Guns, Violence & the War at Home
Millions of Americans have come to find that they want and need to carry guns. How this has come about is indeed one of the most vexing questions of our time. Why do some people feel a need to carry a gun everywhere they go – even to do pedestrian things like trips to the store, the movies, and buying coffee? Is it because they feel their lives are in imminent danger? Or does it give them a sense of power that they may otherwise not have? Perhaps it offers a sense of pleasure?
Whatever the case, Americans have a unique history that informs a complex relationship with firearms and guns. For some, to have and hold a firearm is a way to express pride and carry on family traditions. Whatever the reason, the subject of firearms, guns, and weaponry instigates sharp debate in U.S. society. Up until now, most of the scholarship that addresses gun ownership has focused on documenting demographic characteristics – who owns guns, why do they own them, where do they live? This needs to change, as more in-depth qualitative study is needed to account for the social and psychological processes bound up within our culture, which may offer more insight and help solve problems connected to guns and violence in America.
Before moving forward, some basic housekeeping around the nomenclature that is conventionally used for how we talk about guns in the United States is in order. Not only does this often vary from state to state in legal discourses, the very naming guns as you will see here shortly can be politically contentious.
Firearms are understood to be a generic category made up primarily of portable guns (barrel ranged weapons). These guns fire shaped projectiles and are propelled by rapidly expanding high-pressure gas produced by the exothermic combustion of propellant within the ammunition cartridge.
The general category of “firearms” can be broken down further, such that it includes handguns, long-guns, rifles, and weapons. Handguns tend to be the smallest of all firearms. There are two typical classifications that apply to the handgun – the revolver and the semi-automatic pistol.
Long guns are conventionally fired with two hands; they tend to have a barrel that ranges between 10 and 30 inches in length. The barrel, along with the receiver and trigger group, is mounted onto a wood, plastic, metal or composite stock; the stock is composed of one or more pieces that form a foregrip, rear grip, and optionally (but typically) a shoulder mount called the butt. Muskets are one example of an early form of long guns; they featured a smoothbore barrel that fired one (or more) ball shot.
Contemporary forms of long guns include both rifles and shotguns. Rifles are distinctive as a result of their spiral bore fluting (rifling). The rifling helps put a spin on the bullet as it is launched down the barrel. Shotguns, on the other hand, are smooth bore weapons that are designed to fire shot (pellet cartridges). Shotguns can also fire slugs, bean bags, and other forms of breaching rounds (i.e. tear gas). Rifles and shotguns have more traditionally been used for hunting and for home defense. But this too is changing.
To make matters a bit more complicated, rifles can be broken down to distinguish automatic rifles and assault rifles. An automatic rifle is a magazine-fed firearm that chambers rifle cartridges and is capable of automatic fire. The U.S. military originally adopted the M19 Browning Automatic rifle as its first infantry weapon/battlefield rifle. Big rifles were eventually replaced because they were too big/heavy to carry and were cumbersome. They were too slow to fire and often the range was not long enough. Soldiers wanted a lighter weapon that could fire on automatic like a machine gun without being too heavy and one that could still fire big-rifle ammunition, all while absorbing recoil, so as to not detract from accuracy. To address this, a new category of firearm was developed – the light “assault rifle.”
Another discrepancy occurs in usage over the term “guns” which some states use to denote long guns, reserving the term “firearms” to designate handguns. This is how the state of Pennsylvania defines it.
The Semantics of Assault Rifles
The AR-15 is America’s most popular rifle. It has also been the weapon of choice in mass shootings from Sandy Hook to Aurora to San Bernardino. In Orlando, the shooter used a Sig Sauer MCX, an AR-15 style rifle originally developed for special ops, to kill 49 people in the Pulse nightclub. The carnage sparked new calls to reinstate a ban on assault rifles like the AR-15, which were originally designed as weapons of war (Zhang).
It’s possible to argue about everything when it comes to the politics of guns—including about the definition of “assault rifle” itself—but it’s harder to argue about physics. So let’s consider the history and physics of an AR-15.
As Michael Schurkin writes in The Atlantic, “The assault rifle is a class of weapon that emerged in the middle of the last century to meet the needs of combat soldiers on the modern battlefield, where the level of violence had reached such heights that an entirely new way of fighting had emerged, one for which the existing weapons were a poor match. The name “assault rifle” is believed to have been coined by Adolf Hitler. Toward the end of World War II, the story goes, Hitler hailed his army’s new wonder weapon by insisting that it be called not by the technical name given it by its developers, the Machinenpistole (the German name for a submachine gun), but rather something that made for better propaganda copy. A Sturmgewehr, he called the new gun: a “storm” or “assault” weapon.”
The United States Defense Department’s Defense Intelligence Agency book Small Arms Identification and Operation Guide explains, “assault rifles” are “short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge of intermediate power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges.” In terms of size, they are slightly smaller than battlefield rifles.
Assault rifles are, in other words, battlefield rifles that can fire automatically; they have mechanisms that allow the user to select between different functional settings – single shots, fully automatic bursts, or fully automatic fire.
The M-16 rifle and its shorter M-4 version are the standard assault rifles used by the U.S. military. Other armies use these rifles in addition to different versions of the AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles.
Put another way, assault rifles are military rifles which have select-fire capability (they can shoot on full auto – like a machine gun; or more than one round with the single pull of a trigger). These rifles, however, are not easy for the average shooter to obtain, for reasons that they are subject to strict regulations that limit their availability and pricing that will break the bank account of the average person.
ArmaLite “AR” Rifles
The decision to adopt the AR/M-16 was preceded by the U.S. Army testing several different rifles to replace the obsolete M1 Garand (Springfield Armory’s T44E4 and heavier T44E5 were essentially updated versions of the Garand chambered for the new 7.62 mm round, while Fabrique Nationale submitted their FN FAL as the T48). ArmaLite/Colt entered competition late, after submitting several AR-10 prototype rifles to the United States Army’s Springfield Armory for testing. It was subsequently adopted by the military as the M16 rifle, which went into mass production in March 1964.
Before this time, beginning in 1959, after a combination of product line setbacks and financial difficulties, ArmaLite sold its rights to the AR-10 and AR-15 to Colt. Colt made modifications to the original AR rifle (notably, the charging handle was re-located from under the carrying handle like AR-10 to the rear of the receiver. Soon after, Colt rebranded it the Colt ArmaLite AR-15 and marketed the redesigned rifle to military services around the world.
