On Being a Gun Advocate vs. Truth Advocate

Let the facts fall where they may.

Gun Culture 2.0

At the end of my field work at Gunsite Academy this summer, one of the attendees of the 250 Defensive Pistol Course said to me: “It is nice to have some work being done from the pro-gun side.”

When my friend was writing up the text to accompany my appearance on the local NPR station after the Las Vegas shooting, he asked if I should be described as a “gun advocate.”

In both cases I resisted the characterization. Here’s the thing: I don’t see myself as a “gun advocate” or my work as “pro-gun.” As a social scientist, I am a TRUTH ADVOCATE and my work is PRO-TRUTH. What I write about guns is based on my search for truth, not a political position on guns. If there are political implications of my work, I will let others draw them.

By contrast, in the conclusion to my forthcoming book…

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Pocket Pistols: 17th and 18th Century Flintlock Editions

“Guns everywhere” is not an NRA invention.

Gun Culture 2.0

Pocket pistols are all the rage today and, as I have written previously, this can give the impression that they are a new phenomenon. But, of course, they are not. To the contrary, they are much older than I ever knew.

I learned this recently while visiting the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg between the two presentations I made at the College of William and Mary last week. Much like my discovery of a collection of miniature firearms at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, within the DeWitt Wallace’s collection of fine furniture, paintings, and textiles you can find “Lock, Stock & Barrel,” an exhibit of firearms from the Colonial Williamsburg collection.

And scattered among the many long arms in the exhibit are a few rare gems like the John Brush flint lock pistol from ca. 1700 pictured below. Note the caption: “Although Brush made…

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Mass Killers: Don’t Name Them, Don’t Show Them, But Report Everything Else

If only the media would listen.

Gun Culture 2.0

A while back, Professor Adam Lankford (Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, University of Alabama) sent me an open letter to the media and asked if I would sign my name to it. I, along with 146 other scholars, agreed.

The letter (reprinted in full below) asks the media “to take a principled stand in your future coverage of mass killers that could potentially save lives”:

  1. Don’t name the perpetrator.
  2. Don’t use photos or likenesses of the perpetrator.
  3. Stop using the names, photos, or likenesses of past perpetrators.
  4. Report everything else about these crimes in as much detail as desired.

The release of this letter after the Las Vegas massacre is timely, but it also follows the publication of a paper by Lankford and Eric Madfis (University of Washington-Tacoma) in the American Behavioral Scientist explaining the scholarly basis for the letter.

Here is some coverage of the letter in the…

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Statistics on Gun Ownership in the United States – Updated and Collected Posts

Gun Culture 2.0

After dramatic events involving guns, hits on my posts about gun ownership always spike. Therefore I am creating this landing page for those who want quick (though not simple) statistics on gun ownership in the United States.

Question: How many guns are there in the United States?

Answers:

  1. We don’t know with any certainty (for reasons I have discussed here and here).
  2. AT LEAST 300 million, and possibly as many as 400-700 million.

Data sources: Conservative estimate is an extrapolation from Appendix 1 of “The Stock and Flow of US Firearms: Results from the 2015 National Firearms Survey,” a yet-to-be-published manuscript by Azrael, Hepburn, Hemenway, and Miller; high estimate is from the WeaponsMan Blog. Both can be found on my earlier post here.

Question: How many gun owners are there in the United States?

Note: This can be looked at two ways – personal gun ownership and…

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