrying” liberal sociologist who became a gun owner in my forties and have been studying American gun culture since then. I have a foot in both worlds that see guns very differently. This allows me to hear how things said from one side in America’s great gun debate are heard by the other.

I understand the desire to do something, anything, in the face of exceptional and everyday tragedies involving guns. I feel the urge to scream out in anger and lash out in pain at those who appear to be standing in the way of progress. But as someone who has gotten to know a great many normal American gun owners over the past decade, I want to encourage my fellow liberals to be mindful of what they say in response to mass shootings, especially if they want to improve our national conversation about guns and find a way forward.

Read on or watch this week’s Light Over Heat video for my thoughts and suggestions.

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Talking About American Gun Culture, Mass Shootings, and Gun Control in the Wake of Uvalde on Newsy

I was invited on Newsy’s Morning Rush to talk about American gun culture, mass shootings, and gun control in the Wake of the Uvalde shootings.

As usual, I find myself trying to capture the complex reality of guns in the United States, and pointing out ways in which “things are not what they seem.” I can’t help it. I’m a sociologist.

They sent me the clip of my segment with them and I posted the 4-minute video to my “Light Over Heat” channel.

I wasn’t expecting it, but they mentioned my mini-book, Concealed Carry Revolution: Liberalizing the Right to Bear Arms in America (Updated Edition).

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.

ANNOUNCING UPDATED EDITION of Concealed Carry Revolution: Liberalizing the Right to Bear Arms in America

I am very happy to announce that the Updated Edition of my small (92 page) book on the history and current status of concealed carry laws in the United States is now fully available online via Amazon.

This includes the paperback with free 2-day Prime shipping for $12.95 and the Kindle edition for $0.00 with a Kindle Unlimited subscription or $6.99 otherwise.

If you buy a copy of the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon (or Goodreads or Google books) because that helps others outside my social networks find the book.

If you bought a copy of the first edition, there’s nothing to prevent you from leaving a review of the Updated Edition.

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I’m Surprised This Trip and Class is Allowed (Fall 2021 Student Range Visit Reflection #1)

This is the first of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar. The assignment to which students are responding can be found here. I am grateful to these students for their willingness to have their thoughts shared publicly.

By Caleb Brinkley

To preface, I enjoyed the class range trip and thought it went well.  My circumstances are different from other students in several ways, notably in experience and physical considerations.  I have a relatively extensive background in the gun community with a focus on competition and training that extends beyond the level of the average American gun owner.  Thus, what was unique about the range trip for me wasn’t the shooting per se, but the context in which it occurred in.  The shooting itself was introductory level, as appropriate for the students since the majority had little experience with firearms. 

The author shooting at Veterans Range, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Guns Don’t Kill People, Systemic Inequality Does

Another day in America, another pile of bodies, and another set of cries for gun control. Predictably, the Atlanta and Boulder and Indianapolis mass public shootings were followed by calls to ban AR-style rifles. President Biden proposes to subject “ghost guns” to background checks and place pistol-stabilizing braces under the National Firearms Act as short-barreled rifles.

This marks a return to the old, pre-pandemic normal in America in which extremely rare cases of large-scale homicide bring efforts to regulate guns and gun parts in ways so general they are unlikely to have the desired effect of dramatically reducing gun violence.

As tragic as they are, overemphasis on these dramatic but rare events diverts our attention from the vast majority of homicides which involve fewer than four victims, victims who are shot with regular old handguns that are acquired in transactions not covered by criminal background checks.

Having studied American gun culture for a decade now, I find myself returning repeatedly to an important truth: Everyday gun violence in the United States is concentrated in places and among people that are most affected by economic and racial inequality. Efforts to reduce this violence should, therefore, be equally concentrated on addressing its causes in these same areas. Doing so shifts efforts at intervention away from guns per se, a move that allows us to circumvent federal gridlock on gun legislation and as well as legal challenges to gun regulation. We can carve a political path forward right now by decoupling violence reduction from gun control.

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QOTD: A Tedious and Repetitive Dialogue of the Deaf

So began four years of the voluminous debate over the gun and its place in American life, fully documented in 4,000 pages of congressional hearings and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. It was to be a tedious and repetitive dialogue of the deaf.

— On gun control legislation following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, from Lee Kennett and Jules LaVerne Anderson, The Gun in America (1975), p. 232, emphasis added

Thoughts on the National Rifle Association (NRA)

Motivated by those who would reduce gun culture in the United States to the National Rifle Association (NRA), I have tried as much as possible to think and write about gun culture without paying too much attention to the NRA. In fact, when I sent out a book proposal a while ago, one of the reviewers took me to task for not discussing the NRA enough.

I have a couple of reasons for downplaying the NRA in my work.

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Student Range Visit Reflection #6: A Canadian POV on an American Gun Range

This is the sixth 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 and fifth post.)

This reflection is by a Canadian student – an outsider to gun culture in both the United States and Canada – who ended up deciding not to shoot on the range but still learned quite a bit.

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