The ArmaLite AR-15 was a select-fire (manual, semi, fully auto) rifle equipped to shoot 5.56x45mm ball ammunition; it’s an air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed assault rifle, with a rotating bolt and straight-line recoil design. Originally created by Eugene Stoner, Jim Sullivan, and Bob Fremont in the late 195o’s, its design is based on the ArmaLite AR-10 rifle. This rifle used a system called “direct impingement.” Most modern AR-15-type rifles use this system (Gibbons-Neff).
The AR-10 and AR-15 were designed, first and foremost, to be lightweight assault rifles; they fired a new lightweight, high-velocity small caliber cartridge, which enabled their primary customer, the U.S. military/infantryman, to easily carry additional reserves of ammunition.
The Colt AR-15, as it is known now, was manufactured with the extensive use of aluminum alloys and synthetic materials. It is a civilian semi-automatic version of the United States military M16 rifle.
Consequently, if it’s not already clear, “AR” does NOT stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.”
After Colt’s patents expired in 1977, other manufacturers started to copy the original Colt AR-15 rifle’s design. However, the term “AR-15” is a Colt registered trademark and Colt only uses the term to refer to its line of semi-automatic rifles. Consequently, other manufacturers marketed their generic AR-15s under different names, which are frequently referred to as AR-style rifles.
AR-15 rifles and other AR-style rifles are semi-automatic rifles that are popular with civilian shooters because they are reliable, simple, cool-looking, and easily customized; they’re also relatively inexpensive and easy to use (Peters). How customizable? Only the sky and $$$$ limit you. Users can add scopes, lasers, suppressors, slings, and various handles. They can even change out the lower portion of the gun – the receiver – as well as the magazine, which allows for total customization to whatever the user wants. The gun lobby prefers to call these weapons “modern sporting rifles” But make no mistake: What the Orlando attacker used was a weapon of war -it was designed to kill people quickly and efficiently.
Pictured below is a replica of the rifle Omar Mateen used in the Pulse Club massacre, which he alternated shooting that day with a Glock 17 9mm handgun. Able to shoot the same caliber ammunition — .223 — as an AR-15, the Sig Sauer MCX, better known as the “Black Mamba” in military circles, was originally designed for military Special Operations forces to fire a round called a .300 Blackout. This relatively new caliber was designed to provide them with a bullet that was as quiet as a pistol round even as it packed the range and lethality of a rifle cartridge [another feature of the bullet’s design is that it mimics the size of the round fired by AK-47-type assault rifles].
Although the legal civilian version of the gun fires on semi-automatic, it is still highly lethal. The fact that the rifle, despite being sold with modifications, can be acquired by a civilian purchaser does not erase the history of its development as a weapon of war, nor should this preclude anyone from calling it an “assault rifle.”
The key difference between the standard AR-15 series rifle and the MCX “sporting” rifle can be traced to the operating system that is used to 1) mechanically propel the bullet from the gun; and 2) cycle the next round to be fired.
The military version of the assault rifle has a fully automatic select-fire capability and it uses the lesser power rifle round (intermediate cartridge – such as the .223 or 5.56 caliber ammunition ). The round fired from this rifle cartridge reduces recoil and allows a shooter to fire controllable 3 round “bursts” at short range, all while retaining rifle-like accuracy at medium ranges.
Alternatively, civilian AR and AR-style rifles are semi-automatic rifles. They have a more limited function mechanism in the sense that these M-16 style rifles are not technically made to fire as many rounds per minute as the military automatic rifles. The semi-automatic sporting rifles fire one round every time the trigger is pulled.
So while gun enthusiasts argue there is a simple basic difference between the two rifles based on fire selection mechanism, where the assault rifle alone has the ability to fire on full automatic and switch between automatic and semi-automatic fire; this view only tells part of the story. Civilian legal rifles aren’t “select-fire”capable. This means they don’t have a select-fire switch that lets them shoot in a fully-automatic mode.
Military M-4 – note the select fire mechanism
AR-rifle/AR style rifle – selection mechanism is restricted
The bullet from a handgun is—as absurd as this may sound—slow compared to that from an AR-15. It can be stopped by the thick bone of the upper leg. It might pass through the body, only to become lodged in skin, which is surprisingly elastic (Zhang).
The bullet from an AR-15 /AR style rifle, however, accomplishes an entirely different kind of violence to the human body. The round itself is relatively small, but it leaves the muzzle at three times the speed of a handgun bullet. It has so much energy that it can disintegrate three inches of leg bone. “It would just turn it to dust,” says Donald Jenkins, a trauma surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. If it hits the liver, “the liver looks like a jello mold that’s been dropped on the floor.” And the exit wound can be a nasty, jagged hole the size of an orange (Zhang).
The small but high-velocity bullets can damage flesh inches away from their path, either because they fragment or because they cause something called cavitation. When you trail your fingers through water, the water ripples and curls. When a high-velocity bullet pierces the body, human tissues ripples as well—but much more violently. The bullet from an AR-15 might miss the femoral artery in the leg, but cavitation may burst the artery anyway, causing death by blood loss. A swath of stretched and torn tissue around the wound may die. That’s why, says Rhee, a handgun wound might require only one surgery but an AR-15 bullet wound might require three to ten (Zhang).
Multiply the damage from a single bullet by the ease of shooting an AR-15, which doesn’t kick. “The gun barely moves. You can sit there boom boom boom and reel off shots as fast as you can move your finger,” says Ernest Moore, a trauma surgeon at Denver Health and editor of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Surgery, which just published an issue dedicated to gun violence (Zhang).
Handguns kill plenty of people too, of course, and they’re responsible for the vast majority of America’s gun deaths. But a single bullet from a handgun is not likely to be as deadly as one from an AR-15 (Zhang).
How fast can you pull the trigger?
Imagine a top gun competitor, who can easily pull the trigger three times a second — for short periods of time. Their theoretical “cycling rate” might be 180 rounds per minute, even though may only do this to fire bursts of a second or two. Most modern semiautos use 30-round magazines, which means the magazine would have to be changed six times to reach the magic 180 number. An expert can change a mag on some rifles in about two to three seconds (depending on the gun and how he/she has staged the mags), but that’s still 12–18 seconds of lost shooting time per minute. So you are left with a maximum theoretical rate of about 138 rounds per minute.
For an average shooter, you’re talking about a top speed of about two shots per second, which means you’re emptying a magazine in 15 seconds. Reloading takes maybe four seconds, so it takes about 19 seconds to empty a mag and recharge. This means the effective firing rate is about 90 rounds per minute, not counting the time it takes to aim.
