There’s a push underway in this country to stigmatize gun ownership. The effort is designed to try and use peer pressure to push gun owners to either get rid of their weapons or find themselves pushed to the fringes of society. The idea is that once we’re there, they can present whatever bull they want to and we’ll all be too “fringe” for others to listen to.
We’ve seen it left and right, from people referring to the NRA as a terrorist organization to claiming that gun owners are somehow in favor of kids being killed.
Now, Scientific America is joining in the fray by running a story that claims white men are stockpiling guns.
Since the 2008 election of President Obama, the number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. has tripled, while imports have doubled. This doesn’t mean more households have guns than ever before—that percentage has stayed fairly steady for decades. Rather, more guns are being stockpiled by a small number of individuals. Three percent of the population now owns half of the country’s firearms, says a recent, definitive study from the Injury Control Research Center at Harvard University.
So, who is buying all these guns—and why?
The short, broad-brush answer to the first part of that question is this: men, who on average possess almost twice the number of guns female owners do. But not all men. Some groups of men are much more avid gun consumers than others. The American citizen most likely to own a gun is a white male—but not just any white guy. According to a growing number of scientific studies, the kind of man who stockpiles weapons or applies for a concealed-carry license meets a very specific profile.
These are men who are anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market, and beset by racial fears. They tend to be less educated. For the most part, they don’t appear to be religious—and, suggests one study, faith seems to reduce their attachment to guns. In fact, stockpiling guns seems to be a symptom of a much deeper crisis in meaning and purpose in their lives. Taken together, these studies describe a population that is struggling to find a new story—one in which they are once again the heroes.
The story goes on to quote a handful of people who cited Obama’s policies as concerning.
However, the language here is telling. For example, the claim that white men are “stockpiling” firearms. The word itself is used in both the title and the opening of the story, but you know where you don’t find it? Literally anywhere in the study.
The study does say:
These two surveys, taken together, suggested several important trends in firearm ownership between 1994 and 2004: a steady increase in the number of firearms in civilian hands, a growing proportion of the U.S. gun stock represented by handguns, and concentration
of firearms among fewer gun owners.
Of course, we understand that over time, people are less inclined to admit to owning firearms in surveys, but I’m willing to let that slide.
What I’m not willing topla slide is the choice of language by Scientific America.
The word “stockpiling” has connotations of weapons being put aside for nefarious purposes. It evokes images of militia members in camouflage clothing carrying crates of guns and ammo so they can overthrow the United States government.
And I think that’s intentional.
Yes, it’s a single word, but it’s a word that is loaded. They chose it for a reason. They could have used “collecting” just as easily, but they didn’t because that would evoke a different train of thought, one less likely to scare people, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s easier to stigmatize, to “other” gun owners if people are afraid of us.
In the end, they want gun owners to be pariahs in our own communities, and this is the kind of thing they use to do it. It’s not necessarily coordinated, mind you, but that doesn’t make it any less ominous.