“America’s Toxic Gun Culture”

Although I am totally bought into the concept of Gun Culture 2.0 I borrowed from Michael Bane, I do sometimes regret using it because the idea can easily be oversimplified.

One oversimplification is to think that because the core of American gun culture today is self-defense, other aspects of gun culture like hunting, sport and recreational shooting, and collecting (Gun Culture 1.0 pursuits) are unimportant. Not true.

Another is to think that Gun Culture 2.0 itself is monolithic. Also not true.

In one of my “Light Over Heat” YouTube videos last summer, I discussed 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 the diversity within Gun Culture 2.0.

I was recently reminded of diversity within Gun Culture 2.0 when the New York Times Editorial Board opined on “America’s Toxic Gun Culture.”

The Times’ editorial board focuses on something they call “tactical culture” and the AR-15 rifle, as do other critics like Chad Kautzer in “American as a Tactical Gun Culture” and Ryan Busse in Gunfight: My Battle against the Industry that Radicalized America.

The opinion is concerned about “violent right-wing extremism” and how “the fetishization of guns is a pervasive part of it,” especially the AR-15, which has “become a potent talisman for right-wing politicians and many of their voters.”

Their bottom line: “A growing number of American civilians have an unhealthy obsession with ‘tactical culture’ and rifles like the AR-15.”

Of course, you have to read pretty far into the opinion essay (12 paragraphs, in fact) to find that “America’s toxic gun culture” is “a fringe movement among the 81 million American gun owners.”

20 paragraphs into the 28-paragraph opinion essay, we also find the following qualifier: “It is important, of course, to distinguish between the large majority of law-abiding gun owners and the small number of extremists. Only about 30 percent of gun owners have owned an AR-15 or similar rifle, a majority support common sense gun restrictions and a majority reject political violence.”

Important. Of course.

(Also, only about 30 percent of gun owners have owned an AR-15 or similar rifle? Only 24+ million people? Not many I suppose.)

Anyway, are there extremist elements in American gun culture? Yes. Are they of concern to me? Yes. Is American gun culture itself extremist? No.

Of course, “America’s Toxic Gun Culture” gets more views than the more accurate headline, “A Fringe Movement within American’s Otherwise Normal Gun Culture.” Which is why I replicated the New York Times’ headline here on this blog post, of course.

Thanks for reading beyond the headline. If you appreciate this or some of the other 900+ posts on this blog, please consider supporting my research and writing on American gun culture by liking and sharing my work.

If you’d like to support my work financially, one-time and ongoing contributions can be made through PayPal or the Buy Me a Coffee platform:

Donate with PayPal button

Buy me a drinkIf you want to support my work, please buy me a drink


  1. I used to have some respect for Ryan Busse but his Tweets lately have been typical of the kind of food fights one sees among Those Who Don’t Think Too Hard on Twitter. As for that evil black rifle, I think, based on our annual meeting the other night, that at least a couple hundred members of my gun club own one or more. If you met them on the street, you would mistake them for normal, sane, law-abiding Americans.

    Seems to me if anything is toxic, it is the Grey Lady’s treatment of guns and gun owners. Heck, among all the AR-15 (sensu lato, including all the knockoffs) I don’t personally know anyone involved in the right wing extremist groupings. It is, indeed, a fringe, and one has to work to find it. I’d invite the Times to come out to my club and interview a few people rather than only rebreathing their own bad breath.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Busse is no doubt mad, and the fact that he has gotten so much attention for it no doubt encourages it. I heard he was on a panel at the University of Chicago and was much more moderate in tone, which also suggests how the social media outrage machine works differently than sitting down with people face-to-face in a setting that encourages reflection and consideration. Something I have been thinking about a lot lately.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr. Yamane:

    Have you considered a focused, balanced reply to the NYT. I believe you have the standing that they may give it presence on the editorial page.

    Regarding specific articles with the NYT, I have written responses. Generally, I receive a couple of endorsements, but nothing at all substantial. My most recent response about California Gun Law and the paradox of mass shootings, which I pointed out that California gun homicides is middling, but more per 100,000 than others and suggested that banning guns may be less an answer than working on community and culture. I received one reply to the effect it is proven more guns, more gun deaths.

    Anyway, I believe you could address the editorial with some balance and perspective as almost no one else could.


    John Longley

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have submitted opinion essays to the NYT a couple of times in the past. It’s really hard to get in there because everyone wants to be on the NYT editorial page. Writing opinions is also challenging because they have to be timely, so my sense is that a lot of people who get opinions published have them already worked up and then wait for the right news moment to send them. I always seem to be playing catch up with my work and never feel ahead of the game enough to take advantage of tragedies to get my ideas out there. Maybe some day I will. It is a good idea and important to reach new and broader audiences.


  3. If the act of objecting to an argument by citing a small and irrelevant partial exception to the rule, then the act of seeking out and amplifying the small and irrelevant nuts in an enormous community in order to indict the larger group should be called “Nutpicking.”

    It’s a common media tactic that has been used successfully against the gun community since I was a child. They find the obvious nutter, interview him, and then claim to be even handed and fair when they use the nutcase as the “other side” of the argument from the nice, sane, well dressed person who insists that the only alternative to mass violent extinction is to ban my rifle.

    I guess I should be happy that in order to make the gun ban fans look good they have to find an actual nutbar to represent “the other side.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • The beauty of the Internet is that I don’t have to be the smartest person. I just have to listen for smart arguments. I seem smarted than I am because I stand on the brains of smart people…

      err, or something like that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.