Now ask yourself: if someone were to fire only 90 rounds a minute into your body, as opposed to 138, would you feel less assaulted?
In the political arena, there is considerable haggling over the distinction between civilian AR-styled rifles and military-style assault rifles (a distinction that the above illustration shows is practically meaningless, given the amount of damage a semi-automatic rifle can inflict in the space of a minute). These differences – civilian vs. military & fully automatic vs, semi-automatic – have become the well-spring for the oft-repeated protest of gun enthusiasts “stop calling an AR-15 an assault rifle!” The laboring over technical distinctions, in this case, reduces the argument to what amounts to a semantic dance, given the damage that is done when bullets rip through bodies.
A semi-automatic rifle can easily and in many cases can legally be modified to mimic automatic fire through the use of a bump stock. Bump stocks are legal and are part of a class of products that are designed with one purpose in mind – to increase a semiautomatic weapon’s rate of fire. When used correctly, a bump stock increases the output of the average firearm to such an extent that it is almost indistinguishable from that of a machine gun. This accessory is not subject to federal regulations and they’re legal in all but a handful of states. They’re also cheap — a typical bump stock sells for a few hundred dollars. This is, for many people, a preferable option compared to the more difficult and costly undertaking of modifying the receiver, as this requires expensive fabrication and additional paperwork – not easy, though it is certainly attainable for someone with money to burn.
How does a bump stock work? When employing a bump stock, the shooter keeps his trigger finger rigid. Using his second hand, he gently pushes the gun forward. The forward movement causes the user’s finger to depress the trigger. The shot’s recoil then drives the gun backward, and the bump stock is designed to allow this cycle of discharge and recoil until the shooter chooses to stop firing or the gun’s magazine is spent (Kohrman). The Las Vegas shooter used this in his massacre, which killed 58 people and injured 489 others.
The Last Word on “All American Toys”
Assault rifles were always designed to fight wars. The fact that versions of these rifles are now being marketed to and used in domestic civilian social spaces doesn’t mean we cannot or should not call them assault rifles. As writer Justin Peters explains, “The sporting rifle designation is merely a euphemism the gun industry created in 2009 to describe modular semi-automatic rifles. The phrase is an artful attempt to recast weapons such as the MCX and the AR-15 (and its variants) as “all-American toys” (Peters).
Again, these naming conventions may seem simple to some, but they’re really not. And as you hopefully appreciate now, the way people understand and use these terms is often infused by politics. As for the remaining term “weapons,” this addresses a broad category of items that can cause death or injury; this includes knives, bows, arrows, explosives, chemicals, and hand grenades. The important takeaway here is that there may be considerable linguistic variation when it comes to the use of these terms; people may slide easily from one term to the other without always being specific and consistent in terms of practical usage. “Gun” is perhaps the shortest and simplest term. Notwithstanding, if you are/were in the military, you probably already know that it’s not always a good idea to say “gun.”
Photo from the film Full Metal Jacket – “This is my rifle, this is my ‘gun.’ ”
Espresso Shots, Not Gun Shots
Why do some Americans need to carry guns to buy bread, milk, and Starbucks? Why is coffee so scary? The simple answer is – because they can.
Starbucks, in particular, has a symbolic value – the American corporate coffee chain has become an iconic signifier of effeminate liberal consumption. Unlike Dunkin Donuts, it offers a “target rich” environment to the extent that it is likely to be chock-full of liberals who will be unnerved (if not pissed off) by the aggressive posturing of 2A enthusiasts openly carrying loaded firearms.
Starbucks customer — gun on his hip & drink in hand — watches a rally held by gun control advocates in Seattle, Washington.
The regulation of firearms in the United States has proved to be extremely controversial. Opponents of Gun Control argue that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes the right to bear arms an inherent and inalienable right. In practice, it is a combination of federal and state laws that work together to regulate who may own firearms and impose other conditions on their use (Burtons)
The passage in 1993 of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (18 U.S.C.A. § 921 et seq.) was the first major federal gun control law. The Brady Act bars felons and selected others from buying handguns, establishes a five-day waiting period for purchase, requires the local police to run background checks on handgun buyers, and mandates the development of a federal computer database for instant background checks (Burtons).
The 1994 federal crime bill is addressed to the use of deadly weapons by criminals. This law (108 Stat. 1796) banned nineteen assault-type firearms and other firearms with similar characteristics. It also limited the magazine capacity of guns and rifles to ten rounds, but exempted firearms, guns, and magazines that were legally owned when the law went into effect (Burtons). These changes, it should be emphasized, focused on gun characteristics, which gun manufacturers ultimately proved willing to change in an effort to get around the new law.
In what remains the deadliest instance of chemical explosives use was demonstrated by the April 1995 bombing of the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In response, Congress passed the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. (P.L. 104-132). The act increases the penalties for conspiracies involving explosives and for the possession of nuclear materials, criminalizes the use of chemical weapons, and requires plastic explosives to contain “tagging” elements in the explosive materials for detection and identification purposes (Burtons).
FBI Agents investigate the damaged rear wall of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where Omar Mateen massacred club goers with his Sig Sauer sporting rifle.
One of the reasons I took up this problem to study is that within the span of my own lifetime, I have seen a dramatic turn of events in terms of how people own, carry, and interpret their social identity as this pertains to guns and other firearms. The desire to conceal and carry is on the upswing. The question is why?
Unless prohibited by statute, possessing or carrying a weapon is not a crime, nor does it constitute a breach of the peace. However, most states make it a crime to carry a prohibited or concealed weapon. The term concealed means hidden, screened, or covered. The usual test for determining whether a weapon is concealed is whether the weapon is hidden from the general view of individuals who are in full view of the accused and close enough to see the weapon if it were not hidden. If the surface of a weapon is covered, the fact that its outline is distinguishable and recognizable as a weapon does not prevent it from being illegally concealed. In addition, most states have enacted laws mandating longer prison terms if a firearm was used in the commission of the crime (Burtons).
Law enforcement officers (LEOs) who must carry weapons in order to perform their official duties ordinarily are exempted from statutes governing weapons. Private citizens may apply to the local police department for a permit to carry a firearm. Permits are generally granted if the person carries large sums of money or valuables in his or her business, or can demonstrate a particular need for personal protection (Burtons).
Who Owns Guns in the United States?
