Wake Forest Professor Views Recent Gun Buying In Interesting Way

AP Photo/Michael Hill

It seems that every time we see any research about guns, it’s focused on negative things. There’s very little research that seems to look at guns from a positive standpoint, and that is why a lot of gun rights advocates look at researches in an adversarial manner. After all, when you set yourself up in opposition to a deeply held principle, what do you expect?

That’s something that is going to play on people’s minds as researchers look at the surge in gun buying over the last two years. After all, more and more people are buying guns and a lot of folks want to know why.

A researcher at Wake Forest University, though, says he starts from a different place than many of his colleagues.

Sociology professor David Yamane is unique among social scientists in understanding American gun culture on its own terms, from the inside out, especially the normality of gun ownership and use for individuals with diverse religious, racial, gender, and sexual identities.

Why are people buying more guns?

Over the past half-century, the center of gravity of America’s historic gun culture has evolved from hunting and recreational shooting to armed self-defense. This can be seen in the liberalization of concealed carry laws, the changes in gun advertisements, and in the many new products and services offered to satisfy the self-defense market.

Yamane isn’t wrong here. Whereas guns were once predominantly about hunting and plinking, now guns are focused primarily on self-defense. Hunting is still a large segment of the market, sure, but most hunters also buy self-defense weapons why a number of those focused on self-defense have little interest in hunting.

Interestingly, Yamane’s answer is devoid of a lot of what we typically hear. There’s no talk of fear or paranoia or racism in Yamane’s claim, that’s likely because Yamane starts at a different place when it comes to guns.

What makes your research on guns unique?

I have spent more than 10 years studying guns in America. I’m able to speak to individuals and organizations across the spectrum of opinions on guns. My work begins with the foundational premise that guns are normal and normal people use guns. This is a dramatic departure from standard social scientific approaches that view gun owners as deviant and focus exclusively on negative outcomes associated with guns such as crime, injury and death.

So, basically, Yamane admits what we already suspect, that most supposed gun researchers think we’re deviants to some degree and simply don’t care to look at how guns are beneficial.

He does things differently, which is why he’s not tripping over himself to make the case that a surge in gun buying is because of people being afraid of everything.

Now, I do think people being scared has driven a lot to buy guns. That’s not a controversial position in and of itself. Some may make the claim that it’s driven by racism–“Oh, you’re afraid of all those black people might come and kill you, aren’t you?”–but people being concerned for their own safety makes sense.

Yet without research showing that, I suspect Yamane isn’t interested in speculating.

Meanwhile, he also points out that while gun buying has increased year after year, violent crime rates fluctuate, showing that the prevalence of firearms alone simply cannot account for the violent crime rate being what it is year over year. There has to be more going on.

Frankly, he’s right and it’s nice to see someone in academia that doesn’t treat gun owners like villains.

Nov 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET