When I sat down to write the brief show notes for the YouTube episode, I ended up spending 9 hours writing a 3,500 systematic response. Which is probably too much to ask of most people. So, here is the TL:DR or Cliff’s Notes version of that post. If you want to see any of these points elaborated or the documentation supporting them, please pop over to the original post.
TL:DR of this TL:DR I have learned very different lessons from firearms classes than Harel Shapira.
The title, of course, is provocative and the essay certainly provoked considerable attention on my social media feeds. My gun-skeptic friends had all of their biases about Gun Culture 2.0 confirmed, while my gun-sympathetic friends didn’t recognize themselves in Shapira’s characterization.
As usual, I tried to translate between these two different perspectives, but 140 characters doesn’t allow for much nuance.
So, in addition to 11 minutes of more free-flowing “Light Over Heat” video comments, this blog post presents the points I would like to make more systematically.
TL:DR I have learned very different lessons from firearms classes than Harel Shapira.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA – the liberal Lutheran denomination in the US) is planning to issue considering [correction 2/26/23] a statement on gun violence and the LEN wants to inform that work. So I was invited to join them at their 31st annual gathering at the famous Palmer House in Chicago to discuss “Guns, Violence, and Security in the U.S.: What Might the ELCA Say Now?”
In Light Over Heat Ep 12, I talked about how violence can be virtuous and my life-altering realization that I might need to use it to protect my children or myself.
A commentator on that video distinguished between violence being virtuous and violence being desirable. I don’t see violence as desirable, i.e., being subjectively pleasing or worth seeking in and of itself. It is a means to the end of protecting life, family, or friends. That is what makes it virtuous.
This reminded me of Tim Larkin’s book When Violence is the Answer, about which I have written previously. Larkin argues BOTH that when violence is the answer, it’s the only answer, AND that violence is rarely the answer.
In Light Over Heat Ep 11, I mentioned that some people address their needs via outsourcing, including outsourcing their violence to others like the police.
Related to this is the fact that there are many people who have little-to-no direct experience using violence. These people often only see the downsides of violence and, by extension, think of guns as fundamentally bad because they see violence as fundamentally bad.
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.
I recently Tweeted for help finding some articles for my Sociology of Guns seminar. Among those who Tweeted back was Ted Alcorn, the founding Director of Research at Everytown for Gun Safety who currently teaches a course called “Gun Violence in the United States: Evidence and Action” at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. He provided a link to his fall 2020 syllabus, which I mined for sources.
Although it is not my area of scholarly expertise, like many I am concerned about high levels of violence in the United States, especially the most lethal and injurious forms. As I have previously written on this blog, I find myself returning repeatedly to an important truth: Everyday criminal violence in the United States is concentrated in places and among people that are most affected by economic and racial inequality. As the Rocket Armory t-shirt says, “Guns don’t kill people, systemic inequality does.”
One module in Alcorn’s class takes this issue of PLACE far more seriously than I had thought to myself.
Another day in America, another pile of bodies, and another set of cries for gun control. Predictably, the Atlanta and Boulder and Indianapolis mass public shootings were followed by calls to ban AR-style rifles. President Biden proposes to subject “ghost guns” to background checks and place pistol-stabilizing braces under the National Firearms Act as short-barreled rifles.
This marks a return to the old, pre-pandemic normal in America in which extremely rare cases of large-scale homicide bring efforts to regulate guns and gun parts in ways so general they are unlikely to have the desired effect of dramatically reducing gun violence.
As tragic as they are, overemphasis on these dramatic but rare events diverts our attention from the vast majority of homicides which involve fewer than four victims, victims who are shot with regular old handguns that are acquired in transactions not covered by criminal background checks.
Having studied American gun culture for a decade now, I find myself returning repeatedly to an important truth: Everyday gun violence in the United States is concentrated in places and among people that are most affected by economic and racial inequality. Efforts to reduce this violence should, therefore, be equally concentrated on addressing its causes in these same areas. Doing so shifts efforts at intervention away from guns per se, a move that allows us to circumvent federal gridlock on gun legislation and as well as legal challenges to gun regulation. We can carve a political path forward right now by decoupling violence reduction from gun control.
The finale episode of Season 3 of the American Diagnosis podcast with Dr. Celine Gounder has recently been released. The season focused on gun violence and the concluding episode considers the question: “Where Do We Go From Here?”
Over a year ago, I spoke about Gun Culture 2.0 on Episode 4 of Season 3 of the podcast, and 15 month later I am pleased to be given the last word of sorts for the season.
My comments remain some of my most coherent thoughts on the American gun divide, though I don’t feel as sanguine today as I did in April of 2018 when I was interviewed. Give the episode a listen (or see an excerpt of the transcript below) and judge for yourself. Let me know what you think.
Earlier this year, philosopher Michael Austin posted a short reflection on “Virtue and Guns” on his Psychology Today blog “Ethics for Everyone.” If the title didn’t already grab my attention, the subtitle would have: “How ‘Gun Culture 2.0’ can harm character.”
Even if some people hadn’t mistaken Austin’s argument about GC2.0 for mine, I still would have wanted to respond. He told me he would post a response if I wrote one, and he is true to his word.