2017 was a terrific year for my research on American gun culture. I didn’t accomplish everything I had hoped, but I did more than I could reasonably expect.
Although I didn’t quite reach my goal of doubling this blog’s readership in 2017, I came pretty close. I have already written about my personal favorites and the most popular posts for the year, which are two fairly distinct lists.
Also, without employing any tips and tricks from Social Media Marketing 101, I have more people following me on Twitter and liking/following my Facebook page. I even started a new Instagram account dedicated to Gun Culture 2.0 separate from my personal account. I hope it will continue to grow organically in the coming years, along with the rest of my social media presence.
If I had to pick a single most memorable moment for the year 2017 it would have to be shooting a replica musket at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. I also had a chance to shoot a suppressed, full-auto AR-style rifle for the first time, to visit the range with an Argentinian exchange student and my son, and to take the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting course with my wife. I definitely plan to shoot more in 2018, though.
Beyond social media, I published two peer-reviewed articles on the sociology of guns. The first considered the relationship between religion and gun ownership, bridging my previous work in the sociology of religion with my new interest in gun culture. The second was a review essay in which I argued that social scientists need to get beyond their excessive focus on epidemiology and criminology and develop an approach to guns that begins with the lawful use of firearms by legal gun owners.
I carried this idea over into the concluding chapter to a book on American gun culture, and just last month contributed a short essay to a newsletter read by specialists in medical sociology.
I don’t expect to shift single-handedly the sociological narrative on guns from deviance to normality, but I do hope to get enough work published on the topic that those working in the field at least have to acknowledge another perspective.
I am happy to report that the Pew Research Center consulted with me in advance of a survey they fielded in 2017 on American gun owners and incorporated a number of my suggestions into their survey.
I also continued to make progress on my book on Gun Culture 2.0. As regular readers of this blog know, I spent a good part of the year observing and writing about the private citizen gun training industry. To help organize my many posts on the topic, I created several landing pages that collect posts on specific aspects, including the organization of the civilian gun training industry, Col. Jeff Cooper/Gunsite Academy, Tom Givens and Rangemaster, Rob Pincus and Combat Focus Shooting, and Gabe Suarez and Suarez International.
A number of posts on trainers and the gun training industry ended up on my personal list of favorite posts for 2017.
In 2018, I am hoping to find an agent to pitch the book to some New York publishing houses. To that end I took an online course on nonfiction writing through UC-Berkeley Extension. It was fun to become a student again for a few months and I learned a great deal about what I need to do to become a better writer.
Also in 2017, I previewed some of my book research at two scholarly conferences on guns. The first was the Copeland Colloquium on “The Symbolic and Material Construction of Guns” at Amherst College. I presented a paper 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 Concealed Carry Expo in 2016, about which I have written quite a bit on this blog (see the landing page collecting my posts here). (As a bonus, I had a chance to visit “Gun Valley” while I was in Massachusetts.)
The second was a Gun Studies Symposium at the University of Arizona hosted by the leading sociologist of guns in America, Jennifer Carlson. At this conference I presented the findings from my study of the rise of self-defense in gun advertising based on a content analysis of 100 years of The American Rifleman.
Over the course of the year, I received an increasing number of media requests to comment on American gun culture, especially from international outlets. I don’t accept every media request, but I did do several in 2017, including for my local NPR station, Newsweek magazine, Paris Le Monde, The Times of London, Univision Noticias, The Guardian of London, Infobae of Argentina, Racked.com, and the French magazine Reforme.
Other highlights for me were appearing as a guest on the Polite Society Podcast with Paul Lathrop and John Richardson, the GunBlog VarietyCast with my fellow North Carolinian Sean Sorrentino, and a soon to be released episode of Bob Mayne’s Handgun World Podcast guest hosted by Karl Rehn.
Last but not least, in the spring semester of 2017 I taught my “Sociology of Guns”seminar for the third time. The course is a great way for me to read more deeply in the field, test my own emerging ideas, and engage in civil discussion about firearms with students from a variety of different backgrounds and perspectives.
I am looking forward to teaching the course again in spring 2018, and in the next few days I will post some of my other plans and aspirations for 2018.