Not only is the United States the runaway world leader for gun ownership – it also suffers mass shootings at more than 11 times the rate of any other developed country, according to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences (McCarthy, Beckett, Glenza, 2017).
A 2017 Pew study found that nearly 4 out of 10 Americans say they either own a gun themselves or live in a household with guns; 48% say they grew up in a household with guns. At least two-thirds of adults say they’ve lived in a household with a gun at some point in their lives. And roughly 7 out of 10 – including 55% of those who have never personally owned a gun – say they have fired a gun at some point (Igielnik and Brown).
The total number of guns in circulation in the United States has been increasing oddly enough at the same time as the number of people buying guns is decreasing.
More interesting (or troubling?) is the fact that those individuals who are acquiring firearms and guns represent a concentrated demographic of people – they are predominantly middle-class white men.
The Guardian journalists point out: “The US is home to 88 guns for every 100 people and sees mass shootings more than 11 times as often as any other developed country.” Check out the statistics featured in their report:
The proportion of firearm murders among all murders in 2016 – the highest ever on record in the United States, according to FBI statistics. While murders in the United States are well down from historic highs, gun murders represent a greater share of the overall total.
The proportion of gun murders in the United States in which a handgun is the weapon, according to FBI statistics.
The number of US cities and towns accountable for half of America’s gun homicides in 2015, according to a spatial geographic analysis by the Guardian.
Increase in the number of handguns owned in the United States since 1994.
Increase in the total number of guns owned in the United States since 1994.
The proportion of people who own half of the country’s guns. Anchoring this group are America’s super-gun-owners – the estimated 7.7 million Americans who individually own between eight and 140 guns.
The Pew study reported similar findings; in this study two-thirds (66%) of gun owners indicated they own more than one firearm; roughly three-in-ten (29%) say they personally have five or more guns. Among those who own just one gun, handguns are by far the most popular: 62% say they own a handgun, compared with 22% who say they own a rifle and 16% who own a shotgun (Pew study).
An early study in 2007 conducted by Hepburn, Miller, and Hemenway examined the size and composition of the privately held firearm stock in the US; this study aimed to describe the demographic patterns of firearm ownership as well as the motivations for ownership. They found that 13 percent of Americans, most of whom are men, own four or more guns; 20 percent of these gun owners with the most guns possess the equivalent of 2/3rds of the nation’s stockpile.
Building on that work, a 2017 Harvard/Northeastern study conducted by the same researchers found that the number of privately-owned guns in America grew by more than 70 million—to approximately 265 million—between 1994 and 2015. According to this study, half of the gun stock in the U.S. is owned by only 3 percent of the population (Miller et al). This survey is the first nationally representative survey of firearm ownership and use in more than a decade, according to Miller, a professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Northeastern.
So why are such a small proportion of white Americans stockpiling guns? Who are these people? Where do they live? What kinds of guns do they own? Why do they feel like they need so many guns? Who do they imagine they might need to shoot?
As indicated by Pew, 3 in 10 American adults say they own a gun. As the concentration data indicate, gun ownership cuts across demographic groups but is more concentrated among middle-class white men. That is, white adults are more likely than blacks or Hispanics to own guns: 48 percent of white men say they own a gun, compared to 24 percent each for nonwhite men and white women, who all say they own one. The percentage ownership rate for non-white women is low at 16% (Pew study). Americans with less education are also more likely to be gun owners – a gap that is again noted to be widest among whites.
As for the women, despite these reported statistics, the gun industry believes the potential female market may actually be much larger. White women outnumber non-white women in terms of gun ownership.
What is the Top Reason for Owning a Gun?
Current research documents a consequential shift in terms of attitudes about owning guns. Again, the Pew Study finds that protection and self-defense top the list of reasons for owning a gun – this reflects a shift away from hunting, which was the traditional reason for owning a gun. Consequently, even though gun owners cite more than one reason for owning a firearm, the Pew study found in 2017 that 67% of respondents cited protection as a major reason for owning a gun. Compare this to statistics recorded in the late 1990’s, where the trend is nearly reversed: 49% cited hunting and 26% cited protection (26%).
Hunting, nonetheless, remains a popular reason for owning a gun. The 2017 study documents that 4 in 10 gun owners 38% cite hunting and 30% cite sport shooting, with smaller shares of people citing a gun collection or their job as major reasons (2017 Pew study).
Majorities of gun owners who live in cities, suburbs and rural areas say protection is a major reason they own firearms. But when we focus on owners who live in rural areas, they are significantly more likely to cite hunting as a major reason for owning a gun (Pew study). A question to consider then is how do we measure this? Median distance from home to a major city?Population density or some measure of zip code ID?
To complicate this even more, despite the fact that studies document rural men are statistically more likely to own a gun for hunting purposes, trends show this may be changing. Data reported by the General Social Survey (which contains a panel of questions about hunting) find fewer men reporting over time that they own weapons for hunting purposes. In 2012, when the survey asked men if they hunted, 25% responded positively. Compare this to the roughly 40 percent of men who responded positively in 1977 – that’s a significant decrease.
To what then do we attribute the increasing preference for handguns among rural men?
How might the desire to project a social identity as “one who carries” partially explain this trend? Obviously, handguns are easier to carry and conceal than rifles. Is it possible that carrying a handgun is important to men for reasons other than practical ones (i.e hunting)? Are men using guns to help bolster precarious social identities that they perceive to be under attack? What is the source of the social anxiety? What happens when traditional social identities (i.e. male breadwinner/ head of household with a submissive wife/mother – the form of manhood revered by many white, middle-American, rural and suburban men) prove difficult or even impossible to attain?
Penn State Research Assistant – “Hunter 1”
The Political Economy of Gun Sales
Gun sales are often tracked by proxy in light of the number of U.S. federal background checks that are conducted. Basically, when someone wants to buy a gun (from a dealer), the dealer submits paperwork to the FBI, who runs a background check. While this figure does not technically represent the number of guns sold (for that you would have to rely on industry self-reports) the total number of checks initiated through the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) are publically documented, reported, and are available for analysis (see FBI.gov).
Fears of new gun regulations throughout the Obama presidency were instrumental in helping to boost gun sales for gun manufacturers and retailers. Increases in incidents of mass shootings have also helped to stoke fear and fatten the industry’s bottom line. The trend only continued as people anticipated a Hillary Clinton victory in the 2016 election. The expectation was that she would be more aggressive about pushing gun controls that never materialized during Obama’s tenure.
