Here is a third student reflection on the normative question of the role guns should play in (American) society, from my Sociology of Guns seminar. The first reflection can be found here, and the second here.
By Ashley Hamati
The role of guns in our society is multifaceted. Thus, it is difficult to determine one single catchall phrase to describe the role of guns in American society. There are areas in which I believe they are portrayed appropriately, for example, as a means of self-defense or sport. However, there are also areas in which I believe need some work, particularly with regard to gender issues. Thus, my personal view of the role guns should play in our society is that they must take into account gender equality and can be used recreationally or as a means of self-defense.
Part of my pro-gun stance stems from growing up in the Southeast, specifically, Appalachia. Guns were quite commonplace. It was a recreational hobby throughout my grammar, middle, and high school years for students, particularly young boys, to go with their fathers and grandfathers to hunt game, fire at a range, or skeet shoot. I also grew up watching action movies with my father, so I always thought guns were “cool.” I never had a fear of them—in fact, at a sleep-away camp I attended for seven years, I practiced riflery. However, even though the culture that surrounded me supported the 2nd Amendment on an individual level to the fullest extent, the gun culture within my home was a little more divided.
My father would definitely, by conventional terms, be considered a “gun nut.” He enjoys going to the range with me to shoot recreationally, but he also always carries one on him as a means of self-defense. My mother, however, saw guns differently. The more liberal-minded of the two parents, my mother did not agree with my dad’s gun craze. This may have stemmed from them growing up with a different view of guns in their respective countries—my father from Jordan and my mother from Hungary. My father had no negative experience with guns, but my mother, on the other hand, synonymized them with the Soviet oppression she experienced growing up in Budapest—the same oppression that led her and her mother to flee for the United States. She has often described the stiff Soviet soldiers outside of her school building, always armed with an assault rifle. In turn, she had a very negative, male-centered view of guns.
I, personally, have found myself to align more with my father on gun issues, particularly those as self-defense and recreational aspects of guns. However, talking about the overall gun-related issues with both of my parents has brought to my attention other areas in which I’m not as comfortable. With events such as the Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Sandy Hook shootings, I feel as though carry and conceal licenses should be uniform across all states. If I were in a life-and-death position in which I would need to defend a friend, a loved one, or myself, I would want to be armed.
I consider myself to be an independent female that often goes places by herself, whether that is a distance run or to a café to study. I have felt that carrying a knife on me does not invoke the same sense of safety as, say, a gun would. I am lucky in that my father and I used to practice Shao-Lin Kung Fu together, so I’ve always been well versed in self-defense mechanisms, but I have many friends who would be totally defenseless if they were to be attacked. Here is where the juxtaposition of guns and gender surfaces: to me, from both my experience growing up and the media, guns are predominantly associated with white male figures. Females and guns are still not seen as synonymous. While I do not want to reduce oppression to a males vs. females battle, I believe that guns need to be seen as something for both genders as a means of self-defense. Gender equality, to me, is thus a necessary factor in the gun debate.