Light Over Heat #2: Big Denominators and Estimates of Gun Ownership in the United States

In this second “Light Over Heat with Professor David Yamane” video I think about the importance of big denominators in understanding guns and gun owners in the United States, and explain why surveys tend to underestimate the rate of gun ownership.

Accounting for under-reporting of gun ownership in surveys, I conclude it’s possible that 40% of all American adults own a gun, which would be over 100 million people.

That is a mighty large denominator to use when thinking about how normal guns and gun owners are, which was the topic of “Light Over Heat” Video #1 last week.

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Light Over Heat Video #1: Just How Normal Are Guns and Gun Owners, Anyway?

In this first “Light Over Heat with Professor David Yamane” video I take up the question, “Just how normal are guns and gun owners, anyway?”

Drawing on data on negative outcomes with guns as a proportion of the total number of guns owned in the US (400 million), the total number of gun owners (76.56 million), and the total number of gun owning households (51.44 million), I conclude that guns and gun owners are VERY NORMAL.

99.85% of guns, 99.21% of gun owners, and 99.82% of gun owning households will not be involved in any fatalities, non-fatal injuries, or violent victimizations involving guns on any given day. The vast majority of American gun owners do perfectly normal things with their guns.

The basis for the data I use and calculations I make in this video can be found in the associated blog post on my Gun Culture 2.0 blog.

New “Light Over Heat” videos are released on YouTube every Wednesday, so please surf over to my YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE to follow and RING THE BELL to receive notifications.

Results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey

A summary of results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey was posted to the SSRN site back in July. I confess to missing it the first time around because I thought it was the same National Firearms Survey that was fielded by scholars at Northeastern and Harvard Universities this year (results from which about firearm purchasing during the COVID pandemic I commented on recently).

It turns out this is a separate National Firearms Survey, fielded by William English, a political economist at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. I’m quite intrigued by the existence of this survey because I have never heard of William English in the field of gun studies and there is nothing in his scholarly background that indicates he would do work in this area.

To say this is certainly not a criticism of William English. People would have said the same about me 10 years ago, also. He seems to be an outsider to the field and I hope that will allow him to bring fresh perspectives to it.

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I Came Into This Experience with a Very Negative View of Guns (Fall 2021 Student Range Visit Reflection #6)

This is the sixth of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1, reflection #2, reflection #3, reflection #4, and reflection #5). 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 Kierra Law

Overall, I would say that my experience going to the gun range did not fit with my prior understanding of guns in the U.S.

Our field trip to the gun range was my first experience handling a gun. I appreciated this trip because it made me realize some things that I had not realized before. There were also parts of the experience that I enjoyed and parts that still made me feel uncomfortable being around guns.

The author shooting at Veterans Range, September 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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Sociology of Guns Module 5: Race and Guns

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.

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Sociology of Guns Module 3: Gun Culture 2.0, the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020+, and the Changing Face of Gun Owners

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.

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“Race and Guns in America” Webinar on Saturday July 31

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.”

You can register for the event here.

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Queers with Guns? Against the LGBT Grain

For the past 18 months, I have been co-editing, with Trent Steidley of the University of Denver, a special issue of the scholarly journal, Sociological Perspectives. The theme is “A Sociology of Firearms for the 21st Century.”

A major goal we had in soliciting and selecting articles for the special issue was to expand the narrow sociological literature by appreciating the multifaceted role guns play in society and culture beyond crime, deviance, and injury. This is the sort of project I called for in my original “Sociology of U.S. Gun Culture” article.

The printed edition of the journal will be available later this year, but the articles are being posted online once they are finalized. One that I am particularly proud to have had an editorial hand in is “Queers with Guns? Against the LGBT Grain” by University of Texas graduate student Thatcher Combs.

In all the years I have taught the Sociology of Guns (since 2015), I have not been able to assign a peer-reviewed sociological study of LGBT gun owners. I typically assign Rolling Stone’s story on the Pink Pistols and tell the students that some day a sociologist will give their attention to this important topic.

I am preparing my syllabus for this fall’s Version 7 of Sociology of Guns and am happy to have Thatcher Combs’s work to assign at last.

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Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020: Collected Works About

The COVID-19 pandemic compounded by the George Floyd protests and riots mixed with the boogaloo/CW2/Great Awakening V leading up to a hotly contested presidential election created a literally unprecedented gun buying spree in 2020.

This post collects various blog posts, stories, and studies I have come across that I think have some value. If you know of other works to be included, please post them in the comments.

Empty gun case at store. Photo by Tamara Keel, https://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/

Gun Culture 2.0 and the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020. An essay I wrote for Discourse magazine connecting the spree to the broader culture of guns in America.

COVID-19 and Guns Video Series by Duke Center for Firearms Law. Including an interview with yours truly.

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