The following is an opinion piece by Jennifer Carlson for the LA Times titled “Why Men Feel the Need to Carry Guns”. Following most passages will be my opinion on her opinion. I hope you enjoy.
Since the 1960s, the national conversation on firearms in both political and academic circles has revolved around one main question: Do guns increase crime or reduce it? Are guns tools of escalation or deterrence?
This has certainly been time well spent given the Earth-shattering revelations you and your ilk have brought to light over the last 5 decades.
Lately, however, social science researchers have become interested in a different question — not the relationship between guns and crime but the relationship between guns and people.
A new generation of sociologists takes as its point of departure the sheer preponderance of guns: an estimated 300 million firearms in the hands of civilians, and more than 11 million concealed carriers. We want to understand why Americans do not just own but also carry guns. To us, cultural politics matter at least as much as instrumental value.
You don’t need to research too much to find my “Instrument’s value.” A Glock with aftermarket parts runs around $650. And yes, it did take a lot of self-control to not take the phallic-comedy route there. Quit softballing those in there.
Gun-carry culture is actually a relatively recent phenomenon. Many cite Florida’s 1987 “shall-issue” law as the turning point. Now states as diverse as Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon and Pennsylvania have laws on the books that make it relatively easy for residents with clean criminal records to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon.
While every gun owner knows to take Hollywood with a grain, or a pound, of salt, as an individual who was raised within 90 minutes of Tombstone AZ, I’m not sure how “recent” this “phenomenon” is.
I set out to Michigan — an unlikely pro-gun state given its reputation as a politically liberal place — to interview gun carriers. I spent time on shooting ranges, at “open carry” picnics, at activist events and firearm instructional seminars.
Wow Jennifer, I’m impressed by the thoroughness of your research. Perhaps next week I’ll spend a few days in Harlem, come back and write my thesis on the inner fears and desires of urban black males.
Carrying a gun has become normalized in Michigan; it’s a way of life for hundreds of thousands of residents, partly conditioned by the idea that crime could happen anytime, anyplace.
Pretty sure that “idea” is more like a “fact”. Unless you really think those “Gun Free Zone” signs are effective.
One man with a concealed-carry permit likened his gun to a wallet: “You know, anytime you’re without, you never know when you’re going to need [a gun]. So it’s best practice to have it at all times…. Just like carrying a wallet.” Others told me they felt “naked” without a gun.
Clearly these “others” were truly baring their soul to you, rather than using a figure of speech. Before I got my first cell phone I felt “naked” without my watch; perhaps that was because of my deep obsession with time and fear of my own mortality, spurred forward by an overly religious upbringing and promises of eternal torment. Or maybe it was because I had become accustomed to having an extra 6 ounces of cheap steel on my left wrist. Who knows. Oh wait, I’m sure you do.
Crime has dropped in much of the United States, but this decline has been uneven. Although Michigan does not rank among the 10 most violent states, Detroit and Flint still top lists of “most violent cities.” In 2012, Detroit had its highest homicide rate since the early 1990s. For those who live in these cities, crime is an everyday reality; for those who live outside them, crime is a highly charged — if often abstract — concern.
But the appeal of guns is hardly reducible to fear of crime, whether rational or irrational. I found that men — the vast majority of gun owners are men — may also carry weapons as a reaction to broader socioeconomic decline.
Yes, violent crime has been on the decline for decades, so clearly anyone who still feels the need to protect themselves or their loved ones have deeper issues at hand. Also, the rate of Gonorrhea contraction has declined by 75% since the 60’s! Obviously anyone who still insists on wearing a condom during casual intercourse with an unknown partner has issues with intimacy. Let’s ask Dr. Drew (I bet they were touched inappropriately when they were children).
When I asked Corey, a Flint resident, why he carried a gun, he said, “Before, it was all blue collar, shop workers and a little bit of welfare. Now it’s all welfare, and things are different.”
Wait for it.
The men I interviewed discussed Michigan’s past nostalgically, not only as a place that promised safe neighborhoods but as one in which their fathers had clear, vital roles to play. Men were entrusted with supporting their families; they made happy suburban home life possible.
I’m just going to let the tension build for a moment.
