Light Over Heat #32: Talkin’ ‘Bout an Insurrection

After the January 6th storming of the US Capitol Building, I knew that gun owners and gun culture would be blamed. But from the start I have questioned how widely gun owners in general supported this clumsy coup.

In this week’s Light Over Heat video I consider some recent survey data that addresses the question of gun owner support for the storming of the Capitol Building, and for political violence more generally.

Thumbnail image: TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Other documentation for this video:

Firmin DeBrabander in The Atlantic on “insurrectionist fever dreams”:

Why are there so few violent insurrectionist gun owners?

I discuss “the missing insurrectionists” in my 2021 book chapter “Understanding and Misunderstanding America’s Gun Culture:

University of Chicago Institute of Politics on political polarization and political violence:

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

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  1. it is my strong belief…and I am CERTAINLY going to produce work on this in the future…that humans have the capacity to operate cognitively with balance between the frontal lobe and the mid-brain: executive functioning and primitive, over-simplified, fear-based perceptions and ideas. Some people can balance this, others cannot. It is my observation that a significant portion of gun owners are unable to balance the two regions. Many gun owners are attracted to guns because it resonates with primal concerns. There’s nothing wrong with this per se…unless the person is unable to temper such a thing with reason. In that sense the person can suffer from the perceptive inaccuracies that come from the region of the mid brain: fast, hot takes…hyperbole, emergency. The main cognitive vehicle for these kinds of people? Conspiracy. The January 6th insurrection was a mob activity based on cognitive inaccuracies and conspiracy. This same combo is SUPER prevalent in the gun owning reality. Both on the left and on the right. But it is CERTAINLY strongly present on the right. I think there’s a strong case to made that the gun culture that David deals with is mostly the upper-crust of gun culture..and not defined by this conspiratorial element. I deal with some of these same people. But I don’t think that’s the defining feature of what’s happening with America gun culture. I think the conspiratorial aspect goes WAY beyond the percentage of people who agree with the insurrection in this study. I think conspiratorial, hyperbolic, fear-based imbalance is actually the dominant mentality in the new wave of gun owners. I also believe there’s a case to be made that fear-based conspiracy is principal to sub-cultures that feed the gun owning reality: religious and regional subcultures (rural south). Gun ownership in America often comes with an automatic dedication to ideas about “They” and “Them.” It’s in the gun culture concrete.


    • I doubt you noticed the irony of a diatribe, full of broad & disparaging generalizations about the “dominant mentality” of “a significant portion of gun owners”, ending by accusing others of “an automatic dedication to ideas about ‘They’ and ‘Them.’”

      What I hear you saying is, aside from a small “upper crust”, gun owners are cognitively inferior and incapable of rational thought. Their decision to own firearms is purely a product of their lizard brain, a failing especially true of the many new self-defense owners driven by irrational “primal concerns.”

      I eagerly await your production of the evidence that led you to this sweeping defamation of 80 million of your fellow gun owners and fellow Americans.


    • Hmmm. I have to disagree with this analysis of gun culture. I don’t think the dominant mentality is quite as knuckle dragging as this LGO comment presumes, at least based on what I see as a board member on a 1300 member gun club. Maybe all 1300 of us are upper strata?

      Sure, there is a strong sense of “us vs them” but in the political sense. When I see my own home town newspaper conflate gun culture with gun deviance, and the members of my own party voting overwhelmingly for an assault weapon ban because the only reason to own an AR is to be a mass shooter (I guess I am just lazy…), it is hard to not think they are coming for your guns as well as your identity as a gun aficianado. That doesn’t mean one is paranoid as much as one is worried about whether these NY and CA like laws will be Federalized.

      Or as someone once said, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. David, good video.

    Has the question about taking up arms against the government ever been asked before in a poll? It would be nice to see the responses over time, say, from the Reagan era to today, to see if there is a sort of trend.

    Like you, my response to Jan 6th was Holy S**t, WTF??? I was sitting in the kitchen working from home and was just flabbergasted. Being on the executive board of a 1300 member gun club, by the way, I don’t hear too much support for an insurrection but again, I suspect a majority of club members have present or past security clearances! Big Gubbmint pays our bills and socialist security! Keep your government hands off my Medicare! And all that.

    Take up arms? Well, the founders did it. My worry about the present state of the nation is it seems we have two nations, a red and a blue one, with a fair number of people in between just shaking their heads at the idiocy.

    Anyone who has followed civil wars should be aware that the stakes are incredibly high in blood and treasure. I’m not in any way convinced we need a civil war, but I’m not convinced the people on the left and right most itching to pick a fight know the reason why. It’s easy to engage in chest beating as long as one is a poseur rather than someone who actually has taken incoming. Maybe we should poll the soldiers who were in Anbar Province during the heat of that civil war whether they think the disagreements are deep enough to take up arms against ourselves.

    Interestingly, it looks like in deep red Kansas, the vote to repeal that state’s constitutional protection of abortion rights failed miserably with an extremely high vote count. NY Times said the question failed in red as well as blue areas. I don’t think we really know what the public thinks until times like this when they have to actually worry about it rather than grumble about the Supreme Court.

    Of course the NY Times also confirmed info I saw on Twitter that the DCCC is sabotaging GOP primary elections to ensure a weak candidate survives. Now, when you sabotage an election, we are getting close to a shootin’ war, as 6 Jan showed.

    Liked by 1 person

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