Out of respect for the confidentiality of the scholarly peer review process, I was not going to write publicly about a manuscript I received from an academic journal for review. But after I posted on Twitter alluding to the paper’s title, one of the authors immediately outed himself, so I feel OK writing this post.
I was recently asked to review an article titled, “Understanding Gun Ownership in the Twenty-First Century: Why Some Americans Own Guns, But Most Do Not.”
The title struck me as oddly formulated and suggestive of a potential anti-gun bias on the part of the authors. (According to the author who replied to my Tweet, at least some of the authors of the paper are defensive gun owners, so I could very well have been wrong there.)
Because of my visceral negative response, I declined to review the paper because I did not know if I could objectively review it. After I declined the review, I Tweeted: Imagine being asked to review a manuscript titled: “Understanding LGBTQ Individuals in the Twenty-First Century: Why Some Americans are Queer, But Most Are Not.”
My hypothetical title is perhaps not the best example insofar as gun ownership is social while sexuality is both biological and social. But I thought it highlighted the point that there are many things that social scientists study that a minority of people do, but rarely is this highlighted in the title in this way.
Upon reflection, I thought of a number of titles that scholars who study guns could use based on this model:
- Why Some Gun Owners Commit Suicide, But Most Do Not
- Why Some Gun Owners Commit Murder, But Most Do Not
- Why Some Gun Owners are Insurrectionists, But Most Are Not
- Why Some Americans Say They Will Never Own Guns, But Most Do Not
The possibilities are endless and I am definitely going to use this formulation as the title to an article or book chapter sooner rather than later.
FWIW, the author who outed himself (Justin Pickett) did so by Tweeting the abstract for his paper, which you can see in the image below. The longer I think about this, the more I find myself drawn to this approach. The question is not only why some Americans own guns, but what deters those who don’t own guns from becoming gun owners? I fully expect this paper to be published eventually, and will look forward to reading it when it is.