COVID made some things different this semester. In fall 2020, I taught the course online. I was happy to be able to meet this semester face-to-face, but we were required to wear masks in the classroom, which definitely inhibited discussion. Perhaps not more than meeting on Zoom inhibits discussion, but certainly compared to the first 5 times I taught the course under normal circumstances. I also kept the enrollment down to 13 students (instead of 16-18) in order to allow for more social distancing in class.
Despite the challenges, the course realized my aspirations in teaching it. This can be seen most clearly in the final reflection papers students submitted for the course. Over the next week or so I will be posting some of these papers here, so stay tuned.
And read on for a brief review of the course and additional information about the final reflection assignment.
Although the printed journal is not due out until February 2022, by the magic of the internet, the articles appearing in the special issue of Sociological Perspectives that I co-edited are now available online (though mostly pay-walled, sorry).
Far from just a summary of the articles in the special issue, Trent and I tried to stand back and put those articles in a broader scholarly context that highlights why they are important to advancing a sociology of firearms for the twenty-first century.
Give it a read and let me know what you think. If you have trouble accessing the text, please let me know!
Everyone approaches the study of and teaching about guns from a particular perspective. My own perspective comes from my involvement in gun culture over the past decade, which has profoundly shifted my perspective on guns and gun owners. Over the years I have refined this perspective into a sort of motto:
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.
I have been trying to understand what I call, following gun journalist Michael Bane, Gun Culture 2.0 for over 10 years now. I am currently in a race to finish my book on the topic before Gun Culture 3.0 arrives.
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.
In his third and final guest post in this series (see his first and second), Trent Steidley takes up the claim that the COVID-19 gun purchasing spree of March 2020 was driven by handgun purchases (a claim I made myself, which helped begin this dialogue).
Was March 2020 the best month for handgun sales ever?
Handguns for sale at Frisco Gun Club, Texas. Photo by David Yamane
By Trent Steidley
NARRATIVE #3: March 2020 was the best month for handgun sales ever.
This is technically correct (and if you watch Futurama you know this is the best kind of correct).
Today he critically engages the second of three common narratives emerging from the great gun buying spree of March 2020: that March 2020 saw the most guns sold in a single month in the history of NICS.
My recent posts about the great COVID19 gun buying spree of March 2020 (especially handguns) elicited some helpful clarifying and corrective tweets from my colleague Trent Steidley (bio below). I don’t know any sociologist as familiar or adept with National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) data as he is.
I am grateful, therefore, that he has written up his thoughts on using caution and sense with NICS data and gun sale spikes. In three separate posts here, he offers some clarifications and alternative takes for those really trying to understand what happened last month.
Frisco Gun Club, Texas. Photo by David Yamane
By Trent Steidley
You willhaveheard that March 2020 was a gangbuster month for gun sales. To be sure, two things are certainly true.
One, a lot of people went to gun stores, got background checks, and likely bought guns in March 2020 (and the reason for this is certainly because of COVID19, but whether these are new gun buyers afraid of social unrest or current owners afraid of government actions will take time to tell). Two, the majority of these guns sold were handguns.
But there are some narratives in these news stories that we should be cautious about.