As with gun safety, safe storage of firearms is something that people on all sides of the Great Gun Debates in America agree is important. But the way some gun violence prevention organizations, like Brady United Against Gun Violence in the “End Family Fire” initiative, define “safe storage” is not acceptable to many responsible gun owners.
A recent editorial in the American Journal of Public Health included gun educator Rob Pincus and the definition it proposes is more adequate to the reality of how responsible gun owners want to store (and stage) their firearms at home.
As I discuss in this week’s Episode 8 of “Light Over Heat,” the sort of dialogue and collaboration that yielded this editorial may be a good path to promoting light over heat on the issue 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.
Guns have never played a big role in my life. There were certainly no guns in my house when I was growing up. If I ever talked to my parents about guns, it was usually after a terrible tragedy, like a school shooting, or as we headed out to a protest, like a rally we attended on the Boston Common that was organized by Parkland High students.
That does not mean I had no personal connection to guns, or that I never thought about their popularity. My mother grew up in Vermont, and her father (my grandfather) and her older brother (my Uncle) were big hunters, so her childhood was filled with talk about guns and hunting, and she used to tell me about that, even though she hates guns.
Many years ago, when we went to visit my Uncle in Boise, Idaho, where he lives now, he showed us some of his rifles and the safes he kept them in. I also remember him talking a lot about gun safety, and how worried he was that someone might break into his house and steal his guns, which is why he always disassembled them and kept them in different safes.
When we went on our field trip, I wondered what the experience would be like and how it would affect me. Would I feel the sense of excitement that I know lots of people feel when they shoot guns? Would I surprise myself and actually enjoy firing a gun? Physically, would the guns be heavy or hard to hold? Would I understand better why people might want to own not just one gun, but five or ten different guns?
Ever since I was little, my dad always taught me about gun safety and how to act around guns. Starting with nerf guns, all the way up to his prized Remington 870s, I was taught about the great pleasure that shooting guns can be if I follow all the rules to make sure myself and everyone around me were safe.
When it came to the field trip, however, I felt like half of the knowledge I had saved up over the years about gun safety had dwindled. As someone who handles guns relatively frequently, I was surprised to find out that I barely knew how to operate a simple .22 pistol that was so similar to the one I own at home. From this, I felt that no matter how acclimated you are (or think you are) to guns, there is still a rather startling feeling about picking up a new gun for the first time.
Firearms are here to stay. Just as we encourage safe sex rather than abstinence to reduce the burden of teenage pregnancy, we can encourage safe firearm storage rather than simply discouraging firearm ownership altogether in our efforts to reduce gun violence.
I learn something every semester from each of my students, but one student’s work this semester was more of a revelation to me. Bevin Burns drew on her experience promoting sexual health and education on college campuses to highlight some potential negative consequences of adopting an abstinence-based approach to gun safety education.
This really resonated with me because I have noted the two different approaches to gun safety: safety WITH guns vs. safety FROM guns. The #gunsafety and #gunsense movement is really promoting the gun equivalent to “abstinence only” sex education, and we know how well that worked over the years.
I was privileged to be invited recently to contribute to an ongoing series of videos produced by the Duke Center for Firearms Law on COVID-19 and guns.
I was asked to speak about my approach to studying guns, to speculate about why people are buying guns during the COVID-19 pandemic, what misconceptions people have about gun acquisition, and what advice I have for new guns owners.
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.
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