Trump’s victory, however, took a toll on the gun trade almost immediately, as fears about gun control receded and gun demand reached an all-time low in 2017. During the months of January through July 2017, approximately 4.3 million background checks were performed; a figure down by comparison from 16 million checks performed in the same period during the prior year. In light of this, the first half of the year saw Sturm, Ruger & Co.’s net sales fall to $299.2 million from $341.1 million in the first half of 2016. But Killoy, the CEO, points to its more diverse consumer base, including “a lot more women shooters,” as a reason for optimism (Schultz).
To make up for the shortfall and overcome the “Trump slump,” the industry initiated new promotions that targeted women. As reported above, the ownership rate for women is 24 percent. Consequently, industry researchers estimate there is a much larger potential upside for the female market. “With the overall decrease in demand for guns, the increasing prevalence of female consumers is more important to gun manufacturers than ever before,” said Kevin Cassidy, an industry analyst for Moody’s (Schultz).
Men & Guns: Are Firearms an Extension of Masculinity?
So what are the important trends as it pertains to men? As it has already been discussed, both men and women gun owners are equally likely to say protection is a major reason (65% and 71%, respectively); men, however, are reported as more likely than women to say hunting and sport shooting are central to why they own a gun (Pew study).
Among the men, middle-aged white men (the ones with disposable income) are buying more and more of the guns and firearms. Again, it is this demographic group in particular where we see the highest concentration of gun ownership. But why? And more to the point, what are they afraid of?
Men, furthermore, are the largest demographic group represented by the community of Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs). Yet according to peer-reviewed research, LEOs are documented as having disturbingly high rates of domestic abuse. They have also, due to their occupation, been shown to be at a high risk for suicide. What are the potential problems associated with this? Should law enforcement officers who are convicted of domestic violence lose their right to carry a firearm? What about LEOs with mental health problems? Should they be permitted to carry firearms?
Gender dynamics in advertising are also important to consider, given the stark differences that distinguish the marketing of guns to men and men. Take a look here at an example of how the advertising of gun industry manufacturers is designed to appeal to male customers. The advertisements are rife with what gender scholars refer to as “toxic masculinity.”
Toxic masculinity is here understood to be only ONE form of masculinity among different “masculinities,” where in this case there is a distinct appeal to dominance narratives. As the ads below seem to indicate, “real men” carry guns and dominate others through violence if necessary; worse, if you don’t carry a gun, you’re not only a failed man – you’re a woman…you might even be gay.
The activist and scholar Time Wise confronts these ideas head-on when he says to men “Shooting things in rapid fire with lots of bullets makes you feel like more of a man. Because your manhood is fragile and pathetic and built on a foundation of sand. And rather than deal with that, or get therapy, or redefine masculinity in a less toxic way, you — we as a culture — just keep repeating the same bullshit. It’s time for you to grow up and find other ways to define yourself as a man other than through weaponry and violence. At the very least just admit your pathology. Owning your sickness, after all, is the first step to healing.”
Alternatively, Leonard Steinhorn reports, “Glock guns give men “confidence to live your life.” The Walther PPX handgun is “Tough. Very Tough.” The Tavor Semi-Automatic Rifle, promises to restore the “balance of power” to anyone holding the gun. Buying a Bushmaster semi-automatic “confirms that you are a Man’s Man, the last of a dying breed, with all the rights and privileges duly afforded” (Steinhorn).
Guns & Military Chic
Not to be underestimated is the symbolic power of military chic that is being marketed. Gun advertisers are quick to exploit the demographic fact that the vast majority of American men (roughly 99%) have not experienced military service. This fact may be highly relevant, considering the major social changes that have taken place since the 1950’s in the wake of World War II.
After the war, many men were left questioning their place in the world, as changes in the economy brought about changes at home and at work. Relations between men and women during this time were radically reformulated. For many many men, their jobs became outdated and “feminized” as office work replaced the stereotypical masculine heavy industry occupations that were the mainstay of previous generations. Even men born later, in 1960’s and 70’s are subject to being caught up in this cultural drift. They are the first generation of men, who didn’t follow their fathers into the coal mines and mills; the first to not earn a living wage from the family farm. And they’re pissed.
This is why the 1950’s time period continues to be ensconced in the minds of many men as a “golden era.” It’s as if they can’t avert their eyes from looking longingly at the “real men” of the Greatest Generation – the gruff, thick-cut, mans’ man – the man who is no longer “fashionable” (so we are told by Hollywood and Madison Ave) as the revered male archetype. Sadly for them, this man of old was replaced by a highly stylized/refined image of man. He is the new man that we see depicted so often in films and popular media – the well-groomed, lithesome, chiseled model, who strips for money and fronts bikini briefs. These are not men in the traditional sense; they’re feminized “gay” men.
Men have been domesticated. In other words, they’re not “real men” anymore. Having effectively called into question what it means to be a man, these developments have left many men feeling hopelessly adrift; they’re unsure of their place in a world that seems to have left them behind. What does it mean to be masculine? What can a man do? What would it take to make men “great again.”
Gun advertisers absorbed these cultural lessons and are now targeting their ads to make money from men who are not happy with the cultural change. The latest ads suggest men might assuage their dissatisfaction by vicariously affiliating their personal social identity with the identity of military men – one of the last remaining vestiges of proper manhood. The best part is that they can do this without any of the inconvenient blood sacrifices. A simple gun purchase and salutary “thank you for your service” makes everyone feel good. Violence fixes everything.
Always the astute observer of social and demographic changes, the NRA (National Rifle Association) stepped in during the 1970’s to help men shore up their creeping anxiety, while maintaining the flow of new weapons into U.S. society. This occurred during a time when statistics were revealing that men were hunting less and buying fewer guns. Guns represent power; they offer a way for wounded men to reclaim their manhood. This is the easy path to greatness that many men choose. The problem is, not all of us are going to live as they figure out how to adjust.
The SIG MCX “sporting” rifle
Girls & Guns: Pretty Guns for Pretty Ladies
Magazines, online ads, and gun/firearm manufacturers are increasingly making direct appeals to women. But the sales pitch to women is distinctly different from the way guns are marketed to men. For women, it’s all about keeping other men from hurting and killing them.
The typical female gun owner favors a handgun, not a rifle. Studies document that women, not unlike men, also want access to a firearm for protection purposes. Yet unlike the trend established for men, women who own guns are more likely than male gun owners to live in an urban area; further, they are less likely to have grown up in a gun-friendly household (based on a survey by the Guardian). Again, this trend for women contributes to why the gun industry views them as a growth opportunity.
