Brian Anse Patrick
Department of Communication
4630 University Hall, University of Toledo
419 530 4670
American gun policy is a site where many lines of social influence converge. Symbolically speaking, it functions much like that fabled paradoxical location where irresistible forces meet up with immovable objects: e.g., the Million Moms March vs. the National Rifle Association; individual vs. collective rights; public health vs. individual autonomy; conservative vs. liberal values; local vs. federal authority; elite culture vs. egalitarian culture; propaganda vs. information; and the libertarians vs. everybody else. The list goes on. Accordingly, scholars and researchers have contributed to what has become a vigorous public and academic debate overlapping many disciplines: e.g., history, law, economics, public health, psychology, communication, criminology, sociology and others.
Ideologues abound in this area—and virtually everyone, academic, policy wonk, ideologue or not, has what they feel to be a well-justified opinion on guns and gun policy. But having taken a serious interest in the debate for more than two decades, my impression is that people in general believe more about guns and gun policy than they really know; their general tendency being to seek out, perceive and interpret information in ways that align with their predispositions. Further, advocates and “experts” for and against guns cite and brandish scientific statistics and studies as proofs, yet few advocates appear ever to have actually read or understood the studies that they claim back up their positions. Compounding matters even more, American journalists who quote these advocates in news stories are notorious for poor, inaccurate, lazy and some say biased, reporting on gun issues.
Description: The main purpose/goal of this seminar, therefore, is to provide a systematic overview of Informational Sociology of American gun policy, an overview informed by what is known—or alleged to be known—about guns by researchers and scholars. The seminar reviews informational nodes and the methods by which information is assembled and brought to bear on policy and public opinion.
The seminar will proceed mainly by means of (1) readings, presentations and discussions of primary source materials, e.g., research articles from scientific journals, book chapters, blogs, websites and papers presented at national conferences; (2) invited presentations and discussions with pro and anti-gun advocates and politicians who have played important parts in the debate and policy formation in Ohio and Michigan (and perhaps nationally if we can schedule visits or video-conferencing), and; (3) an occasional “talk” or overview of what I know (or think that I know) on particular areas of gun policy. Additionally, I have a number of video-recordings of panels on gun policy at national forums along with propaganda/educational pieces by various gun/antigun groups; we can select those that interest us most. The seminar is interdisciplinary by its nature. No prerequisite or background is required except an interest in the subject and willingness to read and thoughtfully participate.
Many of the scholarly works that we will visit are controversial. Some works have made and unmade professional reputations. A sample of works includes:
• Excerpts from historian Michael Bellesiles’ book, based on data from colonial era wills and other documents, challenging assumptions about the central role and prevalence of guns in the original U.S. colonies. Bellesiles won a Bancroft Prize form Columbia University for this work, however, the prize was withdrawn after critics attacked him for being unable to provide the documentary evidence he claimed to have. After a disciplinary inquiry, he resigned from Emory University.
• Work by University of Chicago economist John Lott, based on data from state uniform crime reports, that equates more guns with less crime, specifically that violent crime decreases in the many states that have recently licensed average citizens to carry concealed weapons. Lott, who has also been attacked over the validity of his data and methods, routinely appears before legislative committee hearings in state houses concerning liberalization of concealed weapon carry laws. Lott now works for a conservative think tank.
• Work by legal historian Robert Cottrell reviewing the origins of uniform state laws restricting concealed carry of firearms. Cottrell concludes such laws were aimed mainly at minorities (Blacks and Italians especially) and recent immigrants whom cultural elites of the progressive era distrusted.
• The often-cited work from the New England Journal of Medicine by public health researcher A. Kellerman that concludes homicide risk to household members is increased by the mere presence of a firearm.
• We will also read selections from my books dealing with American gun culture, Rise of the Anti-Media: Informing America’s Concealed Weapon Carry Movement; The National Rifle Association and the Media: the Motivating Force of Negative Coverage; and Zombology: Zombies and the Decline of the West (and Guns).
Required Texts. None. They will be made available online to you online.
A number of articles and book chapters will be posted on the Carlson Library e-reserves for this seminar and your “My Courses” function at MyUT (in the “files” for this course.) Some are available online directly from their sources, e.g., the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s 2nd Amendment decision, DC v. Heller, and McDonald v Chicago.
Lastly, in the final weeks of the seminar we will select and discuss some readings based on seminar participants’ developing views on the subject of gun policy.
