Shooters: Myths and Realities of America's Gun Cultures

Shooters: Myths and Realities of America's Gun Cultures

Shooters: Myths and Realities of America's Gun Cultures

Shooters: Myths and Realities of America's Gun Cultures


In the white-hot debate over guns and gun control in America, there is one fact on which both sides in this increasingly polarized conflict can agree: Americans love their guns. 73 million Americans own guns. This translates to 1 gun owner out of every 4 citizens, many of whom, to account for the 250 million weapons currently in circulation, own several. While these facts are undisputed, a related but different question is endlessly contested: why do Americans so love their guns? Broadly speaking, what exactly is the appeal of the gun?

In this important work, Abigail Kohn immerses herself in the world of "shooters." Emphasizing that not all owners are necessarily enthusiasts, Kohn dispenses with the knee-jerk dogma and rhetoric that has too often passed for reportage to travel directly to the heart of American gun culture. Frequenting gun shops and shooting ranges, and devoting particular attention to those whose interest in weaponry extends beyond the casual, she captures in finegrained and often entertaining, yet always humane, detail how gun owners actually think and feel about their guns. Through her conversations--with cowboy action shooters at a regional match, sport shooters, hunters, with shooters of all ages and races--we hear of the "savage beauty" of a beautifully crafted long gun, of the powerful historical import owners attach to their guns, of the sense of empowerment that comes with shooting skill, and the visceral thrill of discharging a dangerous weapon. Kohn convincingly brings out the myths, norms, and beliefs of gun ownership, stressing how values such as individualism, toughness, and liberty are intricately linked with the gun and exploring how these core values connect pro-gun ideology to wider cultural and political concerns.

Cutting through the cliches that link gun ownership with violent, criminal subcultures and portray shooters as "gun nuts" or potential terrorists, Abigail Kohn provides us with a lively and untainted portrait of American gun enthusiasts.


AK: Do you consider yourself a handgun enthusiast?

Greg: Yes.

AK: and how do you define handgun enthusiast?

Greg: It's a term that I wouldn't normally use myself, but I would define it as
somebody who enjoys and/or is interested in handguns. Either own
ing, possessing, collecting, firing, or fantasizing about it.

AK: What would be a more appropriate term, or what would be a term that
has more resonance for you?

Greg: Shooter.

From the 1970s on, the American print media has carried on an all-out war against gun owners. They are labeled “gun nuts,” “gun fanatics,” “the lunatic fringe,” “sickos,” and “terrorists.” Gun owners are laughable, contemptible, “a handful of middle-aged fat guys with popguns.” Editorial after editorial calls for stronger gun control, ranging from licensing and registration of all guns to outright bans on handguns. the New York Times publishes “The Scourge of Guns” and “Addicted to Guns,” straightforwardly indicting guns and gun owners for America's high rate of civil violence. Not to be outdone, the Washington Post publishes editorials entitled “Good Parents, Bad Kids: and Far Too Many Handguns” and “Illegal Guns and the District,” arguing that “turning off the supply of handguns from around the nation” is the only effective way to reduce gun violence in the nation's capital and across the United States.

On the other side of the country, a columnist in a major West Coast newspaper pens a piece about the Second Amendment Sisters, a pro-gun women's organization formed largely in response to the Million Mom March, which favored gun control. Entitled “Pistol-Packin' Polyester,” the columnist describes the Second Amendment Sisters as “bored, under-educated, bitter, ter-

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