Defensive Gun Ownership is Irrational – The Standard Model Part 4 (Light Over Heat #45)

This video continues my ongoing series systematizing the dominant academic approach to understanding Gun Culture 2.0, what I call “The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership.”

Here I engage the 4th of the model’s 5 points: Based on the first 3 points, defensive gun ownership is IRRATIONAL.

Links to the first four videos in the series are below.

In this video, I highlight a 1969 book by George Newton and Frank Zimring called Firearms and Violence in American Life. It is one of my Top 10 books on guns in America and expresses in kernel form much of what the public health approach to guns argues today.

I also mention Kellermann and Reay’s very early assessment of guns as a risk factor and conclusion concerning the irrationality of defensive gun ownership, “Protection or Peril?,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1986.

Last, I again cite an article by David Studdert and his colleagues from the Annals of Internal Medicine in June 2022, “Homicide Deaths Among Adult Cohabitants of Handgun Owners in California, 2004 to 2016: A Cohort Study.”

The previous four videos in this series follow.

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  1. In addition to David’s excellent presentations, if people have not read Jennifer Carlson’s “Citizen-Protectors” (Oxford Univ. Press), I strongly recommend it. The book is derived from Jenn’s doctoral dissertation. It is quite readable by the lay audience, so you don’t have to be an academic to appreciate it (I’m an academic but this is not my field, so I figure I can review it as a quasi-academic). She looks at gun carriers in Michigan. I’m down to the last few pages and hope to give a “book report” on it at my gun club board of directors meeting tomorrow night.

    Prof. Carlson does a deep dive into why people acquire a CHL in areas like Michigan, which have been in decline. There is a lot of socio-political analysis here. Being a Rust Belt boy myself from a city that lost most of its traditional jobs and industries (Buffalo, NY), it all hangs together well.

    One of the things Jennifer looks at is what happens when a gun carrier makes a mistake landing the gun owner in hot water, i.e., going from the proverbial good guy with a gun to the bad guy with the gun. A lot of that is in Ch. 6. In other words, “the risk side”. Part of the critique goes to how to evaluate whether a situation really is a threat serious enough to require one to engage a firearm for self defense or defense of others, and whether any of the various trainings we take really does prepare a person for making that sort of judgement call accurately in “shades of grey” situations.

    For a true academic, I would have added more methodology and a test of “do my interviews with these folks give a valid picture of gun carriers and their thinking and motives at large?” but I don’t think that was the point of the book. The analysis is quite good, and there is a mountain of stuff for us to learn from Prof. Carlson.


    • I started reading it this Summer, but pressing matters forced me to set it down. Now that stormy weather is here, I hope to finish it by the fireplace.

      Carlson’s prose is outstanding, taught yet evocative. She certainly was thorough in her ‘ethnographic dive’, and made some very astute observations. But IMO, her feminist & sociopolitical biases cripple her ability to interpret what she uncovered.


      • I’ll mull that comment over, and have to go back and re-read some sections now that I read the whole book. But the sociopolitical stuff was credible to me, being a Rust Belt Baby. As Obama once said, when all else fails, one has their guns and Bible. I don’t think he meant that disparagingly, either. It came across to me as there are so few certainties in life. One’s faith, and that hole puncher that can ward off danger. The last section of Ch. 6 especially seemed on point but I’m not a philosopher, sociologist, or political scientist. Give me some rocks or nuclear material and I can age-date them for you.

        Liked by 1 person

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