Boston Review’s Magnificently Consistent Takes on Gun Culture

I confess to not being a regular reader of the Boston Review but my Google alert this morning for both “gun owners” and “gun culture” pointed me to a recent essay published by political philosopher Chad Kautzer, “America as a Tactical Gun Culture.” I know Kautzer from having participated in a conference on guns with him at Amherst College back in 2017.

The essay is actually quite sweeping in scope and in detail connects a great many dots together, including Kyle Rittenhouse and vigilantism, Ferguson and the militarization of law enforcement, extra legal violence in the name of border security, Threepers and Oath Keepers, Lavoy Finicum and Civil War II, “Operation Wetback” and the NRA, Stand Your Ground and vigilante sovereignty, George Mason and Dick Heller, CSPOA and authoritarian populism, “racialized fears and patriarchal aspirations” driving Gun Culture 2.0, and others!

Kautzer’s fundamental argument is that “an armed white citizenry, working in tandem with law enforcement, has for centuries sustained white rule in the United States through legal and extralegal violence.” As white rule has been challenged over the past several decades, we see the “rise of a tactical gun culture” in response. It’s a variation on the same old song of America. Although it alone is not sufficient to sustain the old regime of racial domination, “it does cultivate the material and ideological conditions necessary for a return to an authoritarian legal and political order.”

The Boston Review’s algorithm also pointed me to three additional stories, all of which provide variations on Kautzer’s theme.

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Is Gun Culture Becoming Militarized?

Criticisms of the “militarization” of American gun culture are commonplace. No group has done more to attack this phenomenon than the Violence Policy Center (VPC) and their 2011 report on “The Militarization of the U.S. Civilian Firearms Market.”

In this report they, like many, allege that the militarization of the firearms market is recent and is an intentional strategy of companies needing to sell products in a shrinking marketplace:

In spite of the gauzy imagery of its advertising, the gun industry’s militarization is simply a business strategy aimed at survival: boosting sales and improving the bottom line. The hard commercial fact is that military-style weapons sell in an increasingly narrowly focused civilian gun market. True sporting guns do not.

Among the evidence they present is an advertisement for the FNH USA FN Five-Seven pistol (reproduced in their report and below).

Violence Policy Center, “The Militarization of the U.S. Civilian Firearms Market” (2011), p. 3.

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