Light Over Heat #31: The Diversity and (Possible) Future of American Gun Culture

In this week’s Light Over Heat video I discuss diversity in American gun culture, both the diversity of different gun subcultures that exist today beyond the self-defense-oriented Gun Culture 2.0 and diversity within Gun Culture 2.0.

This diversity sets the stage for some speculation about possible futures for American gun culture: (1) post-Bruen growth and consolidation of Gun Culture 2.0; (2) diversity within Gun Culture 2.0 and across gun culture generally leads to a situation where “the center cannot hold” and gun culture fragments with no main center of gravity going forward; and (3) a Gun Culture 3.0 centered on Second Amendment politics.

This latter idea is one that was floated, prematurely in my view, by Claire Boine and her colleagues in their article, “What is gun culture? Cultural variations and trends across the United States.”

Other documentation for this video:

My 2017 article “The Sociology of US Gun Culture”:

My 2022 article “Gun Culture 2.0: The Evolution and Contours of Defensive Gun Ownership in America”: FORTHCOMING

On “Queers with Guns”:

On feminist traditions of armed self-defense:

On the sacralization of the Second Amendment:

New “Light Over Heat” videos are released on YouTube every Wednesday, so please surf over to my YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE to follow, RING THE BELL to receive notifications, and SHARE so others can learn about this work.


  1. Has there been similar research into anti-gun culture (which surely exists, as does the neutral ‘non-gun’ culture I grew up in)?

    My observation is that the gun culture vs. anti-gun culture divide overlays a growing schism between, on the one hand, traditional American individualism, liberty, and self-reliance and, on the other hand, collectivism, privileges earned rather than rights held, and dependency on the state. We saw this with covid, where public figures told us to mask up and get vaxxed “for the good of the collective”, with rewards for the obedient and punishments for the obstinate.

    Underlying anti-gun culture, I detect a rejection of the natural right to self-defense. See Michael Shermer’s recent assertion that a citizenry armed for self-defense “contravenes our understanding that, except in rare and exceptional circumstances, designated law-enforcement officials have a monopoly on the use of force.”* One might reasonably conclude that Shermer belongs to the camp that believes violence — by individuals, at least — can never be virtuous.

    No full understanding of gun culture, or the putative rise of a 2A-focused v. 3.0, is possible without accounting for this precipitous rise of collectivism, which denies pre-existing, natural rights as espoused in the Declaration, the writings of Paine, etc.

    * Shermer’s Quillette article:

    My rebuttal:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the constant attacks on gun culture from gun prohibition culture will hold various fragments of gun culture together. As will, I think, that firearms enthusiasts generally see beyond race, color, creed, nationa origin, or sexual orientation in favor of “hey, buddy, what’s that you are shooting?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Polls consistently show that ‘asserting 2A rights’ ranks low on reasons to own a firearm. The supposed 2A-focused ‘Gun Culture 3.0’ I see more as an across-the-board reaction to the recent intensification of anti-gun activism.

      I’ll also note that my experience with gun culture is, it’s one of the most ecumenical, friendly, enthusiastic, and welcoming communities I’ve ever entered.


  3. Anti-self defense activism is becoming more a function of the corporate sector. Whether it is the billionaire gun prohibitionists or the much more common corporate exclusion of guns from open to the public but private space, this will affect the further evolution of Gun Culture 2.0. If it is to have any meaning, it is going to have to take the form of something like public accommodation law as pioneered by the larger civil rights movement. This means that libertarian notions of the sanctity of private owners will have to be exorcised from rhetoric about self-defense. However, this may help heal some of the other divisions you mention.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David, I really appreciate the work you are doing around gun culture. I would add 2 things to consider.
    1. There remains a strong culture of shooting sports (trap, skeet, bullseye, hunting, cowboy action and various types of “3 gun competitions, etc.) that are enjoyed by many gun owners and are far more frequently engaged in than “self-defense” activities. Those of us who enjoy these activities seem to be left out of the conversation. IMHO
    2. Corporate marketing and collusion to control sales has also contributed significantly to the current Gun Culture 2.0 situation. As an example, it is currently far easier to buy firearms and ammunition for “self-defense” than it is to purchase guns and ammunition for many of the above listed sporting activities and competitions. I fully realize that the response from companies will be that they are merely providing what the consumer is asking for but I’d contend that they intentionally created that demand with their marketing campaigns and effectively excluded those of us in the gun community who enjoy shooting for reasons beyond just self-defense.
    “We” (the gun owning community) is far more diverse than just the Gun Culture 2.0 situation that is currently the most prominent and talked about section of our community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apologies for the slow response due to my chaotic summer. I cannot disagree with your first point. I do sometimes regret promoting the idea of Gun Culture 2.0 because it does convey the idea that these other gun-related activities don’t exist anymore, which is not true as you point out. On the second point, I can’t really say definitively but I haven’t had any problem buying, for example, O/U shotguns for sporting clays or .22 target pistols. When I go to the NRA or SHOT Show I see a lot of sporting guns displayed. I guess I would have to know more what guns and ammo you are finding difficult to acquire to be able to say more.


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