Light Over Heat #24: My Thoughts on the Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

This week’s episode features audio of comments I made for the Liberal Gun Owners Lens Podcast series on the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

I try to recognize both the importance of understanding race/racism in American history, and hence gun culture historically, and also the importance of recognizing that this is not essential to American gun culture today.

I hope this subtlety comes through in this episode.

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

Light Over Heat #22: Further Thoughts Post-Buffalo Thanks to Intellectual Diversity

In my last video (Light Over Heat #21), I commented on guns and race, racism, and white supremacy in the wake of the Buffalo mass murder. The comments I received, even the critical ones, were generally very respectful and constructive. Given the name and mission of my YouTube channel — “Light Over Heat” — I appreciate this very much.

The comments also got me thinking about the value of diversity (political, cultural, social, intellectual) in exposing us to people and ideas different from our own. From these differences can come greater understanding.

Getting into gun culture has exposed me to more intellectual diversity than if I had just stayed in my bright blue sociology bubble. In this week’s video, I talk about some of the ways I have come to see the issues raised by the Buffalo mass murder differently.

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Light Over Heat #21: Talking Guns and Race Post-Buffalo

This week I was supposed to post a video commemorating the 20th consecutive weekly episode of “Light Over Heat”. But the dark side of life intervened in the form of a white supremacist mass murder in Buffalo, New York.

So I quickly recorded some thoughts on guns and race. This is a first word not a last word on the topic, but I felt compelled to put my thoughts out there as I have seen so many perspectives that I think miss the reality of guns in America (typically those on the left) AND the reality of racism in America (typically those on the right).

So, here I try to find the via media and bring some light over heat to an important and controversial issue.

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

New Data on New Gun Owners and Gun Policy Preferences

Like many, I have been touting the changing face of gun owners, especially in connection with the great gun buying spree of 2020+. I have discussed this in Discourse Magazine in February 2021, at the Outdoor Writers Association of American annual conference in October 2021, in Episode 3 of my “Light Over Heat” video series on YouTube in January 2022, and elsewhere.

In fact, I was discussing the diversity of Gun Culture 2.0 even before COVID, as in my lunchtime keynote lecture to the National Firearms Law Seminar in April 2019.

Beyond recognizing the diversity of new gun buyers, I have also argued that being a person who owns a gun does not automatically make someone a “gun owner” in terms of their identity. Not developing a gun owner identity could limit new gun owners’ engagement with gun culture more broadly or with Second Amendment advocacy specifically (per political scientist Matthew Lacombe).

Some recent data on new gun owners and gun policy preferences (H/T The Trace’s Daily Bulletin) show that I may be, as is often the case, only half-right.

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The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership

Last year I was invited to contribute to a special issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science by the editors Cassandra Crifasi, Jennifer Dineen, and Kerri Raissian. The theme of this issue is “Gun Violence in America: What Works and What is Possible.”

Specifically, the editors invited me “to write a paper overviewing the evolution of American gun culture – from hunting to gun culture 2.0. Your scholarship in this area will help readers of the special issue understand the role guns play in American culture and how that role has evolved (or not) over time.”

I am always flattered but such invitations, though perhaps I should not be. Maybe the first dozen people they asked said “No”? More likely is the reality that not many scholars have focused their work on gun culture per se, as opposed to adverse outcomes with guns, which is the primary focus of this special issue.

As usual, my participation in these sorts of enterprises reminds me of the Sesame Street song I remember so well from my childhood.

My contribution will focus on the rise of Gun Culture 2.0, the self-defense core of American gun culture today. But I also want to engage what I call “The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership” – the primary way gun studies scholars approach Gun Culture 2.0.

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Light Over Heat #3: The Changing Face of Gun Owners Today

In this third “Light Over Heat with Professor David Yamane” video I explore what two 2021 National Firearms Surveys tell us about the diverse and changing face of gun owners today.

The first survey, Georgetown business professor William English’s 2021 National Firearms Survey, highlights the diversity of contemporary gun owners.

The second survey, a 2021 National Firearms Survey by scholars at Northeastern and Harvard University, highlights the diversity of those who became new gun owners from January 2019 to April 2021.

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

Author Chad Kautzer’s Reply to “Boston Review’s Magnificently Consistent Takes on Gun Culture”

Below you will find a comment written by one of the authors whose work I criticized in a recent post, philosopher Chad Kautzer. Because many people miss (or actively avoid reading) the comments, I offered to move his comments to a free-standing post as a reply to my original.

As Kautzer notes, authors feel honored when people take time to read and think about their work, even when you don’t think the reader gets it quite right, or even if you think the reader gets it quite wrong. I feel the same here, and posting his vigorous reply fits in with my overall goal in attempting to understand guns and gun culture in America: LIGHT OVER HEAT.

My original post (as evidenced by a mistake Kautzer notes) and Kautzer’s reply were both written fairly quickly, and so Kautzer’s reply here appears as it was originally written to preserve that reality. Please read on.

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Sociology of Guns Seminar Student Final Reflection #6: Gun Culture is Much More Complex Than It Seems

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.

Here is the sixth of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (Link to the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth reflection essays.)

Reflection essay author presenting her work to Sociology of Guns seminar, November 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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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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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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