There is a school of thought in gun culture that holds: They hate us. They = Gun control advocates. Us = Gun culture.
This school of thought tends to be promoted by those, like Michael Bane, who have long experience in gun culture. This suggests there may be some hard earned wisdom in the view. As I try to be more optimistic, I do not subscribe to this school of thought. But the longer I study and participate in gun culture, the more I understand where the sentiment comes from.
Case in point: An email response I received from someone who listened to my recent Q&A about gun culture on my local NPR station. Richard Broaddus — who I have not met personally — came here to this blog and entered the following in the comment box:
I heard the interview with you on WFDD today. You take the position that guns are fun and good, and that’s fine. One thing you said that I found extremely upsetting though, was that it was the ‘all or nothing’ mindset of the debate that prevented action from being taken, with a strong inference that it was the inflexible position of the gun control advocates that causes this impasse. I almost drove off of the side of the road, and when I got to a safe place I wrote to WFDD to remind them that nonsensical positions should be challenged by media. I mean. REALLY?! Sure, there are some anti-gun activists who would be happy to collect all firearms, but they are a tiny portion of the movement. I would say that the NRA, and all of the other groups (many of which think the NRA is too namby-pamby) are the very definition of a side that insists on ‘all or nothing’, and fights against the ‘slippery slope’ with fanatical effort.
By the way, if you enjoy your shooting, fine. My very brief reaction to listening to you today was that you are using this gun thing as a career booster, something to differentiate you from the other profs, and perhaps to score some nice speaking gigs. The right-wing academic spot can be a profitable gig, and you don’t have to compete with all of the seriously accomplished scholars in a crowded field. Good Luck!
Two points here: First, in what I said is there a “strong inference that it was the inflexible position of the gun control advocates that causes this impasse“? Here is the transcript of what I said posted on the WFDD website. You decide.
One of the problems with the way we talk about guns is that we have people on either extreme whose minds are already made up. They either think that we should just get rid of guns, or they think that there should be absolutely no restriction on guns because those would be futile. But there is also, I believe, a broad and deep middle of people who want to do something about the problems, but don’t necessarily know how to get there. I think those are the people who need to be much more brought into the conversation. But we run up against the realities of our political system which is, at this point in time, highly divisive. So, I don’t think it’s an either/or issue for the population of the country, but it does become an either/or issue because of the structure of our politics and the way people are becoming increasingly polarized at the highest levels of governance.
Second, it is sad and indicative of how low the level of debate about guns in American society can be that the author concludes by resorting to ad hominem attack. The idea that I am “using this gun thing as a career booster” is absolutely ludicrous. Anyone who knows anything about academia knows that saying anything favorable about guns is career suicide not a career booster. The only reason I study gun culture and talk about it publicly is because I am a tenured full professor so it cannot be held against me.
If you go to the Wake Forest University News experts page, which helps connect media to faculty experts on my campus, and type either “guns” or name in the search box, it will return the following:
Not that I am complaining. I get plenty of media inquiries without being listed by the university as an expert. Still, this is not exactly boosting my career (or getting me significant pay raises either, by the way). To the contrary, I took 2 hours out of my busy day because a friend asked me to and because I thought it would be helpful, not because I benefit materially from it in any way, shape, or form. In fact, I pay for almost all of my research expenses out of my own pocket.
I advise graduate students and untenured professors who ask me for advice about studying guns to avoid it, UNLESS their fundamental viewpoint is critical of guns. The new generation of scholars who have made a name for themselves studying guns recently are the ones who work within the accepted boundaries of orthodox academic thought. This is true even of the ones whose work on guns I really appreciate like Jennifer Carlson (ideologies of masculine protectionism drive gun ownership) and Harel Shapira (gun ownership as a form of “civilized violence”).
I personally never talk about my fellow Americans in “us” versus “them” terms. I prefer to seek the middle ground I referred to in my NPR conversation. But the Richard Broadduses of the world help me understand the Michael Banes more and more.
UPDATE: Confronted with the difference between what he says I implied and what I actually said, and the inappropriateness of using ad hominem attacks, Richard Broaddus did not apologize but doubled down. This morning he writes to me by email:
“I very much believe, as I stated in my last email, that people of the future will look at the America of the present time with the same sense of wondrous loathing that we look upon our ancestors’ human sacrifices and cannibalism. . . . It’s fine to go and study the sociology of cannibals or some other repellent-to-our-present-sense-of-morality group, but it’s not cool to join that group. I think you have done that. yes that’s a pretty hyperbolic statement, but as I age I find less and less sympathy for enablers.”
To which I responded with a hyperbolic statement of my own: The inability to listen or to hear, the inability to admit being wrong, and the resort to ad hominem attacks, all of which you have exhibited from the start, have been the cause of more misery in the course of human history than any weapon.
Two concluding notes:
(1) To deep-pocketed right-wing and left-wing groups looking to pay me for speaking gigs: I am available and can be bought.
(2) To my critic: My scholarly accomplishments are a matter of public record, but you can find them here if you are interested.