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.
So it perhaps goes without saying that I am on board with the Liberal Gun Owners Lens project and have consulted with LGO Executive Director Randy Miyan regularly about it. I’ve participated in the LGO’s annual firearms training event and Miyan has guest lectured twice in my Sociology of Guns seminar at Wake Forest.
This is to say: I’m not a neutral analyst of the Liberal Gun Owners. I am a contributor to and a fan of the work.
This is the second of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1). 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 Mary Clark
As a self-identified “flaming liberal”, guns and gun ownership have always been a topic I am opposed to. Though, as a politics major, I strive to better understand both sides—rather all dimensions— of a complex topic like guns in the United States. My prior understanding of guns has stemmed from sensationalized news headlines and youth lead movements against gun violence, particularly with the rise of consistent and well documented school shooting incidents.
If you ever were to look at the news, or come out from the rock you’ve been hiding under, you would instantly find that the topic of guns is a complex and very personal issue for many Americans. As a young woman who grew up in a blue county of a red state, I understand that there are nuances to this debate that often get pushed aside for the sake of argument. Going to the Mocksville Veterans Gun Range complicated my view and understanding of my belief and opinions on this topic.
Guns and gun culture in the United States are strongly associated with political and cultural conservatism. So much so that what requires explanation is not the link between guns and conservatism but guns and liberalism.
One-fifth of gun owners self-identify as politically liberal, and another 40% as politically moderate. So, in fact only a minority of gun owners (40%) self-identify as politically conservative.
In this module we examine the work of one of the two major liberal gun organizations in the United States: the Liberal Gun Owners (LGO). (The other is the Liberal Gun Club (LGC).) We will welcome to class as a guest speaker, for the second time, Randy Miyan, the executive director of the LGO.
He will talk about his own evolution as a gun owner, as well as the LGO’s unique perspective on guns in human history and culture.
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.