I have said it before, on this blog and in scholarly publications (also here), but I will say it again: It is no exaggeration to say that sociologists are only interested in guns and gun culture to the extent that they are related to crime, violence, and social inequality.
Now, to be fair, sociologists are only interested in many things insofar as they are related to some social problem. In fact, we teach courses called “Social Problems” not “Social Benefits.” One sociologist even took to Twitter recently to crowdsource an answer to a student who asked for a recommended book in sociology that had a positive outcome.
So it should come as no surprise that a recently published book on The Lives of Guns takes gun violence as its starting and ending point. But this book comes with a little bit of sugar for those who are interested in the lives of guns beyond violence and social inequality.
The book was a product of a conference I attended at Amherst College in the spring of 2017, and includes a chapter written by me based on my fieldwork at the United State Concealed Carry Association’s Concealed Carry Expo: “The First Rule of Gunfighting is Have a Gun: Technologies of Concealed Carry in Gun Culture 2.0.”
It is sometimes said that edited volumes are where ideas go to die, so please do what you can to help my chapter avoid this fate!
Within the ideological framework established, other contributions are well-done and I will assign the book in my Sociology of Guns seminar this spring.
In particular I am looking forward to discussing with my students:
- Elizabeth Anker’s conception of gun owners as “mobile sovereigns” (Chapter 1) – an interesting contrast to an old take on concealed carriers as “law-abiding one-man armies.”
- Timothy Luke’s diverse take on the AR-15 rifle (Chapter 3)
- Joanna Bourke’s history of the dum-dum bullet (Chapter 5) – a perspective that is criticized by Matthew Ford in his book on military weapons that I read recently.
- Franklin Zimring’s analysis of police shootings (Chapter 6)
- Harel Shapira’s “How to Use the Bathroom with a Gun and Other Techniques of the Armed Body” (Chapter 8) – title says it all.