Firearms / Media / My Experience

Memo to The Trace: Your Antipathy Toward Gun Owners is Pissing Me Off

To: The Trace

From: A Liberal Social Scientist Studying Guns

Date: 22 September 2016

Re: Your Antipathy Toward Gun Owners

In my Sociology of Guns seminar today, we are reading an excerpt from (Harvard Bachelor’s, Cambridge Master’s, and University of California Ph.D.) anthropologist Abigail Kohn’s book, Shooters: Myths and Realities of America’s Gun Cultures. Published in 2004 by Oxford University Press, the book remains one of the only social scientific studies of gun owners which seeks to understand (at least in part) from their own perspectives why they enthusiastically own guns.

Kohn begins her book discussing the prejudice against guns owners in academia and the media. “From the 1970s on,” she observes, “the American print media has carried on an all-out war against gun owners.” The New York Times, for example, publishes articles “straightforwardly indicting guns and gun owners for America’s high rate of civil violence” (p. vii). (It still does.)

Sadly, the move from the print media to digital media hasn’t changed the underlying antipathy toward gun owners. I was pissed off to wake up this morning to find that your daily email Bulletin straightforwardly conflated gun ownership and gun violence.

Let’s see, we are talking about a survey of gun ownership — a “landmark survey” and “the most authoritative assessment of American gun ownership in 20 years” you declare — that is “rich with enlightening statistics on gun ownership in modern America.”

But then in the very next sentence you write, “Research of this scope has not been conducted since the early 1990s — as Kate Masters explained, since the CDC does not study gun violence, academics are left to fill the void.”

What the hell are you talking about?!??!? Only in a world of tremendous bias is studying gun ownership the same thing as studying gun violence.

Furthermore, the fact that research of this scope has not been conducted since the early 1990s has abso-fucking-lutely nothing to do with the CDC. As Kate Masters herself explains, the previous landmark survey, by Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig, was NOT FUNDED BY THE CDC but by the National Institute of Justice through a grant to the Police Foundation.

And as I wrote nearly 2 years ago, the federal government currently funds firearms research through the National Institute of Justice. Duke professor Jeffrey Swanson has had research on mental health and gun violence funded by the National Science Foundation. And there are private foundations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Joyce Foundation who have funded these Harvard/Northeastern University scholars’ work in the past, as Kate Masters also knows.

I generally don’t favor restrictions on the pursuit of knowledge, but research conducted by Arthur Kellerman under the auspices of the CDC seems clearly compromised by his passionate desire for gun control. Too bad that Kellerman spoiled the CDC as a vehicle for research on firearms.

Oh, and by the way, didn’t that restriction on CDC funding say that research simply cannot promote gun control? I can think of alot of ways to study firearms and even violence that don’t have anything to do with advocating for gun control.

Why would anyone think that this new research on gun ownership is motivated by a desire for gun control, anyway? Perhaps because the authors gave early access to their findings to a gun-control news organization (that would be you, The Trace) and to The Guardian, which is reporting the findings from this “definitive” study of “gun ownership” under the tag “US gun control.”

To sum up, according to the authors of the study, The Trace, and The Guardian: Gun OWNERSHIP = Gun VIOLENCE = Gun CONTROL. So, basically the only thing that has changed since Kohn’s book is the medium.

As a a practicing social scientist for a quarter century who was trained at one of the most mainstream sociology departments in the world, it is sometimes difficult for me to follow pro-gun blogs and Twitter feeds and see them ridicule and dismiss out of hand the work of social scientists. But since these particular social scientists have chosen to promote their study of gun ownership exclusively through you and The Guardian, and since you have so clearly identified gun ownership with gun violence, they have earned being dismissed by gun owners.

Which, now that the anger is subsiding, just makes me sad and pessimistic.

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23 thoughts on “Memo to The Trace: Your Antipathy Toward Gun Owners is Pissing Me Off

  1. David,

    Excellent as always. You are undoubtedly aware that, per usual, the anti-gun “journalists” and even many anti-gun activists, ignore (or are incompetently ignorant of) actual recent CDC research of the type you suggest.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/25/us/cdc-gun-violence-wilmington.html?_r=0

    Of course, that study merely buttresses the repeated findings of Papachristos and other social scientists, including the recent, pleasant to see, statements of police officials in high-crime cities who used to reflexively blame “gun access” to please their political masters, that “gun access” has little to nothing to do with “gun violence” and that such violence, both as perp and victim, is instead heavily concentrated among a proportionate handful of known repeat violent offenders, a few thousands out of millions of residents, and tens of thousands of criminals, in those cities.

