This is the fourth of several end of class student reflection papers I will be posting. You can also read the first reflection (with background information on the actual assignment), the second reflection, and the third.
This author’s initial reflection is available as well.
By Ashley Hamati
The role of guns in our society is multifaceted. A full semester’s worth of learning and I still draw the same conclusion as my opening, but I look to this role with a new pair of eyes. I see dynamic dimensions to every aspect of guns: legislation, regulation, uses, and, as I analyzed, gender and advertising. My initial view stated that the role of guns, whatever it may be, must take into account gender equality and can be used recreationally or as a means of self-defense. It has since been refined with a more responsible outer shield: guns, whether in the media and advertising or in legislation, must be handled through the lens of intersectionality. They can and should still be used for recreation and self-defense, but legislation should be refined to emphasize gun sense and subsequently enhance public safety. This, to me, can really only be accomplished by first changing the dynamic of the conversation regarding guns which currently hosts a multitude of viewpoints. Thus, if I had to encapsulate the role guns should play in society in order to offer a new perspective through which to discuss guns, it is that they are comparable to a car.
This semester, I centered my focus on guns in the advertising world through the lens of gender to further examine my interest in the association between guns and gender. I examined the role that guns play for women, as prescribed by advertisements in major gun magazines, and found that it is quite oppressive. Many advertisements promoted heteronormativities such as female weakness and objectification, and there was an abhorrent lack of inclusion of persons of color, let alone in a respectful, non-racist manner. This implies that guns still play a segregated role, which proves to be a problem for the rapidly progressing mindsets of our society. Additionally, this promotes a sense of unease in discussing guns between persons of different viewpoints and personal experiences that have shaped such viewpoints, thus barring any intersectional insight that is crucial to the conversation regarding legislation. Research has stated that intersectionality is essential to dissipate systemic and preformed mental barriers that profile and look upon individuals of other genders, colors, and orientations with disdain. Since guns are a hotly debated topic around which people quite literally get up in arms, rampant gender inequality and racial exclusivity reduce the chances of calming the seas in discussions. By fostering inclusivity, we can progress into a more cohesive outlook on guns and their legislation.
This brings me to the next point: gun sense. I was particularly enlightened by a speaker involved in the Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America organization. Growing up in the South and with a pro-gun father and a pro-gun-grabber mother, I tend to side with my dad when it comes to outlook on increased gun control. However, hearing about the concept of “gun sense” actually made me think more critically regarding the way legislation is communicated to the public. Gun sense doesn’t promote increased control—it’s not trying to take away anyone’s guns! It’s simply trying to send the message that if we are going to use guns, we need to be smart about using them. When people who oppose increased gun legislation hear the words, “gun control,” they go ballistic. As I studied the powerful role of communication of advertising, this concept of “gun sense” would be a smart tactic to adopt in order to get people to think more critically about legislation instead of automatically jumping to a position of defense and anger. In this way, the conversation would be reconstructed in a more productive fashion, and perhaps, legislation could be better crafted to fit the demands of our society.
In addition to an advertising tactic to change the conversation regarding guns, gun sense also made me think more about the (sadly increasing) number of mass shootings, which connected one of the talk’s main arguments to the immediate thought I had: background checks and the overall process of acquiring guns. Let me note that at the start of this semester, I was in favor of background checks because they simply made sense: the statistics showed that they helped reduce the number of guns in dangerous or novice hands. They are essentially the method of stating that a person is in the clear to own a gun. To me, however, a check is not enough. Here is thus where I revisit my car analogy—if I have to undergo an entire process of not only licensure but also implementation of practical knowledge as to how to drive a car and maneuver roads, I should have to follow suit with getting a gun. I need to know how to use it, store it, lock it and load it; additionally, I need the comfort of knowing that other people underwent the same procedure and generally have the same knowledge.
Though I support background checks and enhanced course evaluations on one’s knowledge of gun ownership, the notion of what a background check checks is something on which I remain on the fence. There is a very fine line of what is offensive profiling and what is necessary for safety with respect to the factors involved with background checks, for example, with respect to mental health. On one hand, their stratifications can be seen as demonizing mental illnesses, but on the other hand, many killings were at the hands of people who weren’t quite right in the mind. Furthermore, guns on the black market complicate the sanctity of background checks themselves in that if people are unable to obtain a gun through legal means, they can acquire it in this way, thus promoting further harm. Thus, with regard to what goes into background checks, I believe an intersectional approach is necessary in order to determine what are not only the safest but also the least offensive manners through which we can regulate common gun ownership. It is definitely something for which I am still trying to find an answer.
Guns, while they are threatening in and of themselves, should not be something that sends people away in fear. They are so heavily prevalent in our society that it is not really possible for them to disappear. Fear and stubbornness, both qualities of which accompany pro-gun and anti-gun individuals, breed irrationality and a foggy sense of judgment. Thus, they should be seen as a powerful tool that requires knowledge and a clear conscience, and the appropriate means of acquirement. For me, personally, guns require responsibility. The bottom line is that if we have a responsibility behind the wheel, we have a similar responsibility behind the trigger. For the purpose of my future and the future of other generations, we need to know how to discuss guns and legislate guns in a manner that serves to protect and maintain respect for all individuals.