“Confident Women Carry the Cross” states a banner ad for gun holster brand CrossBreed that recently ran on Women’s Outdoor News. A Smith & Wesson ad shows a woman grasping a handgun with the copy, “Where protection meets performance.” In the ad below, we move into the realm of desire, where we are given a sense of what women want in terms of men and guns.
The website for Miss Concealed includes a variety of female gear that they refer to as “hidden heat.” These include stylish concealed carry purses and lacy corset belts that contain pouches for your Glock, lipstick, and passport. Boise, Idaho, resident Lorelei Fay founded the retailer in 2014 after she noticed a problem with guns for women. In her view, “there is nothing out there that’s even remotely feminine” (Schultz).
Display, Gettysburg gun show, 2018.
Women gun owners appear to be more accepting of at least some restrictive gun policies. Of gun-owning Republican women, 60 percent favor banning assault weapons and 57 percent support creation of a federal gun-sales tracking database, according to a recent Pew survey. That compares with 28 percent and 35 percent, respectively, for Republican men gun owners. (Pew did not include a similar statistic for Democrats) (Schultz).
First day of field work – research!
Narrowing the Gender Gap – “Pink it & Shrink It”
It’s not exactly a surprise that the gun industry is male-dominated; its sales, likewise, are targeted to men – real men, who support an arms trade in guns and ammunition that generates nearly $13 billion in sales. While the targeting of women customers is not new, efforts to do so have been reinvigorated due to the softening of product demand in the post-Obama era. According to one market research firm, Southwick Associates, who specializes in market research for hunting, shooting and sportfishing, they find that women account for 46.8 percent of the 24 million Americans who have yet to purchase a firearm but are interested (Schultz).
“More women are working, more women are single, more women are in their own homes and they have a very unique interest in self-protection that they never had before,” says Deb Ferns, co-founder of Babes with Bullets, which runs a traveling firearms academy geared to female first-time gun buyers (Schultz).
Deb Ferns of Babes with Bullets
Babes with Bullets is backed by manufacturers like Smith & Wesson, who have contributed to sponsoring female training camps (a total of 11 in 2017), which spanned states from California to New Hampshire. Contributions furnished the camps with loaner guns, holsters and other financial support, including gun-range fees. Guns were not made available for purchase at the camps (Schultz).
A forthcoming study by Northeastern and Harvard universities also paints a tightening gender gap, albeit a lower percentage of female owners. Gun ownership among American men dropped from 42 percent in 1994 to 32 percent in 2015 while female ownership increased from 9 percent to 12 percent, according to the Guardian, which got an early look at the data last year (Schultz).
Marketing Rape Scripts
The National Rifle Association is actively promoting the narrative that women need to purchase guns to protect themselves from rapists and domestic abusers. The most visible female supporter of the NRA is the well-known conservative talk show host Dana Loesch, who was last year named as an NRA special adviser on women’s policy issues. Her videos are currently running on the NRA TV online network, which is currently promoting female gun ownership at the same time as it attacking Second Amendment critics.
In one video that drew national headlines and backlash, Loesch targeted The New York Times, calling it “an old gray hag,” while saying, “We’re going to fist the New York Times.” “We’re coming for you.”
In another video, she directly addresses rapists and domestic abusers. “Your life expectancy just got shorter, because there’s a very good chance your next target will be armed, trained and ready to exercise her right to choose her life over yours,” she says. “This is what real empowerment looks like.” (Schultz).
NRA Critics: The Mother Movement
Gun control proponents, including one female-led organization called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have been pushing back hard against the NRA’s marketing initiatives.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, founded in 2012, pushes its gun-control agenda with a variety of tactics, including an attention-grabbing one called “stroller jams.” These involve crowding statehouse halls with babies and moms armed with infant gear like diaper bags, making it “impossible for lawmakers to get by without answering our questions,” says the organization’s founder, Shannon Watts, a mother of five who founded the group in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (Schultz).
When Sandy Hook happened, “it really spoke to me as a mom,” says Watts, a former corporate communications executive who at the time was a stay-at-home mom in Indiana. She looked to join an organization like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but for gun safety, and couldn’t find one. So she started a Facebook page that evolved into an organization created to demand action from legislators, companies and educational institutions to establish gun reforms (Schultz).
Last year, the group won the North American Grand Effie for a campaign called “Groceries Not Guns” by Grey Canada that pressured Kroger stores and other retailers to ban the open carry of guns in stores (Schultz).
The group says it supports the Second Amendment but wants “common-sense solutions” to help “decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence that kills too many of our children and loved ones every day,” according to its website. “There’s never been a grassroots movement in gun violence prevention. It’s really been male-run think tanks mainly to shape federal legislation,” says Watts, who now resides in Boulder, Colorado. “For decades the NRA has been able to generate emails and calls and industry meetings and outrage with the flip of a switch, and we needed that kind of power on our side. And we have that now”(Schultz).
According to one spokesperson, “the NRA has figured out … they have to create a culture war now to sell guns. They don’t have a bogeyman in the White House to use in their marketing campaign, so they have to make Americans afraid of one another,” says Watts (Schultz).
How Do Federal Background Checks for Guns Work?
Before ringing up the sale (when it’s a dealer/retailer) Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) must first contact the FBI, who initiates the background check using the NICS system (National Instant Criminal Background Check). This is done by completing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Form 4473 and by contacting NICS via a toll-free telephone number (or electronically on the Internet and the E-Check System) to request a background check. The system was designed to provide a means to instantly determine whether or not a prospective buyer can buy firearms. Records searches are conducted to ensure that customers do not have a criminal record or are not ineligible to make a purchase for other reasons.
There are three databases that comprise NICS:
- The National Crime Information Center contains information on restraining orders and warrants;
- The Interstate Identification Index holds convictions;
- The NICS Index records on mental health commitments and dishonorable discharges from the military (Pane).
Holes in the System
According to the 2017 Northeastern and Harvard study, 1 out of 5 U.S. gun owners who obtained a firearm in the past two years did so without a background check. The reasons for this are varied. The biggest culprit and the most difficult to control is the unregulated sale of guns between individuals who own guns. Also contributing to the problem is the infamous “gun show loop hole.”
Federal vs. State Law
Complicating matters is the fact that state standards that regulate who can carry a gun in public are often different from the federal standards that regulate who can buy a firearm. Background checks at the state level can also be different.
