Books / Concealed Carry

Gun Culture Fun with Google Ngram Viewer

I previously used Google Book’s Ngram Viewer to document the increase in the use of the phrase “concealed carry” in books after Florida implemented shall issue concealed carry in 1987. I’ve been thinking recently about American gun culture as culture, and so I thought I would see the history of the phrase “gun culture” in Google’s database from 1800 to 2000.

Google Ngram Gun Culture 1930 to 2000

Because a phrase has to appear in 40 or more books per year to register on the chart, it is impossible to tell when “gun culture” first appeared. But Google’s database reports 0% from 1800 to 1930. There is a small blip from 1931 to 1940, then nothing again until the late 1950s. But the continuous pattern of growth really begins in the late 1960s, and then skyrockets in the 1990s.

Obviously, my concern with Gun Culture 2.0 got me to thinking about the connection between “gun culture” in general and “concealed carry” in particular. So, here is what the Google books Ngram Viewer produces looking at those two phrases side-by-side:

Google Ngram Gun Culture and CC 1960 to 2000

The similarities in the patterns are quite apparent, along with two important differences:

(1) “Gun culture” grows sooner, with the usage in the 1970s perhaps related to the publication of an essay on “America as a Gun Culture” by the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning historian Richard Hofstadter in October of 1970.

(2) The increase in use of “concealed carry” does not grow as quickly as “gun culture” (i.e., the line is not as steep).

Richard Hofstadter


One thought on “Gun Culture Fun with Google Ngram Viewer

  1. Perhaps the reason ‘concealed carry’ doesn’t grow as quickly is because various states have different names for the activities. In Texas, you don’t get a ‘concealed carry permit’ but a Concealed Handgun License for example. And many folks talk about just carrying or the ‘right to bear arms’. There are many phrases and ways to describe the same activity that may be diluting the charting.

    The other aspect is when Concealed Carry really started to take off. Florida was the first state to really make a change in the way permits were issued when they went to ‘shall issue’ in 1987. So the activity really took off much later than discussion about our overall gun rights.

    Bob S.


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