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Research | About me | Why Study Guns? | CV | [email protected]

Why do I study gun ownership?

I study American gun ownership because it is a flashpoint that illuminates broader socioeconomic, cultural, political, ethnoracial, and rural vs urban conflicts. I first decided to research US gun ownership in the the summer of 2012, because two things caught my interest:

First, I noticed a disconnect between how gun owners thought about legitimate force, and how theorists, like Weber, argue that a modern state had a “monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force” within its territory. US gun owners often view their gun ownership as both 1) in competition with the state monopoly of force and 2) complementary with state power by ensuring personal safety and enforcing norms (e.g. the aphorism that ‘an armed society is a polite society’).

Second, I felt that there wasn’t enough sociological research on US gun ownership; most studies were concerned with outcomes, like David Hemenway’s seminal statistical analyses, rather than the mechanisms, motives, and preconditions of gun ownership. As Randall Collins said about the study of US gun ownership:

It is not a sociological explanation of behavior to invoke the reasons given, especially on occasions of public justification and debate …. Instead we should ask, ‘Why do particular people come to believe in these reasons, or rather, in what circumstances do they invoke them …. What is it that possessors of guns do?’ – Interaction Ritual Chains (2004, p. 100)

For my thesis I conducted semi-structured interviews with 36 gun owners and police. To understand the flashpoint, I asked participants how welfare and security should be divided among individuals, families, communities, and governments. I coded these beliefs and narratives, comparing participants’ beliefs with both their gun ownership practices (such as guns owned and concealed carry behavior) and their gun control stances.

Senior thesis (Appendix B)