I think we can all agree that there is no monolithic “gun culture” in the United States. With 100,000,000 gun owners, it would be silly to assume that all of us are alike. Some of us own firearms for a variety of reasons, while others may be singularly focused on competitive shooting or self-defense. However, a new paper on the various varieties of gun ownership from researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health offers a grossly simplistic view of gun owners, and ultimately serves as just another attack on Second Amendment activism by anti-gun academics.
Using data on gun-related behaviors including hunting, NRA membership, magazine subscriptions, handgun and long gun purchases, and certain gun laws, the researchers show that American gun owners vary widely in the symbolic meaning they find in firearms and how they use them.
Over the last 20 years, at the national level, firearm recreation has dwindled and self-defense has expanded, even as a distinct culture of Second Amendment political advocacy has sprung up, the researchers found.
A culture of Second Amendment advocacy has sprung up just in the past 20 years? That’ll be news to longtime Second Amendment advocates who’ve been fighting to secure our right to keep and bear arms for far longer than that. Heck, the right-to-carry revolution that began with Florida’s adoption of “shall-issue” concealed carry licenses started back in the late 1980s, but long before then we had 2A advocates and activists working at the state and federal level to advance their cause.
The summary of the study at Phys.org claims that “gun culture 1.0” is all about recreation, while “gun culture 2.0” is focused on self-defense. Gun culture 3.0, according to the academics, consists of “people who do not view the defense of the Second Amendment as a means to an end, but as necessary to any freedom in this country.” That’s a scary development in the eyes of the researchers at Boston University.
“The NRA has been spreading insurrectionist rhetoric for the past few decades, undermining Americans’ trust in their legislators and the federal government, while passing for a patriotic organization. The result is a few million people who are convinced that any genuine firearm violence prevention effort is the first step in a scheme to take away all of their rights and disenfranchise them,” says study lead author Claire Boine, a research scholar in community health sciences at BUSPH.
Give me a break. What this “study” really seems to be intent on proving is that politically active gun owners are actually a tiny portion of the overall number of Americans who own firearms, which in itself isn’t a controversial opinion. In fact, I think most 2A activists would say the same thing. If every gun owner was active in lobbying for their right to keep and bear arms, especially in places like California, New York, and New Jersey, we might have been able to defeat some of the onerous gun control laws adopted in those states.
Still, despite that obvious conclusion, there are some glaring issues with the new report. According to academics, “gun culture 3.0” is most prevalent in “liberal states, states where more of the population lives in an urban setting or is Hispanic, and states with stronger firearm regulations.” In other words, you find more 2A activism in states where the right to keep and bear arms is under more frequent attack by anti-gun politicians. That’s hardly surprising, but the researchers seem to have confused cause and effect.
Based on this study, gun owners in Idaho are primarily interested in recreational shooting and are part of Gun Culture 1.0, while gun owners in Texas are primarily interested in self-defense, making them a part of Gun Culture 2.0. Gun owners in places like California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia, on the other hand, are hotbeds of Gun Culture 3.0; those dastardly gun owners who are highly involved in politics.
Do you think Idaho would be a permitless carry state if there weren’t highly engaged gun owners lobbying for their rights? Do you think Texas gun owners don’t care when Beto O’Rourke talks about coming for their AR-15s, because they primarily own handguns for self-defense? As I said, it’s a silly and simplistic argument.
“No longer can we speak about gun culture as if it is a single entity. There are positive aspects to gun culture that bring recreation, enjoyment, or a feeling of security to many people, and there are also some negative elements,” says Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH.
“Those of us in public health must acknowledge the positive aspects of that culture and stop blaming law-abiding gun owners for the problem of firearm violence,” he says. “Instead, we need to address one very specific aspect of gun culture that the NRA has created that does not represent the overwhelming number of gun owners in this country.”
I completely agree with Michael Siegel that anti-gun academics have to stop blaming law-abiding gun owners for gun-related violence, but he’s totally off-base when he says that researchers need to focus on politically active gun owners. They too are law-abiding, and they too are not to blame for “firearm violence.” If those academics are actually interested in addressing the issue of violent crime, as opposed to trying to demonize gun owners who are 2A activists, they should delve into the subculture of gun ownership that doesn’t care about the law; criminals who use firearms in the commission of violent crimes. The fact that the team from Boston University doesn’t even acknowledge that subculture is just more proof that this study is nothing more than a junk science attempt to vilify those gun owners who are lobbying lawmakers and speaking out against threats to their Second Amendment rights.