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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Late in 2020 an editor from the online magazine Discourse contacted me to see if I wanted to write anything about my work on American gun culture for them. The invitation provided an excellent opportunity for me to formalize some of my scattered thoughts on the Great Gun-Buying Spree of 2020. I quickly agreed.
Early in 2020 I wrote an entry on this blog asking “Who are the liberal gun owners?” I was responding to media interest in liberals who own guns in an election year. In response to an inquiry from the Associated Press, I did some quick and dirty analyses using data from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey, but was left wanting to know more.
I was fortunate to find two sociology graduate students from Baylor University to collaborate with me on a more systematic analysis of these same data, Jesse DeDeyne and Alonso Alonso Octavio Aravena Méndez. Together, we recently published our article in the journal Sociological Inquiry.