    The problem is a sub-culture of violence, not guns, race, class, education, or poverty. A sub-culture that views violence as a rational response to real or imagined slights that the majority culture wouldn’t be aware of, much less recognize as deserving of lethal force.

    Matthew

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The problem is a sub-culture of violence, not guns, race,”

      Of course race per se is not a problem, but we have to face indisputable fact that MOST OF THE VIOLENCE (violent crimes) IN AMERICA IS COMMITTED BY JUST ONLY ONE RACE.

      There’s a study conducted by a team of reaserchers from UPenn: Steffensmeier et al., “Reassessing Trends in Black Violent Crime, 1980-2008: Sorting out the ‘Hispanic Effect’ in Uniform Crime Reports Arrests”.

      After creating estimates of “clean” White arrest counts (= after separating Hispanics from non-Hispanic Whites), they discovered that between 1980-2008 the Black share of violent crime was enlarged from 51% to 64% for homicide category, from 59% to 70% for robbery and from 40% to almost 50% for rape.

      As far as ratios are concerned, the average Black–White ratio for homicide was 7:1 using official FBI’s figures and jumped to almost 12:1 after adjusting (= after exluding Hispanics from non-Hispanic Whites). Same for robbery and rape: ratio jumped respectively from 10:1 to 15:1 and from 5 to 6.5.

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      • That’s true. But like most racial statistics it isn’t -useful- information until we ask the next question.

        In this case, “What about “black culture” in the US, historic and current, creates/enables their disproportionate participation in the trans-racial subculture of violence?”

        Because even among the black community, in every economic/social strata, participation is nowhere near generally distributed. It is highly concentrated in a few individuals who outwardly are indistinguishable in circumstance from others not so involved.

        So it isn’t “being black” any more than it is “being poor,” or undereducated, or subject to “systemic racism” or any other general situation. There’s another individualized factor there that “black culture” may enable more, but which is not unique to black people.

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      • Matthew and Bostontea – Thanks for your comments, thoughts, and references. I had heard about but not really registered the significance of the CDC study of Wilmington, DE, and hadn’t read the study by Steffensmeier (published in the flagship journal Criminology I noticed).

        In terms of the racial dimension of violence, I don’t think we should shy away from it, but at the same time I think we need to be nuanced in understanding it. I don’t like the phrasing “most of the violent crimes in America are committed by only one race.” Certainly the “race” does not commit the crimes. Most members of the race do NOT commit violent crimes. To the contrary, they are frequently the victims of those crimes — sometimes not so innocent victims, but occasionally innocent victims.

        To me it is like saying “Most of the homicides in America are committed by gun owners.” That’s true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. Most gun owners do not and never will commit homicides. What is it about those gun owners who do that motivates their actions? Does it have anything to do with their being gun owners, or does something else explain it?

        So, I think Matthew is thinking along the lines of my thinking on the issue, which is to figure out what that something else is. And I do think it has something to do with being part of a subculture in which the use of violence is seen as acceptable. Is that subculture a “black culture”? I don’t think so. I think of “Justified” in addition to “The Wire,” to put it in television terms. Is that subculture found more commonly among blacks? I think clearly so. The question is why?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Memo to The Trace: Your Antipathy Toward Gun Owners is Pissing Me Off |

  3. Welcome to our world, where law abiding citizens are denigrated and held up to ridicule by our betters. Now I hope that you understand why we don’t esteem academia. Since like forever they have done nothing but ridicule and in my estimation cook the books and massage the statistics to arrive at the conclusion demanded by their financiers.
    Social scientists like you, Gary Kleck and John Lott are the voices in the wilderness, who seek the truth and not a predetermined conclusion. Good luck, stay safe and keeping exposing the truth

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  4. Thanks again for the leads on books I want to read but did not know about. I have a scope question for you. My understanding about gun culture 2.0 is you are talking about people who own guns legally. I may be wrong on this part but that is what I think is the scope of what you are talking about. There are two additional aspects of this. There are groups of people who have firearms illegally (ignoring the people who can legally get firearms since they do not have records yet) who use them for crimes. But there is also another group of people with shared values who have a relationship to firearms and their owners who then say all sorts of things (small genitals etc) about people who are in the group I thought you were interested in. It is my group of anti-gun enlightened people castigating the other group just like the NRA propaganda has its own group of people for members to dislike so much they send in money. Are you aware of any studies on them? I remember an article by a psychiatrist talking about defense mechanism use by anti gun people (see: http://jpfo.org/filegen-n-z/ragingagainstselfdefense.htm) but have seen little else. To me these people are in a subculture with shared values so sound like something like sociologists would be interested in. But then maybe researchers are afraid to make all their liberal/progressive colleagues and friends mad at them so may not want to study the subject.