In Texas, someone applying for a permit can be turned down for being charged with or convicted of certain misdemeanors or for being delinquent in child support — things that don’t prevent someone from buying a gun. Texas uses a variety of databases, including NICS as well as statewide criminal databases.
In Hawaii, the standards are more strict. There you need to demonstrate to the local police chief that you have an “exceptional case” and a very specific reason for needing to carry a gun in public. Other states, such as Vermont, don’t require a license to carry a firearm (Pane).
Pennsylvania state law regulates people two ways – upon application and at the point of purchase.
APPLICATION: individuals who are 21 years of age or older can apply for a license by submitting a completed application for a Pennsylvania “License to Carry Firearms” (LTCF) to any Pennsylvania County Sheriff’s office along with the required fee. The sheriff has 45 days to conduct an investigation to determine an individual’s eligibility to be issued a license. Included in the investigation is a background check conducted on the individual through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) to determine if the records indicate the individual is prohibited by law. The license is valid for a period of five (5) years unless sooner revoked(PA.gov website).
An individual who is age 18 or older and is licensed to hunt, trap or fish, or who has been issued a permit relating to hunting dogs, may apply for a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit by submitting a completed application along with the required fee to the county treasurer’s office. A Sportsman’s Firearm Permit is NOT a License to Carry Firearms concealed.
In accordance with 18 PA C.S. §6109, a sheriff may deny an individual the right to a License to Carry Firearms if there is a reason to believe that the character and reputation of the individual are such that they would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety. If the PICS check is approved and the subject is of good character, the sheriff may issue a License to Carry Firearms.
PURCHASE: a license to “carry” firearms in Pa, however, is NOT the same as a license to purchase. Individuals who purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer are required to have a background check conducted regardless of whether they have a license to carry firearms or not (PA.gov website).
Car carry in Pennsylvania is governed in part by 18tC Pa.C.S.A. § 6106. In many states, it is no problem to have a firearm (meaning a handgun) in your vehicle whether you have a license to carry a firearm or not. In Pennsylvania, this is not the case. The minute you enter your vehicle with your firearm, however, it becomes covered under 6106.
Under §6106, “any person who carries a firearm in any vehicle or any person who carries a firearm concealed on or about his person, except in his place of abode or fixed place of business, without a valid and lawfully issued license under this chapter commits a felony of the third degree.”
In Pennsylvania the issuance of a “License to Carry Firearms” allows individuals to carry a firearm (not a long gun) concealed on or about their person or in a vehicle throughout the Commonwealth.
Even if your handgun is on your hip, open and exposed, and even if it is on the dash so everyone can see it, the minute you get in the car, it might as well be in your shoulder rig under a jacket.
Pennsylvanians are not breaking the law if they have non-NFA regulated shotguns or rifles (regulated National Firearms Act regulated weapons include machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns (SBS), any other weapons AOW or concealable weapons other than pistols or revolvers and silencers) in their car, provided they are not loaded.
No person, even the holder of an LCTF, may carry a loaded long gun in a vehicle.
Pennsylvania, it is worth noting, does not prohibit the carrying of weapons on college campuses, leaving it up to individual institutions make their own rules in regards to where weapons are permitted. Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, and Temple do not permit the carrying of weapons on campus (USA Today).
“Open Carry” in Pennsylvania
No one needs a special license to open” carry in Pa, but if you enter a vehicle with a firearm w/o the proper license to carry you committed a crime.
Problematic Social Identities
While they are too numerous to list them all, here are a few recent examples of men who developed pathological social identities around guns and/or used guns to commit horrific crimes. The question that haunts in both cases is: How Are “Bad Guys” – men like Devon Kelly and Dylan Roof – able to buy guns?
Given that federal law forbids anyone convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a firearm, and it also forbids sale to people dishonorably charged from the military – Kelly failed on both counts – we are left to question how did he manage to get his hands on a gun so easily?
For one, the Air Force (his former employer) failed to inform federal law enforcement authorities that Kelley had been court-martialed for assaulting his wife and child (he cracked her son’s skull). Consequently, when went to buy guns after he was released from military prison, there was no conviction registered in the database system used for the background check and thus the purchase was allowed (Pane).
As it turns out, the state of Texas (where Kelly lived), produced documentation that showed Kelley sought a permit in 2015. His application was delayed by the state “due to a possibly disqualifying issue.” Kelley at that time had failed to respond to the agency’s request for additional information and so he was denied. The “disqualifying issue” was never identified, but his 2014 misdemeanor animal-cruelty conviction for beating his dog in Colorado might have have been enough to trigger the delay (Pane).
Unfortunately, Kelly was authorized at the Federal level even as he was flagged and denied at the state level.
Dylan Roof, on the other hand, convicted last year (December 2016) of murdering nine parishioners of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was able to buy a gun due to a break down in the federal FBI background check system. Despite having been convicted of drug possession and demonstrating mental health problems, mistakes were made by FBI agents that resulted in this application being approved. Roof’s mental health issues were common knowledge, though they apparently remained untreated. People described him a strange loner who signed his name in block letters, fell asleep on the job, stared at the walls when home and worried in a Craigslist post that, “I have no friends even though I am cool.” Roof had a well-documented preoccupation with imaginary/exaggerated health concerns, including lymphatic cancer, a thyroid disorder, and Hashimoto’s disease.” He was also known for his sudden efforts to reach out to former childhood acquaintances through social media.
Roof also was able to exploit the FBI’s 3 day wait period – a stipulation that gives the FBI 3 days to investigate the applicant’s background – on the fourth day, Roof was able to return to the dealer to procure his gun (Schmidt).
Trouble in Western Pennsylvania – “Guns Don’t Kill People, I Kill People”
Social media was the platform of choice for a Western Pennsylvania man, George Shallenberger, who was arrested on charges of making terroristic threats via Facebook after posting the status update: “Guns Don’t Kill People, I Kill People.” His threat was directed at teachers on strike in the Ringold School District. Shallenberger also wrote: “f—ing school teachers need to get real jobs. Damn snowflakes.” “shoot them and start over.” Another post on his page said: “Happiness is a warm gun,” – which also happens to be the name of a Beatles song.
So What Happened?
The shootings in Texas by Kelly and South Carolina by Roof point to what are apparently significant holes in the system put in place for background checks. After the shooting by Kelly, journalists from the Huffington Post submitted requests for comment from the Air Force, Department of Defense, FBI and Department of Justice, all of whom failed to provide clear explanation on the question of whether or not the military is routinely submitting domestic violence records to the background check system, as they are required to do under federal law (Miller and Jeltsen).
