War, Peace, and Human Nature - Gun Control Podcast

Gun Control Podcast – Bringing Sanity to Gun Violence


This gun control podcast was recorded October 2015 for a Natalia Reagan project which was to be titled “Science for Social Change.” At the time, the gun control podcast was responding to the most recent campus shootings and laws permitting concealed carry on campus. As the original project stalled, I’m releasing it in the light of the Planned Parenthood shooting and the San Bernardino shooting (see below for the complete gun control series).

1. Why do you think America is more gun obsessed compared to other first world nations?

This answer drew on analysis from Gun Violence: New Guns or New Gun Control? and conversations with Daniel Lende. Regarding the issue of race and gun control laws, see The Slave-State Origins of Modern Gun Rights (thank you to Discuss White Privilege for the link).

2. How can anthropologists be of use in the gun control debate?

This answer draws on long-running concerns about the public stereotyping of anthropology–see my thoughts on arguments against gun control as “shoddy anthropology.” There is also a misguided notion of cultural relativism, which Hugh Gusterson explored in his Making a Killing. In the end, this is a time to seize the four field and comparative cultural strength of anthropology to emphasize how we are the best equipped to talk about gun control.

3. Are humans inherently violent? Do you think focusing on this idea that Americans have a “Culture of Violence” is oversimplifying human nature?

In this answer I plug the very accessible War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views. This answer also goes back to my first blog-post on the topic, Gun Culture and Anthropology on Culture. For a hot-off-the-presses assessment of one of the most-cited cases claiming a natural human tendency to violence, see History, explanation, and war among the Yanomami: A response to Chagnon’s Noble Savages by Brian Ferguson in Anthropological Theory (December 2015)

4. Imagine if there were no guns in our country–what would you imagine America would be like?

As I emphasize here, this is not a proposal for a no-gun utopia. In this respect, the emphasis on access is similar to what Nicholas Kristof writes in On Guns, We’re Not Even Trying. I am still interested to investigate the feasibility of a Semi-Automatic Weapons Buyback–in fact, 58% of Americans support a ban on semi-automatic weapons. However, a more feasible idea is to make gun regulation much more like automobile regulation. Just like automobiles, there should be Mandatory Gun Insurance:

Gun insurance would work very much like car insurance. You would need it to buy a gun, and the policy would have to include liability coverage in case that gun injures someone. If a gun owner has no accidents, his premiums go down. Someone who wants to “open carry” his weapon would pay more than someone who keeps it locked at home. Assault weapons would be more expensive to insure than hunting rifles because they they have a greater capacity to do harm. But it wouldn’t be government making these decisions, which would be unconstitutional–it would be insurance companies, competing with one another to keep premiums reasonable. (Jean Ann Esselink)

5. What are your thoughts about allowing concealed firearms on university campuses? As a professor, how does that make you feel?

This answer explores how schools and campuses can become targets for gun violence. These issues emerged in my first post-Newtown observations, Semi-Automatic Anthropology: Confronting Complexity, Anthropologically.

6. What do you think it will take to finally push through increased gun control legislation (i.e. more mass shootings, someone significant dying, etc.)? Will a gun control podcast help?

Here I borrow from what Frank Rich wrote in December 2012:

So let’s see what happens when the circus folds its tent and we are back in the bitter winds of January, redirecting our attention to the Inauguration and the Super Bowl. By then, we may have a better idea as to whether this is actually a tipping point in the history of our enslavement to the gun culture, or whether it’s just another chapter in the modern history of America bingeing 24/7 on the pornography of other families’ grief, declaring “closure,” and then moving on. (America’s Other Original Sin)

The same words can equally well be applied to December 2015. But let’s not let that happen. Share this Gun Control Podcast and bring some sanity to American gun violence.

This post is the latest in a series of linked blog-posts from 2012-2015 about the need for anthropology to directly address gun control and gun violence. The series includes:

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