As my gun blogger friend John Richardson noted, I spent a couple of days this past weekend in Western Massachusetts, attending a conference associated with the Copeland Colloquium at Amherst College. Seven of us had been invited to write and present papers on “The Symbolic and Material Construction of Guns,” and we were joined by Copeland Colloquium fellows, Amherst College faculty, and a couple of members of the public.
Although advertised as a “conference,” what took place was more of a workshop on our various papers. Because the papers were circulated in advance to most attendees, we each took just 5 minutes to say something about our work and each paper also had one commentator who also had 5 minutes. This left most of the hour set aside for each paper for other attendees to offer further comments, questions, and criticisms. It was very productive in that way.
My contribution was titled, “The First Rule of Gunfighting is Have a Gun“: Technologies of Concealed Carry in Gun Culture 2.0.
Based on my observations at the United States Concealed Carry Association’s 2nd annual “Concealed Carry Expo” last spring in Atlanta, I explored how various gun and gear technologies being sold at the CCX were designed to help people reconcile competing demands of concealed carry so they can observe the first rule of gun fighting: to CARRY YOUR DAMN GUN (as Tom Givens has put it).
This paper will be a chapter in a book that is to be produced from the conference, provisionally titled The Social Life of Guns, and an expanded version will be a chapter in my own book on Gun Culture 2.0. Alas, neither will see the light of (published) day until at least 2018 or 2019.
Because they are still works in progress, I do not want to say too much about the other papers that were presented, since the authors may change their minds based on the feedback given at the conference. But you can see the other presenters and topics in the schedule below. More than the typical criminologies and epidemiologies of violence often found in gun studies, these papers really did capture the various ways in which guns are a part of social life, broadly understood and from a variety of disciplinary perspectives (sociology, political science/theory, history, rhetoric, criminal justice/law).