Consequently, no one knows if the Kelly case was a simple case of one person “falling through the cracks” or if it is an indicator of a systemic failure. There could theoretically be “potentially hundreds or thousands of other convicted domestic abusers whose records were not entered into the background check system by the military”(Miller and Jeltsen).
The initial review conducted by journalists found, given a review of military procedural documents, that there was a problematic lack of shared protocol across federal agencies, where reporting variances across different federal bureaucracies may be preventing the federal background check system, National Instant Background Check System (NICS), from performing effectively (Miller and Jeltsen).
Towards a Theory of Social Identity
Concepts of identity, community, and social solidarity are foundational to the discipline of sociology. Such themes, nonetheless, are also highly contested and subject to interpretation. Contemporary theories have tended to focus on the intersectionality of multiple social identities and how they interact within the context of social inequality (Patricia Hill Collins, 1990; Crenshaw, 1989). People, for example, have identities that situate them within both privileged groups (i.e. white, male, heterosexual, middle and/or upper class) and oppressed groups (i.e. female, person of color, poor, gay, disabled, or working class) (Twine, 2013). Questions remain, however, as to how we might use and expand upon these theories to explain current happenings as they pertain to guns and social identity in the United States.
Researchers have documented that over the course of the last 30 years, gun ownership has evolved – guns are no longer a mere functioning “tool” – a simple piece of hardware used to enjoy outdoor sports and hunting. Now, they represent something else; they constitute a form of symbolic currency for their owners, which itself can be weaponized.
Gendered social identities, for example, may be caught up in men’s efforts to preserve a sense of self in the face of rapid social change. Class-based identities reflect a distinctly American form of relative deprivation, leading to what scholars have referred to as “aggrieved entitlement” (Kimmel, 2014), which may be further fueled by “toxic masculinity” (R.W. Connell, 2005; Trappen, 2017). In light of this, it is critical that we understand the social psychological factors that drive the self-making process, particularly as this interacts with violence, which can occur when people have suffered from trauma, feel their life chances have been thwarted, or when they have been shamed or aggrieved.
To address this, I employ an assemblage of interpretive, poststructuralist, feminist, psychoanalytic, and social identity theories to explain how guns have become important to the articulation of social identity. On one level, I propose a classic historical and materialist approach, which aims to explain how the making and taking of human life as well as human labor power are bound up with social inequality and the political economy of guns. On another level, I propose a social psychological approach, where I will explore how trauma, fear, anxiety, and rage play a role in the development of problematic social identities. Lastly, I want to look at the problem of guns and social identity in terms of its embodied affective social dynamics (Shapira and Simon, 2018). In taking this multidimensional approach, it becomes possible to explain the complex and often contradictory experiences of people who reach for guns as a way to complete their self-making projects (Trappen, 2017).
Pew Study – “Key Takeaways on Americans’ Views of Guns and Gun Ownership,” by Ruth Igielnik and Anna Brown, June 2017.
“America’s Passion for Guns: Ownership and Violence by the Numbers,” by Tom McCarthy, Lois Beckett, and Jessica Glenza, October 2017.
“Firearm Acquisition Without Background Checks: Results of a National Survey,” by Matthew Miller, MD, ScD; Lisa Hepburn, PhD; Deborah Azrael, PhD, February 2017.
“Military Faces Growing Scrutiny Over How It Reports Domestic Violence Convictions,” by Miller and Jeltsen, The Huffington Post, 2017.
“Study: 70 Million More Firearms Added to U.S. Gun Stock Over Past 20 Years,” by Greg St. Martin
Learning to Need Guns, by Shapira, Harel. “Learning to Need a Gun”. Qualitative Sociology (0162-0436), 41 (1), p. 1. 01/01, 2018.
“Female Firepower: Women Take a New Role in Gun Sales,” by EJ Schultz, September 26, 2017
“Different laws and databases affect gun background checks,” by Lisa Marie Pane, The Washington Post, November 2017.
“White Men and Their Guns,” by Leonard Steinhorn, The Huffington Post, 2014.
“The US gun stock: results from the 2004 national firearms survey,” published by Hepburn, Miller, and Hemenway, The Injury Prevention Journal, 2007.
“Background Check Law Let Dylan Roof Buy a Gun, F.B.I. Says,” by Michael Schmidt, July 2015.
“The Gun the Orlando Shooter Used Was a Sig Sauer MCX, Not an AR-15. That Doesn’t Change Much,” by Thomas Gibbons-Neff, The Washington Post, June 2016.
“Omar Mateen Had a Modern ‘Sporting Rifle,’ “ by Justin Peters, Slate Magazine, June 2016.
“A Brief History of the Assault Rifle,” by Michael Shurkin, The Atlantic, June 2016.
Burton’s Legal Thesaurus, 4E. Copyright © 2007 by William C. Burton. Used with permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
“Knowledge Wars: Firearms, College Students, and Social Identity,” Paper Presented at the American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, Pa, by Sandra L. Trappen, 2017.
Girls With Guns: Firearms, Feminism, and Militarism, by Francine Widdance Twine, 2013.
Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, by Michael Kimmel, 2015.
Masculinities. Second Edition, by R. W. Connell, (1995) 2005.
“The Las Vegas Shooter’s Accessories,” by Miles Kohrman, 2017
“Your Guns Are A Fetish,” by Tim Wise
Discussion Questions (none of this information is being used for research purposes and you may answer anonymously using a pseudonym/nom de plume)
How do you identify yourself – man, woman, nonbinary? Middle class or working class?
What political party to you most identify with? Is this the same or different from how your parents identify?
Did you grow up in a household with guns or have you lived in a house at some point in your life where there were guns?
Have you ever owned a gun? If you own a gun, what does owning a gun mean to you?
Have you ever fired a gun? If so, what does it feel like to fire a gun?
Do you own or would you like to own an AR-style weapon? If so, what do you like (or not like) about them?
Would you feel like your second amendment rights are being taken away if you were told you could not buy/own an AR-style weapon?
Are owning/shooting firearms important to the way you define and express yourself?
Military men and women generally live in accordance with restrictions on their access to firearms. Do you think civilians should have more/easier access to weapons than members of the military?
If you served in the military, how does your military experience influence your perspective on firearms? What did the military teach you about firearms that you think civilians might not know?