'Gun Curious' Author Offers Liberal Support for Gun Ownership

Townhall Media

Wake Forest sociology professor David Yamane has a simple message for his fellow liberals: gun ownership is normal and normal people own guns. In his new book Gun Curious: A Liberal Professor's Surprising Journey Inside America's Gun Culture, Yamane details his own Second Amendment conversion story, and I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Yamane virtually to discuss his experiences and what he hopes the impact of his book will have on the gun control debate.

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Yamane's book is probably best described as a memoir, but there's plenty of hard data included as well. In fact, Yamane says Gun Curious was originally going to be much more academic in nature, but the scope of the book took a turn during the writing process. 

I started the project just as a sociologist and thought I was going to investigate people who were carrying firearms concealed and what that was all about, and then I realized that part of a much broader culture that was going on in American society under this label of Gun Culture 2.0, which I stole from Michael Bane. All along I was really just imagining it to be an academic project, so publishing articles and book chapters, and then writing a book based on my analysis. 

But in the first go-round with an academic publisher, there were some people who weren't comfortable with how much of my personal voice I had put in, even in that kind of limited way, and that made me think maybe I shouldn't be just trying to write an academic book that forty of my best colleagues will buy, but maybe I have a story that's of interest to a broader audience.  

I think that was a smart move on Yamane's part. Yamane does have an interesting story to tell; from growing up in in Half Moon Bay, California, where gun owners were pretty few and far between, to his academic journey that eventually led him to the decidedly gun-friendly confines of North Carolina. It was there where Yamane had his first inkling that maybe gun ownership wasn't just for other people, but for him as well.  

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Yamane doesn't describe a single moment where a lightbulb went off and the scales fell from his eyes. Instead, becoming a gun owner was a process informed by multiple events, including an encounter with a stranger that could have turned violent as well as discovering the joys of History Channel's Top Shot. Yamane says he also realized that a lot of people he was spending time with were already gun owners. 

The guys I play tennis with, the IT guys, my real estate agent; everyone in North Carolina seemed to have a gun, to include the woman that I would end up marrying, who said, 'well yeah, I carried a Beretta 92 in the Coast Guard.' I knew she was in the Coast Guard, but it never occured to me that she carried a sidearm as part of the Coast Guard. But she also grew up in a rural county in North Carolina where they had hunter safety education as part of their required P.E. class, right? Her grandfather famously had a gun over every door into the house in his farm in Virginia. Just this idea that guns were normal for a lot of people, and normal people owned guns. That was just a revelation to me as someone who came from outside [that culture.]

Now Yamane is one of those normal people who owns guns, and he's letting his fellow liberals know that they too can embrace their Second Amendment rights without changing their entire ideology. Yamane does say, however, that he's not optimistic about a sea change when it comes to the Democrats' almost lockstep support for more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. 

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We're in among the most polarized times that I've seen in my 56 years of life. We have a real issue at the local level with a lot of electoral districts being highly gerrymandered so you don't have to try to work with people on the other side. You can just play to the most extreme parts of your base. So I think going forward the official Democratic Party line is going to be pro-gun control, which is unfortunate. The only thing that I see really making that change is if people start to realize that this is not a winning issue for Democrats. You think about back in the 1990s, when the 'assault weapon' ban went into place and then Republicans took back the House. I think a lot of Democrats said, 'whoa, we need to rethink our position' on that. But today's Democratic leadership has really bought into the idea of certain gun controls, particularly 'assault weapons' bans, and until that proves to be a political loser, there's no real motivation to move away from that. 

I suspect that Yamane is right, but I'd still argue that pro-2A groups (and individuals) should still be investing at least some time and money to run pro-gun Democratic candidates, particularly in swing districts or even reliably red districts. We know that there's a growing number of gun owners on the left like Yamane, and they can have an outsized influence on the Democrats' direction so long as they're actually competing for Democratic votes. 

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Yamane also firmly believes that gun ownership can help lessen the deep political divides in this country; pointing to his friendships with guys like John Richardson of Only Guns and Money, Michael Bane, and others. While they disagree on a lot of issues, they find common ground in the right to keep and bear arms. The same can be said for Yamane and myself, and I encourage you to check out the entire conversation in the video window below. 


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