Gun Crusaders: The NRA's Culture War

By Scott Melzer | Go to book overview

My interest in the NRA arises from my ongoing interest in masculinity. More specifically I am interested in men's responses to actual and perceived threats to their status and identities. My earlier work includes an examination of the impact of men's jobs on their use of violence against women partners. Men working in women-dominated occupations, such as clerical support jobs, have the highest rates of violence against women partners among employed men. These men doing “women's work“—much like men who are unemployed or have women partners who earn most of the couple's income—may compensate for their diminished breadwinner status and masculine identities by using violence against women to reassert authority within the home.1 When I began this project I conceptualized the NRA as a men's movement, or at least a movement centered on a particular form of masculinity. Only after analyzing NRA literature and speaking with NRA members did I fully come to understand the gun rights movement as a form of collective action in response to perceived challenges to conservative men's status and identities. At the individual level, some men use violence against their wives in response to perceived threats to their status and identity in intimate relationships. At the group level, some men join social movements that offer a masculinity politics promoting a similar, though more generalized fear of men's loss of status, identity, and power to other social groups (such as women).

When I began this study, little research on the NRA existed through the lens of gender or of social movements. My aim in this book is to show that the NRA incorporates both an explicit and subtle masculinity politics and that these political views and messages, and the responses to them, have fueled the NRA's extraordinary transformation into a potent conservative culture war force. Given the NRA's large membership and the singular political power it wields in Washington and across the country, the organization and its members are worthy of further study. In short, I want to know what makes them tick

-xii-

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Gun Crusaders: The NRA's Culture War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Defending Guns, Defending Masculinity 23
  • 1: Frontier Masculinity, America's Gun Culture, and the NRA 25
  • 2: Why a Gun Movement? 44
  • Part II - Talking Guns, Talking Culture War 71
  • 3: Framing Threats to Gun Rights 73
  • 4: Under Attack 110
  • 5: Fighting the Culture Wars 131
  • Part III - Committing to the NRA, Committing to the Right 169
  • 6: The Politics of Commitment 171
  • 7: Right and Far-Right Moral Politics 198
  • 8: The Ties That Bind 224
  • Epilogue - Tomorrow's NRA 247
  • Appendix - Studying the NRA 257
  • Notes 271
  • Index 305
  • About the Author 323
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