Corey and others suggested that breadwinning now is harder than it used to be. Indeed, men’s participation in the labor force has been on a steady decline since the 1970s. Well-paying manufacturing jobs have dried up.
Frankie, a retired Detroiter, told me that in the 1970s he “got a job at General Motors, and they were hiring people off the street with zero education, and they could work 20 years, and they could make a living. You can’t do that now.”
Just one more paragraph!
As men doubt their ability to provide, their desire to protect becomes all the more important. They see carrying a gun as a masculine duty and the gun itself as a vehicle for a hardened kind of care-work — caring for others by shielding them from danger, with the threat of lethal force.
BOOM! There it is! Once again, these men Jennifer were talking to, when discussing the economic shift in their locality towards poverty, clearly aren’t worried about crime! No, no, these men are compensating for their small penis fear of not being able to provide for their family. Sorry about that, it just all sounds so familiar.
Brad, another Flint resident, told me, “The child’s born. Mortgage, marriage. I have a kid. I’m paying for all this stuff on a truck driver’s wage…. I wanted to protect them all, so then a firearm comes along.”
My interview subjects cast themselves as “good guys with guns” tasked with assisting the vulnerable among us. As they practiced shooting their firearms, they imagined scenarios in which women and children might need their help: a man with a rifle in a schoolyard full of kids; a woman being raped in an alley; an armed robber targeting a diner waitress.
Men everywhere! Pumped full of testosterone they know not what to do with!! They fantasize of being heroes while looking at side-by-side posters of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and Bruce Willis’ Die Hard pinned on the wall above their cheap, frameless mattress! (You know, because obviously none of us can provide for ourselves or our families)
The gun carriers I met did not frequently attempt to stop crimes, but when they did, they tended to play the role of hero, defending a damsel in distress. Two gun carriers told me they had intervened in domestic disputes, both relying on their firearms to persuade the assailant to desist.
Oh man, I didn’t even have to make that last joke, she just came right out and said it. Anyway, every good sociologist knows that domestic disputes have a tendency to work themselves out with no harm done. Clearly these two men simply saw an opportunity to live out their own John McClane fantasy and capitalized on it, even though no intervention was warranted.
We tend to get mired in public policy debates that isolate the impact of guns on violence, and nothing more. We wonder to what degree they contribute to suicide rates or homicide rates. But firearms have a larger purpose in our postindustrial society. In Michigan and other places hit hard by the economic downturn, men’s guns can address social insecurities far beyond crime.
The gun rights platform is not just about guns. It’s also about a crisis of confidence in the American dream. And this is one reason gun control efforts ignite such intense backlashes: Restrictions are received as a personal affront to men who find in guns a sense of duty, relevance and even dignity.
On a serious note, here we really hit the crux of the issue. If you are passionate about gun rights, it certainly isn’t because you feel they have a role to play in personal defense, in national defense, or the defense of natural human rights. If you defend your gun rights, you have deep seeded insecurities. This is how the left and supposed intellectuals create a classic “Heads I win, Tails you lose” scenario for gun owners: Either you pretend to not care and let them do whatever they want, or you fight back and get labeled and stereotyped. It would be interesting to see how this line of reasoning transfers over to other hotly debated topics, such as abortion. I wonder how it would go over if a male made the claim that the only reason pro-choice females become so inflamed over the topic is because “women in the pro-choice crowd have a deep seeded fear that they are unfit to care for a child, and this battle between their inherent maternal instincts and their own lack of self-worth emerges in emotional outrage, veiled in the guise of political activism.” Probably wouldn’t sit so well would it? (I don’t believe that, but I’m sure it would get some blood boiling if I were ignorant enough to make such a claim and advertise it as indisputable fact)
Jennifer Carlson is the author of “Citizen-Protectors: The Everyday Politics of Guns in an Age of Decline.”
And on a less serious note, good for you establishing some Ethos at the end of this drivel. Upon some quick research, I see you have a PhD in Sociology as well, good for you! Now I know that my commentary will be immediately shrugged off as an “emotional backlash, proof of my own insecurity and small penis”. But you know what? I didn’t spend 7 years of my life and hundreds of thousands of dollars to receive a piece of paper that I can use to tell others “I know how to think.” So really, who’s the insecure one around here?
Andrew Scott, CEO
To view the original article, in all of its mind-numbing glory: