|COD introduces the mass public to guns|
Which brings me to the motivation for this posting. I'm lecturing on guns and gun culture tomorrow and have found that the sociological and criminological literature on guns is quite thin. Although there are countless studies on the causes/consequences of urban violence, there isn't a whole lot out there about gun culture.
There are some exceptions, of course. Bernard Harcourt's book, "Language of the Gun" describes the symbolic meanings of owning and carrying guns. Harcourt reveals the seductive nature of guns to young, racial-ethnic minority men who are incarcerated. Guns are exciting things to own and young men feel empowered by owning/carrying guns. Paul Stretseky and Mark Pogrebin's, "Gang-Related Gun Violence: Socialization, Identity, and Self," makes similar arguments with a similar population. They show that young incarcerated men have strong attachments to their guns, and that young men like carrying guns because they anticipate everyday situations in which they may need to use them for self defense.
From my cursory reading, sociologists and criminologists have focused much of their attention on urban, poor, racial/ethnic minority populations at the expense of a HUGE population of while, middle class gun owners who are not victims of violence, and who rarely (if ever) have much reason for using their gun for self-protection. What are the attractions to guns for this population? What is at stake for these gun owners?
|Lee Ermey at his best|
Much of what this short interview resonates with my conversations and interviews with people I met at a gun shop/gun range in Philly. When I was in the market to buy a pistol, I met a couple of NRA shooting instructors who introduced me to one of the bigger symbolic divides within the pistol market. In the words of one of these instructors, "If you're buying a pistol, you're either a 9 or a 45 person." After my shooting lesson that day, I went home and found that the 9mm vs. .45 debate is quite a big thing amongst gun enthusiasts. In some respects, the 9 vs. .45 debate is one of those moral divides in gun culture that tells other people "who you are" and "what you are about."
|Glock 19: A favorite amongst 9mm people|
So, what are the arguments on both sides? I'm summarizing here, but fans of the 9mm claim that it is usually smaller, lighter weight, and carries more rounds. Since the round is smaller, 9mm enthusiasts also claim that it is more accurate and easier to shoot. As a former owner of a Springfield XD 9mm, I can say that 9mm rounds are quite easy to shoot with accuracy, even for a novice.
|Colt 1911: An American classic and favorite amongst .45 people|
In any event, I think that gun culture is vast and interesting. As social scientists, we have lagged considerably far behind the mass public's appreciation for gun culture and should recognize the broader appeal that guns have for populations that aren't always on our radars.