In my introduction to sociology class this week, I am discussing sociologist James D. Wright’s classic essay, “Ten Essential Observations on Guns in America” (from Society March/April 1995, reprinted in Guns in America: A Reader).

Among his points: “There are 200 million guns already in circulation in the United States. . . . firearms are the most commonly owned piece of sporting equipment in the United States.” [Note: 270-300M today]

“Most of those 200 million guns are owned for socially innocuous sport and recreation purposes. . . . Gun ownership is … more appropriate to the sociology of leisure than to the criminology or epidemiology of violence.”

“Many guns are also owned for self-defense against crime, and some are indeed used for that purpose; whether they are actually any safer or not, many people certainly seem to feel safer when they have a gun.”

“Most of the gun violence problem results from the wrong kinds of people carrying guns at the wrong time and place.” Or as Canadian journalist Daniel Gardner says in The Science of Fear, “if you are not a drug dealer or the friend of a drug dealer, and you don’t hang out in places patronized by drug dealers and their friends, your chance of being murdered with a handgun shrinks almost to invisibility.” Or as Gun trainer John Farnham says: “Don’t go stupid places or do stupid things with stupid people.” This lowers your risk of homicide substantially, whether you have a gun or not.

“Everything the bad guys do with their guns is already against the law.” To wit: Sandy Hook shooter shot his mother (murder), illegally transported firearms into a gun free zone, etc. (some say he violated as many as 40 laws).

The first law of economics: “Demand creates its own supply.” Outlawing alcohol didn’t work, making certain drugs illegal hasn’t kept them out of the United States. If cocaine can make it from Colombia to Chicago, who thinks guns won’t make it from Brazil to Chicago?

“Guns are neither inherently good nor inherently evil; guns, that is, to not possess teleology.”

“Guns are important elements of our history and culture. . . .restrictions on the right to ‘keep and bear arms’ amount to the systematic destruction of a valued way of life and are thus a form of cultural genocide.”

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2 thoughts on “Ten Essential Observations on Guns in America by James D. Wright

  1. Alcohol can be produced very easily within our borders, in a basement, in a back room, etc., in high volume, very easily. Thats why prohibition failed.

    Cocaine: $ 10,000,000 worth of cocaine can be transported in small suitcase…. and is undetectable by X-ray, radar, heat censoring, etc… that’s why it’s a problem and hard to prevent from being imported.

    Guns: In any volume, would be extremely hard to manufacture secretly within the borders. They’d be extremely hard to smuggle into the country in any volume.

    Extremely stupid argument based on some broad, all encompassing, ideologic philosophy you have….

    That’s the problem. We have to be smarter and more intricate analytically, in order to separate one thing from another on how things are related to each other. Alcohol, Cocaine, and Guns……. Three different problems with unique circumstances…

  2. Do you have children? I wonder if your child went to school one day, somewhere in suburban america, but didn’t come home because they were shot in the head, right after they recited the pledge of allegiance, or walking to history class, would you change your mind.

    It’s true, as you said, gun ownership in America is innocuous….. so why have them, at all, to prevent the once a year occurrence of a mass shooting….. Look up Australia.

    The Right to Bare Arms…….. 150 years ago,,,,, things were slightly different then, ehh ? A way of life ? Innocent kids are getting mowed down every year. What the hell is more important ? Preserving some philosophic pride that doesnt apply anymore, or evolving as a society appropriately ??

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