As one of the presenters for UNL’s series of Brown Bag Topic Lunches, Dr. Amanda Gailey gave a presentation titled “Gun Reform and Social Justice Movements”. The lecture was a focused look at what contributes to gun culture in America, and Dr. Gailey saw three main contributing factors: race, religion, and gender, she said, are the vectors gun culture is built around.
After the outline of the talk, she gave listeners some background as to why gun control has thus far been a failure. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired, which was a federal law that prohibited civilian use of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, expired in 2004. Concealed carry is allowed in all 50 states, is allowed without a permit in 12 of those, and is allowed on college campuses in 8. Gag laws exist that block data collection on guns. Minimal funding is given for the study of firearm death and injury, with a stark 96% decrease in the budget from 1996 to 2013, despite such tragedies as the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012. The existence of PLACAA, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, protects firearm manufacturers from liability when their products are used inappropriately (as in to commit crime). Gailey’s background on gun control failure concluded with the note that preemption laws in regard to guns exist in 43 states, where the state has kept local jurisdictions from creating their own laws regarding firearms.
Dr. Gailey went on to describe what she sees as the vectors that fuel American gun culture, beginning with race. Often, she said, guns are owned by white individuals as a result of marketing that targets particular prejudices within parts of the population, by advertisements that laud safety and protection of one’s self and family above all else.
Religion was the next vector Dr. Gailey elaborated on, explaining that often the advertisements that promote protection often draw on creating hostility between Christian religiosity and other faiths, particularly the Islam faith. Anti-jihadist advertisements for firearms are also a commonality.
Gender was the final component Dr. Gailey spoke to, describing how a majority of the gun market is occupied by men, but that firearms companies have begun to target women in order to broaden the market, either with advertisements that imply women can use guns to protect themselves from sexual violence or with sexually provocative advertisements of strategically nude women posed confidently with guns.
Dr. Gailey concluded that the epidemic of gun violence in America was a public health crisis, a statement which is also supported by the president of the American Medical Association Andrew W. Gurman, who, in a statement against the 2011 Privacy of Firearm Owners law passed by Florida, argued in June of 2016 “For doctors to do all they can to prevent the public health crisis of gun violence from continuing in Florida, the state should drop its defense of a law that stifles relevant medical discussions that are proven to save lives.” The Privacy of Firearm Owners law prevented doctors from asking patients about guns in the home, despite doctor’s treating all manner of injuries as a result of gun violence or lack of safety around guns.
Dr. Gailey’s final statement on the matter was that the history of social movements shows that serious, uncompromised pressure is the only way to change culture.