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    • I am definitely interested in legal gun use by lawful gun owners, though I often get pulled in to other issues that are somewhat more tangential, and definitely in my Sociology of Guns seminar I cover illegal gun markets, homicide, suicide, and mass shootings. The third group you point to, “anti-gun enlightened people,” will never be the subject of serious scholarly inquiry for the reasons you suggest. That said, as I used to be one, some of my work may give a little insight into that group’s way of thinking. Also, if you get Kohn’s book “Shooters,” look at p. ix in the Preface where she talks about some of the things her academic colleagues said to her when she said she was studying guns. I hear similar things. Even those who are not as dismissive still hear “gun control” when I say I am studying “gun culture.” That says alot.

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      • Thanks. I found the page in Kohn’s book. I also found out about hegemonic masculinity while reading the other book you mentioned by Stroud. When I tried to find out what hegemonic masculinity was about I learned “Hegemony is political or cultural dominance or authority over others”. The term is interesting since it sure sounds like the anti-gun elite of the well-schooled trying to do dominate everyone else. Please keep talking about your seminar when you have time since your posts help me decide what books to buy.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: America’s Super Gun Owners Are . . . What? | Gun Culture 2.0

  6. @davidyamane

    “I don’t like the phrasing “most of the violent crimes in America are committed by only one race.”

    Ok, but as you prabobly know gun control advocates love comparing America to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada or super majority white European countries like Spain, Norway, Austria, Italy, Poland etc. I guess the first person who pointed this out was James D. Wright in his essay “Guns and sputter” (you can read it here: goo.gl/aHxx4A).

    The differences in racial compositions of the two countries are particularly relevant in light of theirs homicide rates. Like I said before (quoting findings released by Steffensmeier et al.) – between 1980-2008 blacks committed: 64% of homicides, 70% of robberies, 50% of rapes and 45% of aggravated assaults. Nationwide.

    You simply cannot compare US to Japan or Canada.

    Another problem in using criminal statistics is related to crime classification. The classification of crimes varies across countries, because of different criminal codes. For instance, an act that is a property crime in country A may be classified as a violent crime in country B. More seriously, the crime system classification changes over time in the same country. As a consequence, if one wants to work with a homogeneous measure of crime rates across these different countries, it is required to use a measure that is unaffected both by underreporting and classification issues. NO STATISTICAL REMEDY CAN BE FOUND IN THIS CASE.

    For example, look at rape. We can see there is a big gap in these definitions between the US and UK. In the UK, they are saying rape can only happen with a penis, while not only is it broader in the US, but it also includes attempted rape or even threats (UCR defnition says “attempts or assaults to commit rape by force or threat of force are also included”). Actual penetration (and only with a penis) has to occur for it to be defined under this category in the UK.

    Many people also compare the category of “Grievous Body Harm” to the FBI’s category of “Aggravated Assault”. This egregiously wrong, and no surprise they came up with 7x more incidents in the US using this faulty comparison. If you read the definition provided, you can clearly see that aggravated assault includes the threat of great bodily harm, while the UK definition is actually receiving great bodily harm. It’s the difference between being stabbed, and someone brandishing a knife and saying “I’ll cut you, bitch!” (with no blood drawn).

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    • Kopel’s “The Cowboy, the Mountie, and the Samurai” is probably the seminal work on the difficulty of cross-cultural comparisons involving gun laws. While the stats have changed the sociological issues remain.

      When looking at effectiveness of gun laws it is usually more effective to look at crime rates within a given country pre- and post- law. Joyce Malcolm’s “Guns and Violence: The English Experience” does a good job of showing that England’s gun laws, an artifact of post-WWI 20thC, show no noticeable, much less statistically significant, decrease in their crime rates after passage of their increasingly restrictive gun control laws. Much like Australia, and the US. There’s just no real evidence any laws actually do anything.

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  7. Byt the way, contrary to popular belief it’s very easy to get a gun in Canada. Here’s top 10 non-restricted black rifles in Canada:

    http://www.huntinggearguy.com/rifle-reviews/top-10-non-restricted-black-rifles-in-canada/

    In order to get these guns you just need to pass a short and easy safety course, mail away for a licence and and then wait two-three weeks, receive your license and go shopping. Of course it’s still harder than in the US but much easier than in Europe:

    http://www.howtogetagun.ca/

    In Canada you can literally buy a TAVOR Battle Rifle from a gas station:

    Like

  8. Pingback: Link to Research Paper by Authors of New Harvard/Northeastern Study of Gun Ownership | Gun Culture 2.0

  9. Pingback: Who Funded the Harvard/Northeastern Study of Gun Ownership? | Gun Culture 2.0

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