A gun culture bibliography

  As a longtime subscriber and sometime contributor to High Country News, I always look forward to your feature reporting - especially when the reporter is Ray Ring. But I have seldom been not only so disappointed by an article's obvious slant, but also so absolutely astonished by the lack of breadth in Ring's information-gathering (it is not worthy of being called "research"). His primary source - indeed, practically his only source - is Professor Joan Burbick of Washington State University, whose Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture And American Democracy does little more than rehash the standard screed of the anti-gun crowd.

There is, by now, a large and well-developed body of literature presenting multiple sides of the complex story of American gun ownership - much of it coming from the political left of center, at that. It would have been appropriate for Ring to have familiarized himself with some of it. For readers of yours who may be seeking a more balanced perspective on American gun users and enthusiasts, I would suggest the following books: Abigail Kohn's Shooters: Myths and Realities of America's Gun Cultures (Oxford University Press, 2005); Jan E. Dizard's anthology Guns in America (New York University Press, 1999); Caitlin Kelly's Blown Away: American Women and Guns (Pocket Books, 2004); and my book with Carol Oyster, Gun Women: Firearms and Feminism in Contemporary America (New York University Press, 2000). All of these works amply show that there is a lot more going on in America's "gun culture" than a bunch of conservative white Anglo-Saxon males asserting their masculinity and playing at being gunslingers. That stereotype is limiting, demeaning, distorting and insulting to the majority of HCN's readers who are, themselves, responsible gun owners and users.

Mary Zeiss Stange
Ekalaka, Montana
Sep 14, 2007 11:30 AM

Yeah, I kind of have to agree...civilian gun ownership is certainly a complex issue and I don't think Ring's article managed to cover all of the major bases.  One could spend several years reading all of the research that is out there.  It's kind of tough for me (as one who chooses to wield a knife rather than a gun when I'm out in the woods) to admit, since I think there's way too many ridiculous pro-gun arguments out there.  (You know, the "if the citizenry isn't armed then the government will come take all your stuff" kinds of arguments.  As if the government is going to let a few pistols or automatic weapons stop them from taking what they want).  It's obvious that a lot of people own guns, on principle, because it makes them feel more 'free', not because they really have a legitimate reason.  But responsible, purpose-driven gun ownership is possible, and sometimes necessary.  I would be great if the next article emphasized that a little more.