Notes on Schedule. Below is rough schedule that will provide structure. We will revise the schedule when we have had time to meet and discuss, because (1) I do not want to lock us into an unsuitable format and (2) Your ideas, interests and reactions to the readings will be worth pursuing. There are many readings in the field—and some may serve us (or you) better than others. In any case, whatever the “final” schedule, it will be subject to revision in accordance to discussions in the seminar. Some details and dates will have to be filled in dependent on who is available for conferencing and guest visits (and when), and availability of some new works that are in press, although I may have access to drafts for some of these.
Other Requirements. Depending on your tastes, you are required to join an association active in the area of gun policy. The purpose of this is to attach you to a social information node. In some cases joining may be no more than being added to a mailing list; in others it may cost you a few bucks. Also you will be expected to attend and report on a gun show and/or other gun culture events.
Grading. Your grade will be based on an equal weighting of (1) series of weekly papers and presentations in response to the “charges’” given to you in class concerning the readings and other areas of investigation (2) participation in the seminar, e.g., attendance, knowledge, depth of demonstrated understanding, informed discussion (3) your final presentations. If you will miss class, and I know many of you have interviews at graduate schools, etc, just let me know.
Presentations. Note this class has a strong presentational component. This is because I believe you tend to function at your best when you must presenting organized information to an audience if your peers. Your presentations are expected to be organized in the Aristotelian format, Thesis + a set of proofs, and be supported by facts, arguments, examples and visual aids and other evidence from websites, films, etc. I will hand out additional information on presentations.
Week #1—Overview of American Gun Policy: Players and Context
Introductions. Course Business. The Cast of Players
Korwin, After You Shoot
Peruse and comment on the websites on the list to be handed out.
Also find the rest of the Chairman Mao quote at the head of this document.
Week #2—The Second Amendment Under Construction: Origins & Interpretations
Primer on the Second Amendment Joyce Malcolm
Find and read Second Amendment in context
and The Meaning of the Second Amendment (ereserves)
Read “The Debate” between S. Cornell and Joyce Malcolm at Second Amendment Center website if it is still functioning.
Week #3—Constructing/Deconstructing American Gun Culture
History and Culture Patrick (ereserves), M. Belli-
siles; Nesbitt and Dov.
Gary Kleck; Tonso.
Reiss & Roth, Zimring & Hawkins
Week #4—Effects of Guns: Social Scientific and Public Health Research
Applying etiological models Kellerman et al;
Sociology of gun culture Kopel, Chapters from The Samurai, The Moun- tie and the Cowboy. On ereserves.
Week #5—Presentations by Advocates Part I
Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence? Lott and Mustard
Week #6—Public Opinion, Mobilization and Guns: Battles of the Pollsters
The gun control paradox Kleck excerpts on ereserves
Week #7—The American Concealed Carry Movement
Disarmed: the Missing American Movement for Gun Control. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press. Also read my review of the above from Journal of Popular Culture
Chapter 1 & 2 from Kohn, Abigail (2004). Shooters: Myths and Realities of America’s Gun Cultures. New York: Oxford University Press.
Also read my book review of the above, also for JPC. Above readings on ereserve.
Week #8—Firearms Manufacturer Lawsuits and other Legalistic Strategies
Patrick, B.A. (2002). The National Rifle Association and the Media.
Review a book of your choosing on gun culture. ). 600 words—just like JPC requires of me when I review a book☺.
Week # 9—break
Week #10—Guns, Women, Childrens, Minorities, Majorities
Excerpt from Gun Women by M.Z. Stange & C. K. Oyster.
Bowling for Columbine, Moore.
Week #11—Presentations and Views of Advocates Part II
Reading by J. Jacobs, ereserves, from Can Gun Control Work?
Week #12---Trends and Future Policy Directions
Excerpt from Cramer’s new book, Armed America, ereserves
The above is a response to Bellesiles’ Arming America. Also my review of Kramer.
Vernick, J.S., Hepburn, L.M. (2003). State and Federal Gun Laws: Trends for 1970-99. In J. Ludwig and P. J. Cook (Eds.), Evaluating Gun Policy; Effects on Crime and Violence. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, pp. 345-411. This will be on ereserves.
Zombies and Guns
Week #13—Guns and Mass Media
Week #14: Presentations by Seminar Participants/Advocates
Attend a Gun Show Assignment
Field trip to range?
Rep from Ohio’s Buckeye Firearms Association and I will try to arrange for a rep. from a national antigun organization to speak.
Week #16: Final project/papers and presentations due